Do Natural Hair Lighteners Work?

Rebecca Schembri

I did some hairdressing work during quarantine today-real, colorist labor.

Pulling out my test hair swatches, I decided to follow up on a combination of 80’s anecdotes and a blog I read about using kitchen products to lighten hair.

I compared five ingredients to a soft formula of traditional salon powder lightener (hair bleach 10vol), and created a grid for each labeled swatch, then I got busy.

Using strict hair colorist testing techniques, I made sure to time my experiment and to use the exact same surfaces, shampoos, water and environment for all six swatches.

Grid used to compare lighteners

The test variables were as follows: lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, apple cider vinegar, chamomile tea, and salon-grade powder lightener.

I split the four natural lighteners into two groups: one indoors and one in direct sunlight at the window. All swatches processed for sixty minutes.

I remember as an eleven-year old that we would spritz our hair with lemon in summer and it would lighten. Those of us that couldn’t sneak lemon juice past our parents, found hydrogen peroxide under the bathroom sink and used it instead. It did work!

Here are the results from my lightener test. I would like to say that, except for the chamomile, all of these are painful to the eyes-if you want babylights around your face, you must exercise caution.

1. Lemon: 1/2 shade lighter
2. Hydrogen Peroxide: 1/4 shade lighter
3. Salon Lightener: 1 shade lighter
4. Chamomile Tea: no change
5. Apple Cider Vinegar: 1/8 shade lighter

After: Lemon works 50% as well as hair bleach 10vol

Overall, lemon juice is the winner for hair lightening at home and apple cider vinegar is a great hair brightener. Hydrogen peroxide came in second and chamomile lost. This is sad because chamomile can be used on the eyes and it has a safe pH-it would be miraculous to have a safe lightener! The others must be used with care, especially hydrogen peroxide and salon bleach, which can both cause blindness.

Sunlight accelerates the lightening process

I did not see positive results from any of the swatches put in sunlight, but I do know that the sun can lighten hair. I recommend at least five days of full sun exposure for soft, seasonal highlights.

An important thing to note is that these products may not like being in traditional aluminum foil strips like the ones your colorist uses in-salon to isolate pieces of hair. Do a test first by applying your desired lightener to the foil and waiting an hour to see if there is a chemical reaction. When in doubt, braid the hair instead and apply the lightener spray over it.

Babylights from salon lightener. Applying lemon to the same strands everyday will produce similar results

Also, the salon-bleached strand was the dryest and most porous of all the swatches, so enjoy your at-home lightener and apply liberally for many days until you reach your desired result. It’s not likely to harm your hair and you don’t need the safety knowledge of a technician to use these home products.

Spritzing lemon juice on your dry, curly hair will create babylights over time

If your skin tone cannot carry golden blonde well, you will need a purple toner from the store or made from berry juice. Dilute in a spray bottle and use as desired to neutralize brassy hues.

Rebecca Schembri is a Writer and Published Hair and Makeup Artist from Reno, Nevada, USA

After Quarantine: What is the Future of Haircolor?

When beauty salons across the world began closing their doors due to the global health pandemic, most hairdressers warned their clients to not run for home box color.

“It’ll cost you a lot of money to do a color correction if you color your own hair and we have to fix it later,” they spurted, not realizing their entire clientele dynamic was in the balance. Clients believed them at first, clearing out any pharmacy or grocery store that carried root powder, a temporary cover-up that lasts until the next shampoo. This worked for the first week of quarantine, then faded to a dream by day sixteen.

With the government calling for another ten weeks before non-essential businesses reopen (salons included), clients may begin to rethink their hair strategy. After all, a grey rootline plus social distancing is too depressing for customers used to getting what they want, and what they want is great hair. States have banned curbside pickup, where colorists premix color and hand it off to guests without physical contact. This is expected, since keeping at six feet goes against a hairdresser’s nature-they are licensed to touch hair and skin, give hugs, and listen. Soon, even the most loyal of virus-fearing clients may begin researching how to color their hair at home.

When the ripples of unemployment begin to forge through the economy, one thing will become clear to those paying attention to the salon industry-things have changed. Even if the quarantine lifts within a month or two, 10% to 30% of clients will automatically fall away per industry norm when scheduling and location routines are disrupted, such as when a hairdresser moves to another salon or changes workdays. Although many stylists push through the income loss, and rebuild, some never survive the cut.

An impending recession will force another 50% of salon-goers to take a break as people are forced to choose which luxury service they refuse to sacrifice until things stabilize. Hair services stand a 16% chance of winning, as they compete with gym memberships, massages, lashes, nails, and Target.

