A Year of Natural Health & Beauty Tip #3: Make Your Own Hair Lightening Spray

Making your own hair highlighter is easy and cheap!

A product at Bed Bath & Beyond caught my eye the other day: John Frieda’s Controlled Lightening Spray. It reminded me of the Sun-In days of my youth, which always ultimately resulted in orange hair. I’ll never forget the day a guy I was friends with came to school with bright-orange hair, the unfortunate effect of Sun-In on dark hair, which he claimed was his older brother’s doing. Oh, the teasing that poor guy had to endure.

An even easier route that is tried-and-true — and doesn’t contain any unnecessary ingredients — is to make your own simple lightening spray. It might not work as fast as John Frieda’s or Sun-In, but it’s easy and practically free.

It will create lovely highlights, but not bold streaks. When used over time, it can also help to reduce the appearance of darker roots on already light hair.

If you are raven-haired or a redhead and want to boost those shades and/or add highlights, please check out the tips for dark hair and red hair. (My hair has been just about every shade in the book, so believe me, I’ve tried them all!)

UPDATE 7/17/13: For those of you who have questions about whether or not it is safe to lighten your hair with 3% peroxide, I’d like to refer you to this recent post on the Beautyeditor blog, answered by celebrity hairstylist Tony Chaar. He basically answers, “Yes! But be sure to moisturize your hair, too, because the lightening will dry it out a bit.” Hope that helps! :-)

Stuff to Know:

  • This highlighter is recommended only for hair that is its natural color (“virgin” hair) or has been colored only with vegetable color products, such as pure 100% henna or herbs. If your hair has been chemically treated or if you go to a salon for highlights or coloring, please talk with your stylist first. You definitely don’t want to create any adverse reactions (see “orange,” above).
  • Spot test any products or ingredients before using any homemade products on your face, head, or body, especially if you have sensitive skin or are prone to irritation and/or allergies.
  • In general, each of the homemade products here should be stored in a cool, dark, dry spot for 3-4 weeks

For a container, I used a small plastic spray bottle from the drugstore, which cost $0.99. I had all other ingredients on hand.

Homemade Hair Lightening Spray


  • 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup room temperature chamomile tea
  • 1/2 cup room temperature water
  • juice from one freshly squeezed lemon


  1. In a medium-size bowl, mix together all ingredients.
  2. Transfer to your container.

To use:

  • Spray on damp hair, either all over or in small sections for targeted highlights.
  • Comb through. Leave on for one hour, then rinse and shampoo as usual.
  • For expedited highlights, blow dry your hair while the spray is still on it, or sit in the sun while your hair air dries. The heat will speed the lightening process.

Like this tip? Consider buying my book to get all 52 tips PLUS bonus tips in an easy-to-read format! It’s called A Year of Natural Health and Beauty: 52 Easy, Frugal, Natural Ideas to Enhance Your Mind, Body, and Spirit. You can buy it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other places. Click here to learn more or to purchase!


Questions for readers:

Do you pay for highlights at a salon or do you do your own?

Have you ever had a horrible hair coloring experience?

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About andrea drugay

San Francisco hairstylist and writer

76 responses to “A Year of Natural Health & Beauty Tip #3: Make Your Own Hair Lightening Spray

  1. I use to lighten my hair in college with lemon and peroxide. I use to rub the lemon on my hair and then go bake myself in the sun. Not the best thing to do. I think there was also a product called sun out or something like that. It came in an orange bottle. I used that as well and it smelled horrible.

    Unfortunately, I have grey hair creeping in now so I only go to the salon for color. I don’t trust myself to color my own hair anymore ;)

  2. Pingback: A Year of Natural Health & Beauty Tip #14: Enhance Your Hair’s Red Tones with Hibiscus « andrea drugay

  3. Machelle Ingram

    Thanks for the awesome DIY, I pinned you!

  4. Sydney Mcdowell

    Hi! i stumbled apon this from pinterest, and found it very helpful! i tried it today and i am very pleased with the results. thank you for sharing this!

