Pros and Cons of Using Lemon Juice in Your Dreads

Pros and Cons of Using Lemon Juice in Your Dreads
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There’s so much debate about what products can and cannot be applied to hair. Dreadlocks are a little more particular in terms of what can be used on them because you want to avoid residue and build up at all costs. 

But lemons are fruits, so they’re okay to use, right?

What some people fail to realize is that just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it can be used freely to manipulate your mane.

So let’s answer this common question.

Using Lemon Juice in Dreads

Can lemon juice ruin your hair?

Yes and no. Lemon is very acidic (I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of that!). Using small amounts of lemon juice can be good for your hair but overusing it can have adverse effects and ruin your hair permanently. 

This blog is intended to inform you of the pros and cons of using any kind of citrus on your hair. With the information presented below, you can then determine whether you want to use it on your locs or not. I don’t approve nor disapprove it since it’s both beneficial and harmful. I leave that decision completely up to you. 

Here are the facts.


  • Lemon has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Lemon balances the natural oils in the scalp and hair.
  • Works as a natural conditioner and softens the hair (in the short term).
  • It prevents excess buildup of germs and dead skin cells.
  • It’s a natural degreaser that helps to remove grease.
  • Lightens hair color. Lemon juice will strip the melanin from your hair leaving a lighter shade behind.
  • Using lemon as a hair lightener works best in the summer when the sun is stronger because the lemon reacts best with the sun’s UV rays. 
  • It helps to maintain the pH of the scalp thereby preventing dandruff.
  • It strengthens the roots of the hair follicles thereby reducing hair loss.
  • It stimulates growth from dormant and existing hair follicles.
  • Using lemon juice after going in the pool will help remove the chlorine that your hair absorbed when swimming.


  • Applying undiluted lemon juice to your hair for more than ten minutes is counter-productive.
  • Too much lemon juice will dry up the hair causing it to become fragile. In the long run, you can experience breakage in your locs. 
  • Overuse will hinder the locking process for dreads, making the hair loose and super frizzy.
  • Long-term use will cause structural damage to your hair strands. 
  • Allowing lemon juice to air dry will leave the hair feeling stiff and dry. Some people claim it left their dreadlocks feeling sticky, which can attract more dirt and lint.
  • There’s no way to predict what lighter shade your hair will take on, especially if your hair has been previously treated with chemical dye or henna. Regardless, this new change in color is permanent. 
  • Using heat (blow drying it for instance) will not work as effectively as the sun. This process is least effective during the winter season.
  • Using lemon juice on open cuts or wounds will burn. This is especially painful for those who have scalp psoriasis.
  • When the hair becomes damaged, it will stop refracting light and therefore will lose natural luster.
  • Lemon juice applied to the hair on a daily basis will cause irreversible damage.
  • Using lemon juice before going in the pool can react with the heat of the sun and the chlorine, turning your hair green.

I hope this gives you a general idea of what you’re getting yourself into if you choose to use lemon on your dreads. While I don’t discourage it entirely, I would suggest you use it in moderation and only on occasion. 

If you plan to use it, take note of the following tips first.

Lemon juice tips

  • Use fresh lemons only because the processed kind has additives that you don’t want on your hair. 
  • Make sure to strain out the pulp out of the juice because it will be nearly impossible to get it all out of the dreads later.
  • Never apply undiluted citrus directly to your scalp, hair, or skin, especially lemon and lime juice. 
  • Always rinse your hair and scalp thoroughly on the same day you spray citrus juice to your hair to avoid structural damage.

Lemon juice-based recipes

Lemon juice is a great ingredient in many homemade recipes for growing hair, curing and preventing dandruff, and sun bleaching.  

Hair growth recipe


  • A bowl
  • 2 tablespoons 100% aloe vera gel (using the actual leaf is the best option)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


In a bowl, whisk together the aloe vera gel with the lemon juice. Make sure to separate the lemon juice from the pulp!

Massage directly on the scalp for 5 minutes, and then leave it in your scalp for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. 

When the time is up, rinse it off thoroughly and wash your dreads as usual. 

Dandruff care and prevention recipe


  • A bowl
  • 5 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 


In a bowl, melt the coconut oil until melted and warm. Whisk in the lemon juice. Make sure to separate the lemon juice from the pulp!

Apply the mixture to the scalp directly and exfoliate your head by rubbing it in gently. Once your head is covered, let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes. 

Rinse it off thoroughly and wash your dreads with a clarifying shampoo or Dr.Bronner’s Peppermint Castile soap.

Hair lightener recipe


  • A spray bottle
  • 1 cup lemon juice 
  • 1/2 cup 100% aloe vera gel (using the actual leaf is the best option)
  • 1/2 cup distilled water


Pour the lemon juice, aloe vera gel, and water to the spray bottle. Shake and spray on the hair that you want sun-bleached. The aloe vera helps return moisturize to the hair strand so the lemon doesn’t dry it out completely.

Sit in the sun for 1 to 2 hours. Then, rinse it off thoroughly and wash your dreads as usual.

You might also be wondering…

How long should I leave lemon juice in my dreads?

Undiluted lemon juice should not be applied to hair for more than ten minutes. When you dilute it, as you would with the hair lightening recipe, you can leave it on for up to two hours. 

If you’re using it on the scalp as a treatment for dandruff or hair growth purposes, the maximum time you should leave it on is thirty minutes. The reason is that the recipes contain a higher concentration of lemon.

Never, ever, ever leave citrus juice on your hair overnight.



How much will lemon juice lighten my hair?

It’s nearly impossible to determine what color your hair will turn when a lemon-based blend is sprayed on your hair. It is safe to say, however, that your hair will never turn bleach blonde. 

When the UV rays and heat of the sun interact with the lemon in your hair, the melanin will be stripped away, leaving behind a residual color. 

If your natural hair color is black, your hair may turn into a dark shade of blown with perhaps a reddish tint.

If your natural hair color is dark brown, your hair may turn into a red/ orange tint. 

If your natural hair color is light or medium brown, your hair may lighten up to a blonder tone but could leave an orange tint. 

If your hair has been treated with henna or a chemical dye, I don’t recommend the use of lemon juice. I’m not sure what reaction it can have on dyed hair, but it’s best not to try it. 

How long will it take for lemon juice to lighten my hair?

This lightening method is very gradual. 

It might take more than four tries for any change to become noticeable.

Keep in mind that lemon juice shouldn’t be used every day. In order to give your hair a break, use the spray no more than two times in a single week. 

For darker hair, it could take a month or more of bi-weekly applications to see any difference.

Applying the juice and blow drying your hair will only damage your hair since the sun’s UV rays and heat are both required to lighten the hair. 

Once your hair is lightened, the change is permanent. If you’re not happy with the color it took on, you will have to dye it with henna (recommended) or chemicals. 

Citrus fruits are amazing. 

Lemon is incredible for personal health and is oftentimes used in cleaning products. I wouldn’t dismiss the idea of using lemon juice in my hair and scalp because it has incredible properties.

Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C. It accelerates the formation of new hair strands, as well as keeps the scalp nourished and healthy by removing buildup and dirt. 

It’s safe to use in small doses (externally, anyway) since excessive use can lead to adverse and long-term consequences (dead hair, breakage, frizziness…do I need to go on?) 

I hope you enjoyed this blog and were able to get a better perspective for the best ways to make use of this wonderful fruit. 

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  1. It’s great to know that the hair will not turn bleach blonde when using lemon juice concentrate on it. I will share this tip with my best friend who plans to have dreads next year. He just needs to know the different products he can use to take care of his hair even in that kind of style soon.

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