DIY Highlights: Are there any “Get Clean” options?

by Madeleine Hawks

DIY Natural Highlights

Over at No More Dirty Looks a couple of weeks ago, Siobhan and Alexandra were wondering about highlighting their hair – is it safe to do once in a while or not?  Now that it’s warming up and swimsuit season is coming, we’re all supposed to look summery and carefree, right?  And hey, it’s an instant mood-boost to change your hairstyle.

So…are there better ways than spending beaucoup bucks at the salon for harsh chemicals?  Full disclosure: my sister is a talented hair stylist and I respect the art.  However, I fret just a little when I think about the bleaches, dyes, and other chemicals that she and her clients (myself included) encounter at the chair and sink.

I did some online research and narrowed it down to 3 natural lighteners.  All of them dry out the hair, just like the lighteners used in a salon, but they are cheap and pretty harmless in low doses. And you can always look for a treatment recipe to re-hydrate your hair afterward*!

Lemon Juice:

Way back in my college days (ok, 2008), I helped out on an archaeological dig at George Washington’s boyhood home in Fredericksburg.  I have never spent so much time in the full sun before and let me tell you: I got quite the sock tan. I decided to make the best of that predicament and experimented with lemon juice highlights.  By the end of the summer, I had some nice piece-y blonde highlights!

Me and my blondish hair posing in front of the dig site: Mary Washington’s cellar!

Making lemon juice highlights is easy as pie! I’ve done this a few times during the summer, but it takes patience and repetition. I literally just grab the lemon juice bottle from the fridge and pour some into my palms and swipe over the top of my hair (I always rocked the ponytail, which means the pieces that get lemon juice will be mixed in with non-lemony pieces).  Then, I just left the lemon juice in my hair for the day. I did that a few times over the course of the summer, rinsing it out when I shampooed at night.  It creates a more natural and beach-y look and costs about $0.75.


This year, I want to try something a little different for highlights. This tutorial is on my to-do list, which explains how to use vinegar with lemon juice to lighten your hair at home, rain or shine.  Ingredients include white or apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and water. Several failed experiments with reddish hair have helped me realize that auburn is not for me, so I’ll stick to white vinegar for highlights when I try them out soon.  Again, the price for these highlights is less than $1.00!


You should know that I think honey is life’s elixir and honeybees are the most fascinating animal.  So obviously any chance to use/eat/talk about/look at honey, I’ll take it!  The tutorial below is just so fascinating for a number of reasons, like: did you know that honey has slow-release hydrogen peroxide (aka lightening) properties? The video starts out weird (Andrea, if you’re reading this, PLEASE tell me the answer to the sandwich question!), but it’s a good tutorial nonetheless! This is definitely something I’ll try this summer as well.

Have you dabbled in at-home highlighting? Interested in trying one of these options? Any advice?

*For dry locks after a highlighting treatment or just too much sun, check out a tutorial like this one on how to nurse that hair back to ship-shape!

One response to “DIY Highlights: Are there any “Get Clean” options?

  1. I forgot to mention: if you’re thinking about donating your hair, using chemical dyes and bleaches are not allowed! Yet another reason to go au naturel!

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