Tori is a 28-year-old, three-time animal mom and DIYer living in Northern Atlanta with her boyfriend.
Does Sun-In Really Work?
I've been using Sun-In since high school. It works great if you've got natural hair that you're trying to lighten just a shade or two, or if you are looking for a way to add some natural-looking highlights into your hair for the summer!
Sun-In is a less stressful alternative to bleaching your hair and much cheaper than going to the salon if you're just looking for a little bit of a change. There are a few ways to use it depending on what you're looking for and how fast you want to get there.
In this article, I'll tell you all about Sun-In, what makes it work, and the different ways you can use it to achieve the natural blonde highlights or all-over lightening that you're looking for so that you're prepared for the spring and summer months!
About My Hair
To start off, I'll tell you a little bit about my hair, so you can get an idea of what Sun-In will do for your hair. My hair is naturally dark blonde, and does tend to go towards the yellowy side when I lighten it. My individual hairs are actually pretty thin, but I have a lot of it, so my hair is pretty thick when you put it in a ponytail. The last time I used Sun-In, my hair was down to my waist, so I did have to use a couple of bottles over time to achieve the look I was going for.
Sun-In: What Is It?
Sun-In is a spray-in hair lightener that has been around for over 30 years. It uses two main lightening agents to help lighten your hair: hydrogen peroxide and lemon juice. The spray also contains a couple of other ingredients to help moisturize hair and protect your scalp while you're using it, such as aloe vera leaf juice and chamomile flower extract.
Overall, Sun-In is pretty safe for your hair no matter which method you choose to use it to lighten with, and will not cause damage to your hair.
As a side note, Sun-In may react differently if your hair is previously dyed. If you have dyed your hair a dark color it may turn out more brassy than it will if your hair is natural. Also, if you have naturally dark colored hair, it may take a lot longer to achieve the desired results. Sun-In works best on medium to dark blonde hair.
Sun-In has two different bottles that they sell, and I've used both of them. One comes in a pink bottle and is labeled "Tropical Breeze," and the other one comes in a yellow bottle and is labeled "Lemon." I haven't really noticed much of a difference between the two of them other than the smell. They both work the same and give the same gradual lightening transition over time. I do prefer the smell of the lemon, though!
You can purchase Sun-In at a variety of different places, and it is pretty inexpensive. You can find both kinds on Amazon, or at Walmart or Target, with one bottle being between six and eight dollars no matter where you purchase from.
Step 1: Spray or Paint
There are a few different ways you could use Sun-In to achieve your desired highlighting effect prior to applying heat.
Let's say you're just looking for one section of your hair to be lighter, such as your bangs, a chunky streak, or only the pieces lining your face. Because Sun-In comes in a spray bottle, it can be a little tricky to aim it to apply only to small sections. For smaller sections, unscrew the cap and dip a 1/4 inch paintbrush into the bottle. Paint the liquid on to the strand you are trying to lighten, and then apply heat in your preferred method.
If you want the bottom half of your hair (closest to your neck) to stay dark and you only want highlights on the top portion of your hair, section out the bottom half of your hair and put it in a bun, and cover with plastic wrap or a plastic bag. Then spray the Sun-In onto the hair that you are looking to lighten and comb through to evenly distribute the spray.
If you just want a few pretty highlights, Pull out the strands you want to highlight and hold them straight. Spray the solution on and use your fingers or a comb to evenly distribute throughout the strand. If you're not confident in your spraying ability, you could use the paintbrush for this as well.
For all-over lightening, spray liberally everywhere on your hair and comb through to evenly distribute the mixture. If you choose this, depending on the length and thickness of your hair, you will be using more. To protect myself from running out when I'm not done, I always buy two bottles as a safeguard.
From here, there are two different methods you can use to get the Sun-In to work!
Step 2: Activate the Product
Option 1: Sit in the Sun
As its name indicates, Sun-In provides subtle highlighting to your hair as you sit in the sun. So naturally, the first method that I'm going to recommend is to lightly spray it in your hair while it is dry, and go to the beach or the pool for a few hours. The more of the spray that is in your hair, the more highlights you will have, so spray liberally. You will probably not notice a difference right away, but after a couple of visits outside regularly, you will start to notice natural-looking highlights coming out of the woodworks. Make sure you rinse your hair after you are done!