Usually when clients break up with their hairdresser, they wait an extra year after their intended return date.

Thus, hair professionals are faced with a dire situation: 60% to 80% of their clientele will be wiped out by the plague that swept the world into quarantine, and that does not include clients who catch the virus and sadly pass away.

Once this storm breaks, however, the industry knows how to build. From beauty school, students are taught to talk to five people a day, use social media, show off their portfolios, offer promos, ask for referrals, attend networking events, and say yes to everything and to everyone until they have enough customers to pay their bills and feel successful. Then they turn it off and reap the return. Although most colorists are seasoned and have earned the right to refrain from marketing, they can do this.

Unless, of course, there is a second and third wave of the virus, or it simply won’t go away. Techinicians will have to use personal protective equipment for every service and disinfect the entire area between client visits, including the air, until there is a vaccine. Images of women getting balayage or a root touch up with their stylist in a near HAZMAT suit are not conducive to the salon experience- it simply won’t happen.

Eventually, clients will begin to embrace grey hair and many will grow their haircuts out, especially when friends and colleagues do the same. People may realize that an era of expensive grooming is over, and that they should have three months’ income in savings and get out of debt instead of buying bougie experiences that risk their bottom line. Hairdressing services will revert to the wealthy who are willing to risk their health for vanity, while the rest teach themselves how to cut hair at home, or succumb to budget chain stores known as “chop shops”.

There will always be human grooming, as seen in history from the beginning of papyrus and ancient scrolls. There will not, however, always be money for a salon tab that costs more than a week’s groceries, or the desire to risk infection by enhancing the look of hair. This beauty world cataclysm may cause a year to decade-long disruption-enough to turn beauty professionals to other means of employment, while huge corporations and online influencers sweep customers to DIY instead.

Rebecca Schembri is a writer and hair and makeup artist from Reno, Nevada, USA

Rebecca Schembri

2020 Hair and Makeup Trends | Who Cares?

Beauty salons deliver shampoo during the COVID-19 shutdown

In this great time of uncertainty and disruption, it’s a bit strange to think about fashion and beauty trends after quarantine.

After all, who cares about being ‘in style’ when the world is focused on a pandemic?

Hairdresers care. And we want you to know that we are canceling all obligations you have (or may not have known you had) to this year’s stylescape.

Normally, it is our job to encourage you to evolve with beauty hits that decend from celebrity rule. Whatever Lady Gaga is doing with makeup, go for it. Taylor Swift got fringe, do it. You want a new color, let’s see what Billie Eilish is up to, etc.

We gather inspiration from red carpet styling

These are trendsetters in the appearance world, and they deserve to be followed. They forge the path for those of us too busy to notice, or too scared to try.

But now we have something greater than a bedazzled celebrity we admire and want to emulate.

A global pandemic: masks are the next fashion statement

We have our own survival. That means we ourselves will choose how we want to look for a while, because we are in great need of self-expression and comfort.

Comfort Looks

So then, what you can expect to see this year is a lot of throwback hair. When people start creeping out of quarantine, you bet they will go for the curling iron, flat iron, and makeup that has always made them feel beautiful, and the style era won’t matter.

Expect to see outdated college girl looks and former high school styles, plus older ladies with spiked, sprayed hair, and any hairstyle from the TV show Friends. Looks will be overdone and outplayed, but it won’t matter. Think of it as armour; protection from the next bad thing.

Apocalypse Cosplay

Some may embrace their inner-apocalyptic heroes and indulge in dusty cosplay looks or fantastical haircolor and makeup. Dressing like it’s the end of the world has an empowering feel-it makes you fearless.

Grey Hair Growouts

Source: Internet

Many ladies who normally covered their greys will embrace their natural color instead. This is liberating- an act of confidence and strength. Facing the world’s mortality will wipe a lot of cosmetic slates clean and, more mature women may decide they prefer to be bare to focus on things they value instead.

Manly Manes

Men may see the pandemic as an excuse to save on haircuts

Since most men fantasize about growing out their hair, many will use the pandemic quarantine as a reason to get started. After all, working from home doesn’t require a trimmed neckline. Expect a decrease in future haircuts if quarantine lasts more than three months, passing the awkward in-between phase most men cringe at.

It’s Your Time

However you choose to express yourself this year, know that what you choose is your way of coping with a traumatic experience. It makes you feel strong and in control, and that victory dance is exactly what we want you to feel after conquering a deadly virus. Go ahead, rock that 80’s punk-you are alive to do it.

FROM HOME: Rebecca Schembri is a Published Hair and Makeup Artist and Writer from Reno, Nevada, USA