How to Lighten Your Hair Naturally and Safely With Honey

Yes, you can lighten your hair with honey. This is a homemade natural hair highlight treatment that works. See Ktani’s research here.

honey hair highlighter susiej

You will need patience and perseverance, depending upon how “light” you want to go. This natural home hair lightener for brunettes, and natural hair highlighter for blondes is safe, and can be an organic hair highlighter depending on which honey you choose.

lighten hair with honey susiej

Here is a list of successful honeys to be used for naturally lightening your hair. What you will be doing is activating the natural peroxide that occurs in honey. This peroxide does not damage your hair, and honey is a humectant, which means it attracts and retains moisture on hair and skin — so not only does it lighten, but it deeply conditions your hair.

OK, so let’s get to it. How to really lighten your hair with honey naturally at home

UPDATE: Here’s a new wash and go method, click here.

  • Time: What you need are two hours. Prep time is only 15-20 minutes, though. The rest of the time, you’ll just be waiting on the honey – so you’re free for most of those two hours to do whatever you need to do – at home, preferably. Swim caps look a bit suspicious at the grocery store.


  • Shower cap
  • Towel
  • Raw honey.
  • Distilled Water: This is a must-have. There a minerals in tap water and even spring water will interfere with the minerals and peroxide in the honey. Buy a jug of distilled water.
  • Ground Cardamom: This is simply a spice, similar to cinnamon, that also holds a large amount of peroxide. Cinnamon does too— but cinnamon will burn your skin and your scalp. Seriously – stay away and use cardamom. Cardamom has more peroxide than cinnamon, and has no adverse effects on your skin.
  • A flip top cap: This mixture clogs a sprayer, and as much as you wish you could, you can’t spray this into your hair. You need to “pour” it slowly into your hair. Ironically, the cap of a hydrogen peroxide bottle fits on top of the little green glass Pellegrini bottles. I like to use glass so I can see if everything is mixed well. You can use a rinsed-out shampoo bottle, but it will be harder to see to ensure everything is mixed.
  • A swim cap. A shower cap will be too loose, and the honey will drip away. You could, I suppose use plastic wrap if you are quite gifted at wrapping your wet hair in plastic.
  • A towel to catch the drips.
  • Optional: Pure extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil. Olive oil has a higher peroxide value than coconut oil. Suggested recipe amounts for the oils are 1 tablespoon or less in total, per treatment. This is an additional lightening booster, but I find it quite difficult to wash all of the oil out of my hair.

Honey dilution Measurements For Lightening:

The ratio to keep in mind is 4 times the amount of water to honey, calculated by weight.

  • 10 grams of honey = 40 grams of distilled water
  • 20 grams of honey = 80 grams of distilled water

No scale?
Remember 1 tablespoon of honey to 6 tablespoons of distilled water

  • 2 tablespoons honey = 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) distilled water
  • 4 tablespoons honey = 24 tablespoons (1 ½ cups) distilled water

How to mix the honey:

  • At room temperature, measure and mix the honey and water in your bottle.
  • Then, you add your boosters – the cardamom and the oil if using. I usually add a tablespoon of cardamom. You can’t overdo it or underdo it.
  • Seal the cap, and shake to ensure all the honey is saturated with the water – this will make it less “thick” and pourable. (The cold weather has made the honey quite thick and solid… but still, don’t be tempted to heat the honey. This can destroy the enzymes. In the summer months, you won’t have this problem. Just shake the honey and water together to break it up.)
  • Let the honey water mixture sit for 1 hour at room temperature. Do not heat this in the microwave – just let it sit, to allow the honey to produce peroxide.

Treating Your Hair With Honey:

  • After one hour, take your bottle, shower cap and towel to the sink, or shower, begin to pour the mixture into your DRY hair. Start with your roots, and use the ends of your hair to catch the drips. Do this slowly, so that your hair has a chance to absorb the mixture. If you’re very messy, put a bowl in the bottom of the sink to catch the drips so that you can re-apply this natural hair highlighter mixture.
  • Once your bottle is empty, and your hair is completely wet, pull that shower cap over your hair, tucking the ends of your hair under the cap.
  • Your hair must stay wet with the honey mixture for 1 hour to let the natural ingredients begin to lighten your hair.
  • Grab your towel and wrap it around your head, over the shower cap, turban style, to catch the drips.
  • For an extra lightening boost to brunette and blond hair, and if you have the time – you could, at this point, start another honey mixture to let it sit for the hour while this first mixture sit on your hair. Then, in an hour, you can reapply a second batch. It’s impossible to damage you hair with this treatment by doing it too much.
  • In one hour, the honey has done its work. You can now reapply, or pull of that shower cap, and step into the shower and wash the honey out of your hair. Once the water from the shower hits your hair, the honey just dissolves right out.

I am tempted to let the honey sit overnight, but have not yet done so. The experts say, an hour is all you need – but I’m still curious to try it.

lighten hair with honey susiej0

What can you expect when you start using honey to lighten your hair?