If you choose to get in the water with Sun-In in your hair, it will wash out and the desired effect most likely won't be achieved as quickly, so just be mindful of that. If you've already been out for a couple of hours and you're ready to jump in and don't mind it washing out, don't worry about it! If you do get your hair wet you can always spray more in after you get out. However, the water in your hair may dilute the spray's mixture, so just be mindful of that.
Keep in mind that you probably don't want to wear your hair in a ponytail or other kind of style while Sun-In is in your hair. Because it uses heat from the sun, parts that are not exposed to direct heat from the sun will not lighten. That means that you may end up with a faint line where your ponytail holder was. So, it's best to keep your hair down and just keep rotating which side of your head your hair is on so that all parts of your hair will get enough sunlight for the lightener to take effect!
Option 2: Spray In and Apply Heat
I am an impatient person, so I'm going to be honest with you when I say this is my preferred method! The reason for that is because it works a lot faster than sitting in the sun all day. Plus, my family does have a history of skin cancer, so I do like to limit my sun exposure and usually stay covered with a towel or light blanket when I am in the sun (in addition to wearing lots of sunscreen).
When you're using a hairdryer you'll want it on the hot setting. Now I will preface this by saying your hair will not be immediately six shades lighter, it will still take time. All you need to do is spray the Sun-In on the desired sections of hair (or all over, if you just want a shade lighter everywhere like I typically do). Use a vented brush and a blow dryer to heat your hair up and blow dry for about 10 minutes or longer depending on the length of your hair.
As I mentioned, Sun-In works via heat application, not actual sunlight, so this is why this method works too. You can repeat this process every day on dry hair until you achieve the desired level of lightness. If you wanted to you could probably do two rounds in a day.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: My hair is dirty blonde I’ve used this product twice and my hair is almost orange. Should I continue using the hair lightening product I have been or would it make my hair worse?
Answer: You can continue using the product, but I would recommend a toner and a purple or blue shampoo depending on the shade of orange once you have achieved the lightness you are looking for. Wella Color charm T18 is a great toner, and I like Ion's purple and blue shampoos. That will help get it towards a neutral tone!
Question: How long should I wait to blow dry my hair after applying the Sun-in?
Answer: I usually put the sun in into my hair and then immediately blow dry!
Question: Does Sun-in spray continue to lighten your hair after it has dried?
Answer: Yes - if it dries and you are in the sun afterwards it will continue to subtlely lighten until you wash it out.
Question: How many washes until Sun-In comes out of hair?
Answer: The effects of Sun-In are not able to be washed out. It contains peroxide and is lightening the natural color of your hair.
Question: For the before and after pictures included at the top of this article, how many applications of the sun did it take to achieve the end result?
Answer: Daily applications for about two weeks!
Question: After lightening your hair using Sun-In spray, do you just go on with your day or do you need to rinse it off after you have finished drying or heating your hair?
Answer: You can go about your day! No need to rinse it unless you want to.
Question: What is the difference between the pink and the yellow Sun-In bottle?
Answer: The scent. Nothing else is different. I've used both and they both work fine. The yellow bottle smells a little more lemony and the pink bottle smells like lemon with flowers (as much as a mixture like this can smell like either of those things).
Question: If I want a natural look; can I spray Sun-in randomly all over my hair? or will it turn out uneven
Answer: This product is really subtle, so however you spray it in your hair it will look pretty natural.
Question: Can I straighten my hair after using Sun-In without rinsing it first?
Answer: You can but I would be careful because a straightener is also a source of heat and will lighten your hair further if you use it while the product is still in your hair.
Question: Why did my fingertips turn white with white spots on my fingers when using sun-in?
Answer: I'm not sure, but sun in does contain chemicals such as peroxide that have lightening qualities which is why it works on hair. I've never had issues with it lightening the skin on my hands before but I think if you give a few weeks for the skin on your fingers to regenerate it will go away. If you begin to get itchy or feel burning it may be an allergic reaction and you should see a doctor right away.
Question: I'm allergic to most hair dyes, can sun in hair lightening cause the same reaction?
