Hair dye, bleach, heat – we’re all guilty of having put our hair through more than it deserves. And, most of the time, the chemicals aren’t even worth it. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that over 5,000 different chemicals are used in hair dye products, some of which are reported to be carcinogenic in animals. Yikes!!!
Good news is, however, you can get natural highlights, lighten or darken your hair with natural stuff, too! The results are less intense than the salon, and they won’t turn your hair from blonde to brunette overnight, but they’re way less rough on your hair. Besides, we’re big fans of the more subtle look.
12 Ways to Get Natural Highlights
We rounded up some of the best solutions for you if you’re ready to switch to natural dyes. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box (hair color box, that is), and try something different!
This trick has been around for a while – meaning, it must have good results, right? The science behind the idea says that when the citric acid in lemon juice heats up in the sun, it opens hair cuticles and lifts out the pigment. Try this lightening spray or simply squeeze lemon juice into a spray bottle and dilute with 3 times as much water.
We know that honey is an awesome hair conditioning ingredient, so this truly is a double duty lightening ingredient. Although effective, brightening your hair with bleach can be super damaging, so honey is the ultimate replacement. How does it work? Well, honey has an enzyme called glucose oxidase that produces hydrogen peroxide, which acts as a bleaching agent. Check out this recipe from Bustle to brighten your blonde hair just in time for summer using just honey and distilled water.
This tea has so many benefits for our bodies, including our hair! This method is a bit more gradual, but is still sure to bring out some bright highlights. Just brew a large pot of chamomile tea (loose leaf or tea bags). Next, strain and set aside to cool. While waiting for it to cool, wash your hair. When your hair is clean, pour the chamomile rinse through your wet hair. Wrap it in a towel and leave it up for about 10 minutes.
This is a neat trick since you can be just about any color to go a shade of red. Henna leaves contain lawsone, which binds to the protein in your hair shaft to create a redder version of your natural hair color. Allyson Kramer gives an excellent tutorial that also explains what kind of red you can expect based on your natural color.
5. Rooibos tea
Red hair can be so beautiful, and yet so hard to maintain at the same time. To brighten your red, brew 3-5 rooibos tea bags or a comparable amount of loose leaf tea. Cool completely and pour over your hair. Leave on for up to 30 minutes, rinse and style as usual.
6. Hibiscus Tea
The science behind using hibiscus tea as a dye isn’t really a mystery, as the tea itself is red. As Andrea Drugay recommends, this dye is best for virgin hair (not already colored). Check out her recipe here. It’s a great recipe to try if you’re looking for a darker, more burgundy color. And as a bonus, it may help prevent split ends and promote hair growth.
Here, again, is a no-brainer, considering the natural color of beets. Ever stain your hands while cooking with beets? Mix half a cup of beetroot juice with half a cup of carrot juice and massage the mixture in your hair. Leave it on for one hour then rinse. Repeat twice a week for a reddish natural tint.
8. Black Walnuts
Black walnut hulls are known to stain just about anything they come into contact with, including your hair. First, crush walnuts and boil the hulls in a pot of water for at least 30 minutes to make a walnut tea. After it cools, let your hair soak in the dye for up to 20 minutes, depending on how dark you want your hair to be.
9. Black tea
To darken your hair with black tea, steep 5 black tea bags in hot water for least 5 minutes. Set aside to cool completely. Avoid using light colored towels for this treatment. On freshly washed hair, pour the cool black tea over your head, use a bowl or bucket so you can make sure you saturate all of your hair strands. Use a shower cap for heat and deeper penetration of the hair strands. You can leave the tea rinse on for up to one hour and then rinse off; a second shampoo is optional.
Not only does coffee perk you up in the morning, it can perk up your hair color. According to AnnMarie Gianni, all you need to do is brew a strong coffee, let it cool, and then mix one cup with a couple cups of leave-in conditioner and 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds.
11. Cocoa Powder
Give brown hair a boost with cocoa powder. According to Whole Living, a combination of cocoa powder, plain yogurt, honey and apple cider vinegar will give you a deeper, richer brown. I couldn’t test this one personally but if you can make bronzer lotion with cocoa powder why not try it in your hair?
12. Mustard Oil
If you’re looking for a more subtle brunette, try using mustard oil. All you need to do is rub it in your hair, put in a cap, and rinse after a few hours. Since it’s not as strong of a dye as others, repeat every night until you reach your desired shade. It’s also loaded with vitamins and minerals, which will lead to stronger and thicker hair with continual use.37