About 6 months ago, I swapped out my once a week shampoo & conditioner routine for an occasional lemon wash. I knew the harm shelf products can do to your hair despite the advertisements. Prior to switching over to lemons full time, I had been alternating between the brands I used so that my hair wouldn’t build up a resistance. It seemed to be working well enough, until I started damaging my straight brown locks unintentionally. Living in the Florida Keys, snorkeling and SCUBA diving were part of my weekly activities, but I always seemed to get my hair tangled in my snorkel mask, breaking off strands to set them free. I also had to have my hair plastered with hair spray for various shows in the theatre, and the result was a tangled mess. Then I was introduced to lemons.
Like any normal human being, I was skeptical at first. At the time, I had enough hair to donate to Locks of Love twice. How could lemon juice give enough TLC to my long mane? When I moved to the Bahamas, I stopped transitioning and committed my hair entirely to a lemon affair. My hair has never felt so smooth! I can run my fingers through it days afterward without having to gnaw on the ends with a brush.
But the scientist in me had to know the mechanics behind this natural process. What is it about lemons—seemingly so acidic in nature—that they would be good for your scalp? Then I pondered how important lemons are in cleaning solutions. Pine Sol is basically lemon juice with a myriad of other unnecessary ingredients. Lemons are some sort of antioxidant super food, or so I’d heard. And lemon juice works great to give your clothes a fresh smell and clean look when you’re roughing it like I was in the Bahamas. If lemons are nature’s gift to mankind for cleansing, it only made sense they could cleanse the oils from my hair just the same. And that’s exactly what lemons do.
Your scalp has its own pH which gets altered away from its natural state when you use unnatural products like manufactured shampoos and conditioners. Remember learning about acids and bases in your elementary science class? Bases, or the fancier term “alkalines,” have a pH greater than 7. Pure water is supposed to be neutral with a pH of 7. Anything with a pH less than 7 is considered an acid.
A thin protective acidic barrier covers your scalp, but it is stripped away by the alkaline store-bought hair care products leaving your pores exposed to dirt and other chemicals that can clog them. In short, acids and bases don’t get along. But when you bring an acidic hair wash into the picture, there’s no battle of epic proportions going on atop your head. An acid wash like lemon juice leaves you with a happy scalp that can maintain its original pH. It will also strip any oil build up that happens naturally and unavoidably. Grease and tangles be gone!
Don’t overdo it with lemons or any sort of hair care product, natural or not. Your body is a born fighter; it just needs a little help every now and then if you want to keep your mane looking presentable. It’s a harsh world out there; the environment is going to attack your scalp whether you like it or not.
Fun fact: Limes also work great! When I was in Peru, the grocery store was mysteriously devoid of lemons. And normal-sized limes. So I substituted my normal 1.5 lemons for a handful of Key limes and had the same result! They may be small but they did the trick!
Fun fact #2: Washing your hair with lemons is ideal for traveling. You won’t have to tote around travel-sized shampoos. Just pop into the market, pick up a lemon and toss the peel! More luggage space for sneaking home that pair of shoes from the market that have been calling your name.
Fun fact #3: I rub the lemon on my face, too. No more Neutrogena for me!