When it comes to skincare, people want the most effective ingredients that yield immediate or noticeable results. This is especially true when it comes to skin lightening, and although Western beauty standards lean towards tanned skin, in Asia and certain parts of Africa, it’s all about having a fairer complexion. In 2017, the worldwide skin lightening market was worth $4.8 billion and is expected to grow to $8.9 billion by 2027, proving that many individuals all over the world are turning to skin lightening or bleaching creams to get a lighter skin tone. However, as many lightening creams contain potentially harmful ingredients such as mercury and hydroquinone, some people who want to have a porcelain-like glow are now turning to natural remedies to lighten their skin, such as lemon juice.

Lemon juice has long been touted as a natural way to achieve lighter and brighter skin, but is it safe to use on a regular basis? Moreover, can it cause skin problems in the long run? Here’s what you to need to know about using lemon juice to achieve fairer skin.

How Lemon Juice’s High Acidity Can Hurt Your Skin

Though DIY skincare is all the rage nowadays, it’s crucial to know that applying pure lemon juice to your skin may do more harm than good. First of all, lemon juice is highly acidic at about 2 pH, and anything that is too acidic—be it an organic or commercially-available skincare or beauty product—can have a negative impact on the skin.

On “Ask A Scientist,” expert Jim Swenson said that acids with pH levels of 3 and below can be very irritating to the skin.

“Lemon juice has a pH of roughly 2.3,” said Swenson. “You could wet a spot on your arm with that, let it dry, and in a little while, it will itch.”

Once it’s applied topically, lemon juice can alter the natural pH level of your skin’s acid mantle, resulting in hyperpigmentation and skin irritation.

Does Lemon Juice Work To Whiten Skin?

If you’re wondering if lemon juice really works to lighten skin, the answer is yes, it does, but it takes time to achieve noticeable results. Citrus fruits such as lemons are packed with Vitamin C or ascorbic acid, which can naturally exfoliate skin, resulting in a fresher and lighter-looking complexion. However, it can take several months of repeated use to notice a marked change in skin pigmentation, and during this time, it’s possible to experience side effects that range from minor skin rashes to more serious skin conditions.

It Can Cause Chemical Burns

Lemon juice might be all-natural, but being natural doesn’t mean that it won’t cause you any harm. This citrus juice can actually make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, and it can cause blistering and irritation. If you happen to have acne, it may even worsen your skin condition. Moreover, its acidic properties can cause chemical burns—you’ll know that you have a lemon juice-induced burn if your skin is reddened and feels painful even without applying pressure to it.

Safer And More Effective Ways To Lighten And Brighten Your Skin

If you want to have lighter or brighter skin, there are other things that you can do that won’t harm your health or your complexion. Soaps, creams, or lotions that contain glutathione may be better for your skin as our bodies naturally produce this antioxidant. Increasing your glutathione levels can also help to get glowing and even-toned skin. You can do this by increasing your Vitamin C intake, or adding selenium-rich foods to your diet, such as beef, cottage cheese, and brown rice.

If you want faster results, you can consult your dermatologist for professional whitening treatments—discuss several options to know what’s right for you. Having beautiful, fairer, and glowing skin can also be achieved with the help of a licensed aesthetician, but make sure that you go to one who specializes in skin lightening to get the best results.

Resources & Further Reading

1. Skin-lightening creams are dangerous – yet business is booming. Can the trade be stopped?, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/23/skin-lightening-creams-are-dangerous-yet-business-is-booming-can-the-trade-be-stopped

2. Can Lemon Juice Really Lighten Skin, Bellatory, https://bellatory.com/skin/Can-Lemon-Juice-Really-Lighten-Skin

3. PH Effects On Skin, Livestrong, https://www.livestrong.com/article/152255-ph-effects-on-skin/

4. Lemon Juice And Acne: A Deadly Topical Treatment Which Burns And Irritates Human Skin, Super Natural Acne Treatment, https://supernaturalacnetreatment.com/lemon-juice-acne-deadly-topical-treatment-that-burns-irritates-human-skin/

5. 10 Natural Ways To Increase Your Glutathione Levels, Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-glutathione