As we head further into the dog days of summer, the idea of sun-kissed locks becomes more and more tempting, at least for us. Whether it's out of curiosity, for fun, or just due to plain old boredom, dyeing your hair can be the perfect way to experiment with your look. There’s just one hurdle that could be keeping you from a new color—flip over a box of hair dye and you’ll notice a long list of harsh ingredients like ammonia, PPD, and parabens. In fact, the chemicals in hair dye and the damage they can leave behind are often reason enough to avoid the stuff altogether.
But if you're still looking to change your hair color and would prefer to sidestep the harsh stuff, consider trying one of these natural ways to dye hair. Products like henna, lemon juice, and even chamomile tea (yes, the kind you drink) can help you switch up your style without damaging your locks.
Learn more about how to drop the chemicals and transform your tresses with natural ways to dye hair below.
When dried henna leaves mix with acidic liquids like vinegar or lemon juice, they turn into a paste called henna, a natural reddish dye. Because many henna hair dyes on the market are mixed with other natural ingredients like indigo, they can achieve a range of bright colors depending on how long they’re left in dry hair (usually anywhere from one to five hours). To really coax a vibrant hue from the dye, hair should be sealed in plastic wrap, rinsed like with regular shampoo and conditioner, and, as with most natural treatments, reapplied every four to six months. Of course, always do a strand test before applying all over—especially if your hair is chemically treated. According to Wanda Malhotra, CEO of all-natural beauty product carrier Surya Brasil, “Bleached hair becomes very porous, so if you leave the color on for too long, you may get an undesired tone.”
It may sound like a sticky plan, but raw honey is actually one of the most effective means of naturally lightening hair. That's because when diluted, it contains traces of hydrogen peroxide. To begin, make sure you have the raw stuff (not all “honey” is honey), and then apply it one of two ways: with water or with your favorite conditioner. Let the mixture sit for two to three hours before thoroughly it washing, and bam—your hair should be a couple of shades lighter. Repeat as desired.
While henna is used to infuse reddish tones into your hair, lemon juice is a great option for naturally highlighting your locks, and it can be applied with a spray bottle. Spray the juice directly onto the areas you would like to highlight (after a strand test, of course), and then plan to spend a few hours out in the sun—rough, we know. The lemon needs the heat to activate its lightening properties, so the more time spent in the sun, the more noticeable your color will be. Highlights from lemon juice are a gradual process, so you may need to repeat this technique two to three times for noticeable results. But the more often you use it, the more noticeable your highlights will be. One note: Because of lemon's natural acidity, this method can be drying, so we recommend adding a little oil (whether it's almond, coconut, or olive) to your juice mixture.
Like lemon juice, chamomile is a natural hair lightener and can also be applied to the hair by using a spray bottle. Begin by brewing a strong batch of chamomile tea. For a deeper color, use multiple bags of chamomile. Make sure the tea completely cools before you add it to the spray bottle. After a strand test, apply to any sections of hair you would like to lighten. Take in some sun, and voilà! Natural highlights await.
Cinnamon is another natural ingredient with lightening properties. For this method, add about two to three spoonfuls to your favorite conditioner, apply the mixture to your hair, and let it sit for a minimum of four hours. For best results, put on a shower cap and let the solution sit overnight. This method may take repeated uses to see noticeable results, particularly for darker hair colors, but as a bonus, it leaves your hair smelling amazing!
This story was originally published on May 5, 2016, and has been updated.