  5. Pingback: A Year of Natural Health & Beauty Tip #36: Make Your Own “Beach Hair” Texturizing Spray « andrea drugay

  6. Tessa Ridge

    does this work on dark dark daaaaaaaaark brown hair as well?

    • Hi Tessa ~ I haven’t tried it on hair that dark, so I don’t know how well it would work. I’d recommend doing a strand test first, before doing anything bigger. Then you’ll know! :-) Hope that helps.

    • Ice Svire

      Well, I had dark dark dark brown hair once… I used the diy honey and olive oil mask and it lightened my hair a little. Sometimes, I spray a little rubbing alcohol in my hair to lighten but it is very damaging so be cautioned.

  7. Pingback: A Year of Natural Health & Beauty Tip #39: Enhance Your Hair’s Dark Tones with Coffee or Tea « andrea drugay

  8. Pingback: A Year of Natural Health & Beauty Tip #43: Soak Nails in Lemon to Remove Stains « andrea drugay

  9. I have natural hair, would this work on my hair also?

    • It’s possible, but it might not get as light as pure blonde. I’d definitely do a strand test first before doing anything more! Then you’ll know, and you’ll know how long it takes, too. Cheers :-)

  10. Debbie

    Would this work on bright orange hair? Thankyou

  11. Paityn T

    I have black/ dark brown hair and i put two red rinses in my hair last year like august and november and i dont know if it is washed out all the way so should i try this?

  12. Rolita Z.

    Can I use this if I’ve done the keratin treatment but from months ago?

    • anna

      I would not use this if you have had a keratin treatment for a few reasons. 1. you will break down your keratin barrier very quickly, therefore wasting the money you spent to have your new smooth hair. 2. you should never color your hair with anything for up to 2 weeks after a keratin treatment. and 3. you could get unpredictable results. It is up to you on if you want to take the risk. Lastly, depending on the keratin treatment, they typically come to there end at around 3 months.

  13. Anjali

    Does this stuff ruin ur hair?

    • It should be fine on untreated (virgin) hair, but it might damage it if you hair is already color-treated or chemically processed. Always do a strand test before so you know how it will turn out!

  14. Eugene

    Is 3% creme peroxide okay to use ?

    • So just to follow up, as far as I have learned now, 3% cream peroxide will act the same way as liquid and will not be any stronger :-) The only difference is that the liquid would be easier to spray; a cream might clog the bottle. Hope that helps! I’d still test it on a strand first, though, just to make sure.

  15. Dane

    the peroxide isn’t toxic? or it isn’t damage the health like increasing cancer or other illness?

    • Nope, the very low concentrates that you get at the drugstore (here in the US) are safe! :-) And this hair spray is even more diluted. No worries!

      • Lene

        I’m very intrigued to try this as I have greys creeping in – they are very visible (to me at least) in my medium brown hair. As I’m in Europe, how strong is you’re peroxide? The one I can buy from the drugstore is 3%.

        Aaaand ;)

        How important is it to ‘bake in the sun’? And could I just put it in without rinsing out an hour later? My hair is very thick and healthy – never permed and last dyed 10+ years ago (because I’m lazy and doesn’t want to bother with regrowth…

      • Yes, 3% is what we have in drugstores in the US. I don’t ever recommend “baking” in the sun, btw, haha :-) But if you add heat from a hairdryer OR the sun, your hair will lighten faster. That choice is optional, though! :-)

  16. Victoria

    Does it work for girls of color? I have dark brown hair but it get a tad bit lighter in the summer.

  17. Leeanne

    I have red hair and I die it cause its started to darken and was wondering if their was anything I could use too lighten it

  18. Lauren

    Do you recommend doing this everyday, weekly, or just applied as necessary?

  19. Lauren

    and also do you use all of the bottle?

  20. hey! im from indonesia and here the lemons are smaller than usual. about how many cups is the lemon juice? 1/2? 1/3? 1? haha please let me know asap thankyou so much :)

  21. Sara

    Does it work if I use bottled lemon juice, and will it still work if I forgo the sun, just more slowly?