Answer: It's hard to say. You aren't allergic to hair dye, you're allergic to an ingredient in hair dye, and dye is different than Lightener. I would go back and try to figure out what ingredient in hair dye you might be allergic to, and if sun in contains any of the same ingredients as the hair dye that caused a reaction then don't use it.
Question: If I have medium brown hair. Can I "bleach" it with Sun-in?
Answer: You could but it would take a really long time. I would recommend using 20 volume developer with Ion bright white creme Lightener if you are trying to go for anything other than natural highlights.
Question: Will the sun-in wash out of my hair if I take a shower?
Answer: Nope - lightening products are permanent.
Question: I have been using Sun-In on my roots and it has lightened but it seems to have stopped getting lighter. Is that normal? Also, I’ve dried it with the hairdryer and then sat with a bag on my hair to keep it warmer would that help?
Answer: It could help to use the bag to keep the warmth close to your head! As far as lightening stopping, this is a gentle lightener and it doesn't work very fast. Your hair has probably reached a level of light where it's hard to see changes without taking a before and after picture. If you are trying to get your hair to platinum blonde I would recommend using developer and Lightener such as Ion bright white creme developer, with a toner applied afterwards such as Wella t18.
Question: Can you use Sun-In hair lightener on highlighted hair?
Answer: Yes, you certainly can! I have done so before with no issues.
Question: How do you cover up your roots using Sun-In spray?
Answer: When using Sun-In, your roots should be treated the same as the rest of your hair. If you want them light like the rest of your hair, concentrate the spray in your roots and use a blow dryer to achieve the desired level of lightness.
Question: Should my hair be wet before I apply Sun-In?
Answer: You can do it either way. I typically apply it on dry hair, but it can also be wet!
Question: I've used Sun-In but now want to have my hair professionally highlighted, what do I need to tell my stylist?
Answer: To be honest, since sun-in is so gentle, if I were you, I wouldn't bother because it's not going to have much of an effect on your stylist's ability to put new highlights in. If you're concerned that it might, then just be honest with her/him. A good stylist isn't judgemental of home solutions and is going to help you achieve the look you want.
Question: How many applications of sun in did it take to achieve the third picture with the blondest hair? About how many bottles did you go through?
Answer: I was applying sun in to my hair every day for a couple of weeks because I was in the sun everyday. I'd say probably two or three bottles with daily application!
Question: I only want a few slightly lighter streaks in my hair. How do I achieve that with Sun-In Spray?
Answer: You have two options! Either you can pull your hair into a bun and then spray all over, or you can braid your hair into pigtails and spray all over, then hang out in the sun. If you're looking for subtle highlights, I don't recommend blow drying as that lightens it faster and lighter.
Question: Can I straighten my hair after using Sun-In spray?
Answer: Yes, you can - you can style as normal, but as you normally would when straightening hair I highly recommend a heat protectant to prevent damage. I love Paul Mitchell's Hot Off The Press spray!
Question: I have strawberry blond hair and Sun-In spray makes it more orange! should I keep putting it in to make it lighter or should I stop using it?
Answer: Grab yourself a good toner such as Well T-18. Follow the package instructions. A toner will get the color away from orange. You can keep lightening it, but it will still have an orange tint without a toner. After your toner, make sure you shampoo at least once a week with a purple or blue shampoo for maintenance so that you can stay away from the brassiness of orange.
Question: What type of shampoo should I use with Sun-in spray?
Answer: Whatever you normally use is fine, though I tend towards sulfate-free shampoos personally! Right now I'm using Redken Clean Maniac shampoo and OGX coconut milk conditioner.
Question: Does Sun-In hair lightener eventually come out of your hair? Or will it stay in forever?
Answer: It stays in forever -- it is a hair lightener, not a dye, so the color your hair turns is there for good.
Question: I have medium brown hair and still have seen results after 3 days! Does lightening take longer for medium brown hair?
