Can Lemon Juice Really Lighten Skin?
Lemon Juice and Skin Lightening
Lemon juice is commonly suggested as a skin lightening treatment, but does it really work?
The short answer is YES it does, but it does take time, and it is not a permanent solution.
Citrus fruits, especially lemons, are effective for treating dark spots, acne damage and freckles because they are packed with vitamin C, which is a powerful anti-oxidant. When applied topically to the skin, lemon juice has been shown to play several roles in preventing hyperpigmentation.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a natural exfoliant that can help to lighten the skin and improve skin tone. The upper layer of the skin (the epidermis) is exfoliated by the acid, removing old skin cells, including old cells with dark pigmentation.
The outer layer of our skin naturally exfoliates every 3–4 weeks as new cells move upwards from the basal layer to the epidermis, gradually dying after they move up. Vitamin C reduces the cohesion between the cells in the outer skin layer, causing them to slough off. This stimulates the production of new skin cells, which makes the skin appear brighter and more youthful. After several months of regular use, there will be a noticeable reduction in fine lines and an overall improvement in skin tone and texture.
As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C can help to minimise the cell damage caused by free radicals, and it has been shown to stimulate the production of skin collagen. Vitamin C is water soluble, so it can be readily absorbed into the skin to protect non-water-soluble molecules located within cell membranes.
Applying vitamin C can help the skin to become stronger with a more even complexion. For this reason, it is often used in anti-aging products to promote skin peeling and re-growth.
Vitamin C can also boost the level of vitamin E in the body, which helps to protect cells from oxidation. This results in healthier skin and more even complexion.
Reduces Melanin Production
Vitamin C, in its ascorbyl form, has been clinically tested and shown to reduce melanin production in the skin. While melanin has an important role to play, protecting us from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays, an overproduction of melanin can result in skin problems in the form of dark spots and other areas of hyperpigmentation.
Vitamin C causes skin lightening by interrupting the action of the enzyme tyrosinase, which stimulates melanin production in the skin. Studies conducted at the Tulane University School of Medicine by Patricia K. Farris, M.D in 2005 found that vitamin C, when applied topically, was effective in "promoting collagen synthesis, photo-protection from ultraviolet A and B, and lightening hyperpigmentation." The results of this study were published in the journal of "Dermatologic Surgery."
Fresh Lemons for Skin Lightening
Use fresh lemons for your skin lightening treatment and not bottled lemon juice. Bottled lemon juice purchased in the supermarket is often diluted with water and contains preservatives to keep it fresh. Lemons are cheap to buy, and you might only need one lemon per day, depending on the treatment you use. You can make fresh lemon juice quickly each morning with a hand juicer.
While lemon juice is a safe and natural remedy, if you have any serious skin problems or allergies, you should be cautious when using this treatment. Lemon juice is a natural astringent, which makes it a great treatment for oily skin, but people with dry skin could find lemon juice too harsh, and it could burn or sting the skin. You could also try mixing the lemon juice with natural yoghurt or honey to make a more nourishing mask, and remember to moisturise daily.
Skin Treatment Using Lemon and Milk
To make this refreshing skin treatment, you can use the juice of half a lemon, or a whole lemon, mixed with equal parts of milk. The juice will cause the milk to curdle, but that is not a problem.
Milk contains lactic acid, a mild alpha-hydroxy acid that will exfoliate the skin and promote cell renewal. Milk is also rich in amino acids and enzymes that enhance water retention and skin moisture. This helps to soften the skin and allows for deeper penetration of the lemon juice. The lemon juice is acidic and acts as a bleaching agent that will help to fade uneven pigmentation. If you find the lemon is too acidic for your skin, you can add a little more milk and less juice.
This treatment should be applied as a polisher to exfoliate the skin. To apply the milk and lemon, you can soak a flat sponge in the mixture and use that to massage it into your skin using a circular motion for about three minutes. This can be used on any part of the body, including the hands and feet, and does not need to be washed off—but the smell might be a bit overpowering!
If you are using this mixture on your face, you can massage it in and leave for about 10 minutes before rinsing it off and patting it dry with a towel. Your skin will feel nice and smooth afterwards.
This lemon-milk whitener can be used once or twice a week. Remember that lemon will make your skin more photosensitive so you will need to use a good quality sunscreen during the day.
Lemon Skin-Whitening Tips
Here are some tips to consider when using lemon juice to whiten your skin:
- Test a small area of your skin with dilute lemon juice first in case of allergic reactions.
- Lemon juice will make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so remember to limit your sun exposure and always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
- Lemon juice can dry out your skin, so you may need to apply moisturiser afterwards.
- Don't use lemon juice if you have a cut or injury on your skin as it could sting or burn.
- Avoid getting lemon juice near your eyes or eyelids as it can sting.
- Lightening your skin with lemon juice can take a while, but it is better to stick to using this treatment three to four times a week instead of every day. Lemon juice has astringent qualities, so it can dry the skin out too much if applied every day.
- Don't go out into the sun with lemon juice on your face. Lemon juice makes your skin extra sensitive to sunlight, and it can burn, so rinse off any traces of lemon juice before going outside.
- Lemon juice is useful for lightening the skin and reducing freckles, and it is also a time-honored treatment for oily skin.
DIY Creamy Lemon Face Mask
Lemon Skin-Whitening Creams
Vitamin C, or lemon juice extract, is a major ingredient used in many skin lightening creams and serums. If you are looking for an all-natural lightening cream, check the ingredients first.
Skin-whitening products like Cuccio Lemon Skin Whitening Serum combine the power of lemon extracts with Kojic acid, a natural skin-bleaching agent that comes from an Asian fungus.
Whitening creams such as Meladerm Pigment Reducing Complex include vitamin C and lemon extract in their formulation, along with other proven whiteners like bearberry extract, mulberry extract and emblica.
Ingredients to avoid in whitening creams include chemical-based lighteners like hydroquinine and mercury. While hydroquinine is banned in some countries, it is available by prescription in the US and can be sold over the counter in concentrations of up to 2%.
Mercury is banned in the US, but it can still be found in lightening creams outside the US, where the industry is not so regulated. While these ingredients effectively lighten the skin, they have been found to have dangerous side effects when used over the long term.
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.