  22. Paloma Belen

    Would the hydrogen peroxide damage my hair? Greets from Chile :)) !

    • Anything that lightens your hair will cause some amount of damage. That’s how it gets light. However, this formula is less damaging than bleach or stronger peroxide volumes. If you prefer not to use peroxide, just using lemon juice and chamomile will be less damaging ~ but the highlights will be much more subtle.

  23. Dawn N

    What purpose does the tea have? I don’t have any and was thinking about leaving it out. Thanks.

  24. My mum used sun-in before her wedding, and I LOVE her hair colour in her wedding photo! (she has light brown hair naturally, and in the photo it was blondish with nice red highlights) I used to wonder why people would make fun of a result like that! I have dark brown hair and the dye I used when I had shorter hair caused my hair to lighten at the ends (somehow all my dye jobs lightened my natural hair?) so now I have this weird ombre effect, my dark brown fades into this reddish/golden blonde. Heh, I really want to lighten my hair over time, especially because I want to dye it red sometime and I’d rather it be a few shades lighter than it is now, because last time I did red, it was VERY dark! I don’t mind it being reddish as I lighten it, though people say for dark hair you should use cinnamon and honey or something along those lines. (Have you done a dark hair lightening post yet? I just got here from Pinterest…)

  25. Pingback: A Year of Natural Health & Beauty Tip #3: Make Your Own Hair Lightening Spray | kellymoore91311's Blog

  26. Kaitlyn

    Can you use green tea instead of chamomile tea.?

  27. John

    I can’t find chamomile tea… Is there any other alternative?

  28. Elie Anne

    I am wondering if it will work fine on my hair. I gave myself highlights with a kit from sallys a few weeks ago. It lightened well, no damage or orange.

  29. Katherine

    Could I use lime juice as a substitute for lemon juice?

  30. Carissa

    I see so many of these pins but no before and after photos for proof that it works.

    • Maybe you could ask some pinners to post before-and-afters! :-) My hair has professional highlights right now, so I am not using this spray now, but I have used it on virgin hair many times over the years (as I’ve mentioned before, I have tried every single tip on the blog and can vouch that they work for ME, but your mileage may vary, as all heads of hair are different).

  31. Pingback: Natural Beauty Tips Hair Straightening | dibeauty.com

  32. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Natural Beauty Europe

  33. Love the natural ways. *u* I have a question though. I have brown hair that was really light as a child (Maybe even dirty blonde by my parent’s word.) If I’m in the sun, my hair gets different shades of brown/light brown/dirty blonde..and my hair is curly. My question is.. if I use the lightener on my hair and replace the chamomile tea with hibiscus, how would that turn out for me? Or if I left out hydrogen peroxide and replaced THAT with hibiscus..since the chamomile has lightening effects. I read hibiscus’s benefits to the hair which are all great for my case.

    My goal is to bring out the light in my hair and have a reddish/purple hue to it. Is it possible? D;

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  37. gabby

    I dyed my hair red about a month ago and I want to lighten my roots without bleaching again because the bleach completely damaged my hair so would this work on just the roots and would damage my hair? Thanks

  38. Does this work on leg hair or only hair on your head?

    • It will work on leg hair! The lemon juice can dry out or possibly irritate your skin, though, so be sure to test a small patch first before doing your whole leg, and definitely moisturize afterward! :-)

  39. Kim

    Hey will the lighting grow out of your hair or does it stay for al really long time in your hair? I want to try it but i’m scared that it is ugly and that it wil never grow out.

    (Sorry for bad english)

    • Any kind of lightening to your hair will be permanent. However, this does not lighten your hair very much. I would suggest doing a strand test to see how it works on your hair before doing any more.

  40. Kim

    I mean the light color in the first sentence

  41. lizzy

    Hello, I recently found a similar homemade lightening spray except that one didn’t have the tea. I.also added a bit of olive oil to mine in an effort to protect my hair from dryness right away since I have curly frizzy hair. It worked wonderfully my hair actually looked healthier after than before. I liked the results I got from the other one and Wil now try yours and see the effects. Thanks!

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