Answer: It can take longer depending on the methods you are using. This is a very subtle hair Lightener that is not meant to be instant bright blonde - it's best over time, even if you use a hair dryer. Continue using it over the summer in the sunshine and you will notice a difference for sure. If you use a hair dryer, it will lighten faster, but it also depends on your hair type as well. If you would like a brighter lightening faster, I recommend seeing a professional for highlights. or if you want to be full blonde you can try Ion Color Brilliance Bright White Creme Lightener with a 10 or 20 volume developer (but that is to go BLONDE blonde, not for subtle highlights!)
Question: I have light brown hair and I used to be super blonde and I really dont want orange hair, should I still try Sun-in?
Answer: If your hair is light brown from being dyed light brown, I wouldn't do it. If your hair is naturally light brown you could use sun in and then follow up with a toner, but if you're looking for platinum hair I would just use Ion bright white creme Lightener and volume 10 or 20 developer instead of sun in, because sun in is meant for subtle changes.
Question: Do you have to wet your hair before you use Sun-in? And is it ok to put your hair in a pony tail when You used Sun-in?
Answer: You do not have to wet your hair and it is ok to do a ponytail after you have finished being in the sun or using a hair dryer but I don't recommend it during because the hair underneath the pony tail holder will not lighten evenly!
Question: How long should you be out in the sun while using Sun-In hair lightener to get hair really light?
Answer: If you are trying to get it really light, I'd use the hair dryer method to save you time because it would probably require several consecutive days of sunshine to lighten it several shades.
Question: Are you supposed to wash your hair and dry it with a towel right before using Sun-In hair lightener?
Answer: No, you don't have to! You can spray it right on dry hair.
Question: How long does the Sun-In hair lightener last after use?
Answer: The product itself will wash out after you wash your hair but its lightening effects are permanent.
Question: Is it better to use Sun-In hair lightener on wet or dry hair?
Answer: I prefer using on damp hair but you can use it on either.
Question: When you apply the product for the second time, do you do it on top of your first application or you wash your hair then do it for the second time?
Answer: That is totally up to you. I have done both and had similar results each time.
Question: I’ve never used Sun-in before. I have dark brown hair I was born with almost strawberry blonde hair naturally. If I used it, would my hair turn red?
Answer: It will probably turn coppery orange before it turns blonde and it will take several uses before turning fully blonde. The best way to find out is to test it on a small hidden strand of hair first before doing your whole head.
Question: Can I wash my hair like normal after using Sun-In hair lightener and blow-drying, or do I need to wait a period of time?
Answer: Nope, you can wash your hair like normal.
Question: How long does it take to see results when using Sun-In spray hair lightener?
Answer: It depends on how light your hair already is, but typically on my dirty blonde hair I notice results after two or three uses in the sun or just one use if I'm using a hair dryer!
Question: Do you need to shower before applying the sun-in?
Answer: No you do not!
Question: How long does it take to see results after applying Sun-in for the first time?
Answer: Depending on how dark your hair is it may take a while to notice results. For me it's usually 2 or so times before I notice a changes, but take a before and after picture to confirm that you are seeing changes.
Question: When you apply Sun-in, you don’t wait for anything right? After you spray or comb it with the bottle, you straight up go blow-dry your hair? Or do you wait like 30 minutes and then blow dry it?
Answer: I go straight into blow-drying!
Question: How long should I keep the Sun-In hair lightener in my hair?
Answer: As long as you like. You can reapply it if you decide to use it for multiple days straight.
Question: Can Sun-in be used on eyebrows?
Answer: I have never tried but you could try if you're not using a hair dryer. I would be hesitant of applying heat that close to my eyes. If you're looking for blonde eyebrows it may be better to use a lightener + developer combo such as ion Bright White Creme Lightener mixed with 10 volume developer.
Question: Can you apply Sun-In twice a day?
Answer: You could, I have done so before. If you are getting in and out of a body of water while using sun in you would need to reapply just like sunscreen because water will take the product out.
Question: Will I see results after one time of spraying my hair with Sun-in?
Answer: It depends on what color your hair was previously and how much you saturated your hair. If your hair was fully saturated with product and you have light brown hair you will probably see results after the first try.
Question: Does sun in damage your hair? Are there different shades for a specific hair color?
Answer: Just like any lightening product, your hair can be damaged from Sun In, but it takes a lot of sun in to cause noticable damage. There are not specific shades.
Question: Thank you, I have also been using Sun-In since I was a teenager, I will be 50 very soon. I don't think I've ever put in on dry hair until today! It works just as well... I was wondering if it has an expiration date? I couldn't find one.
Answer: Honestly I don't think it does because it's a peroxide formula. If I had a bottle from a few years ago I would still use it!
Question: How long should I wait after blow-drying to shower?
Answer: You can shower immediately.
Question: Where can I purchase Sun-In hair lightener?
Answer: Sun-In is available at many retailers including Amazon, Walmart, and your local drugstore.
Question: You state to use a hair dryer brush, but is it o.k. to use a hair dryer comb when using the blow dryer method?
Answer: Yes if you are more comfortable with a hair dryer comb you absolutely can!
Question: I can use Sun-in at night right...?
Answer: Yes absolutely! Just use a hair dryer to see results since you don't have the sun.
ToriM (author) from Atlanta on February 11, 2021:
Hi Annette, I'm not entirely sure about availability outside of the US but you might be able to find it at target or walmart who should ship internationally!
Rachel on May 26, 2020:
I love using sun in lemon but have never been sure whether I have to wash it out or not? I usually do it in the morning and deep condition at night.
Annette on April 22, 2020:
Where can I buy sun in from struggling to find somewhere in Tasmania or Australia or a website that is not out of stock
Mack on March 23, 2020:
Does it come out
Faith Kuszay on March 02, 2020:
Can I use sun in in between getting my hair colored? I want it for my bangs
Colleen on January 08, 2020:
Be careful when using the blow drier method, if you hold it one spot for too long you can burn off a chunk of hair like I did!
Kathryn on January 08, 2020:
P.S. you can even spray sun in on your hair and put on a hat and it will still work because the hat will keep the heat from your head from escaping so your hair will still get warm.
Kathryn on January 08, 2020:
Your post has some inaccuracies. Hydrogen peroxide and lemon juice will still lighten your hair without heat applied but heat makes your hair more porous and will increase the lightening effects. That being said, heat from the sun will still lighten the bottom layers of your hair, you don’t need to have each section exposed. Hydrogen peroxide can absolutely damage your hair! Be cautious of putting your hair in a pony tail after using sun in because this can cause breakage and leave you with some unintentional layers.
lillianJane21 on October 20, 2019:
I LOVE SUN IN. and not just me... my boyfriend says i look hotter blonde (hes not wrong) and but he also disaproves of that because ALL the guys are after me now. Its like by completley changing my body, style and look they all want me. im pretty darn sure its bc of my new blonde hair. i used 21 bottles (yes it SOUNDS LIKE A TON buuut i used a bottle a day for 3 weeks and my hair went from brown to platinum in less than a month) SO I ABSOLUTLEY LOVE SUNIN ohh and another thing. i did my hair riht before a trip to mexico on a cruise and i couldnt walk from my room to the pool without AT LEAST one guy asking for my number ANDsome woman telling me how pretty i was or how much she liked my hair. Id like to say sunin "made me a total chick"(quote from Jack my bf) so yeah thats what i have to say on that. BUY SUNIN IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE IT WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY AND if youre lucky you might get a few guys too ;)
catie on October 20, 2019:
im so excited to try sunin. i have REALLY LONG AND REALLY THICK hair so i bought 9 bottles (my hair is down to my calves and sooo thick) hopefully it works bc i just spent $63+tax. still WAY cheaper than any salon though. Im really really excited!! Ill post about it on my blog if you want to see. lilyshair.com
check it out!!!! luv u guys remember to have an awesome day... OH and inspiring quotes of the day
-dont accept criticism from people you wouldnt go to for advice
-once you start seeing your worth youll find it harder so sty around people who dont
-you are beautiful. period.
-be who you are and say what you say because people who mind dont matter and people who matter dont mind (dr seuss)
-yer a wizard harry and a bloody good one too
luna on August 05, 2019:
Sun in actually works!
Nayvee on July 21, 2019:
I am actually going to use sun in today at Disney world and since Florida has a lot of sun exsposure that’s why this is every helpful
Jessica on April 29, 2019:
How many bottles did it take you total?
Trey on March 06, 2019:
I was wondering does it continue to work after it has dried