I never intended to post this story. I researched the information, and just tried it out, and I did not take before and after pictures. I am posting now, because so many people have stopped me to ask me about my hair color, and encouraged me to do this post.

  • After 1 treatment, your hair will be slightly lighter, but remarkably soft and lush, and very shiny.
  • After 3 treatments of this natural home hair lightener, you will see some clear definite signs of lightening – it will be subtle. It will be nothing as dramatic as walking out of a salon with a fresh weave of color – yet, this will be prettier and more natural looking.
  • You realize that you can’t “overdo it” because honey can’t hurt your hair – so you give it another treatment – your fourth one this week! And you can hardly believe your eyes. This is so much better than using those chemical coloring that leave your hair dry and brittle.
  • At this point, you will probably be committed to naturally lightening your hair with honey. You know that if you can just work this regimen into your bi-weekly routine, you will no longer need to be dependent upon your hair dresser to help you get rid of that “line” of demarcation that occurs at least every 6 weeks from chemical colorings.
  • You get a bit frustrated, because no matter what you do, you still cannot get your roots to be as light as the ends, which have already had this treatment four times now. So, you head to your hair dresser, because you are tired of the extra work. You just want to sit in a chair, and have him color your whole head, all at once – and you could care less about that dramatic line that will show up in 6 weeks. Let’s just do this. Instead – he says, “You know that ombre look is really popular right now – and you have it! … Your hair has never looked so good.” He sends you home with a new trim, yet without color.
  • You relax a bit, because this is so subtle, that you realize if you skip a month or two, you’ll be fine — there is no tell-tale line that you must hurry up and cover. The honey will be waiting for you as soon as you get to it.
  • Then, you run to the kitchen to do one more treatment.
  • You secretly wonder, if you could just bring the honey to your hairdresser and let him do it for you…

What are the benefits to using honey to lighten hair?

As I sit with a shower cap on my head, using a towel to catch the drips, I start to wonder if this whole thing is worth the trouble – and you will too. That’s when I let my mind jump back to the facts: not only am I lightening my hair with natural ingredients, but I am deeply moisturizing and conditioning my hair at the same time with honey.  The vitamins present in honey are B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and certain amino acids. The minerals found in honey include calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.

How does honey lighten hair?

  • Peroxide. But not hydrogen peroxide, which is found in a brown bottle, and will make your hair turn orange and weeks later will eventually cause it to break off. Stay away from that, please.
  • There is natural peroxide in honey that is activated with water. It is safe to use for hair – repeatedly.

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74 comments to “How to Lighten Your Hair Naturally and Safely With Honey”
  1. I just tried this today and it really works! My husband even noticed. No, it’s not as dramatic as coloring with chemicals, but there is a definite difference. I might try it again today to see if it lightens it even more. I’m so happy I tried this! Thank you so much for the recipe!

  2. would like to know what your natural colour is also iam quite grey but with a lot of dark as well do you think this would go on me thank you

  3. Can I leave the distilled water / honey / cardomom mixture sitting for more than one hour ?
    Sometimes , I would like to make a mixture in the morning, leave it sit , then apply it when Iget home from work.
    Because I have found that , on my hair , leaving it on overnight works well.
    Can I make it ahead of time ?
    Thank you

  4. No According to the studies, the peroxide is gone within two hours. But — you can mix it and apply it immediately and leave it on overnight. Even though the studies say the peroxide is gone within two hours, I find that leaving it in overnight does make more of a brightening impact — and the honey is also a great conditioner. But if you want to be sure you are getting the maximum peroxide levels, put it on your hair within the first hour!

  5. Hi Susiej,

    am wondering if the cinnamon will tint my grey hair? Because I don’t want that I just want to lighten my darker hair.

  6. Please don’t use cinnamon. I tried that once, and my scalp felt like it was on fire. I rinsed the stuff out immediately, but it still burned most of the day. The cardomon, honey, and water mixture do really work. I did this a couple of years ago, and after the fourth time, my dark brunette was visibly lighter and healthier looking.

  7. Hi, I love this idea and have tried it on and off in the past. I now have lots of blonde highlights in my brunette hair and honey with olive oil keeps them bright and fresh naturally without resorting to chemical refreshers.

    I would like though to try to lighten my quite dark brunette hair (I’m a darkish ash brown) so that it blends better with the blonde, and also produces that natural ombre effect so that regrowth isn’t so visible (and less frequent and costly visits to the salon!).

    I already do a pre-poo with mixed olive oil and coconut oil, as I also have fine crinkly wavy hair that needs a lot of TLC, especially now that I have damaged hair due to the bleached highlights (no escaping it). This is working well for me so far as not only is it protecting what’s left of the protein in my hair, but it’s also future proofing new growth, as the coconut oil in particular prevents protein loss in the first place, so future highlights won’t cause quite as much damage.

    I’ve also started massaging a tiny amount of castor oil into my roots and scalp, as its known to strengthen hair, and make it grow faster (but I don’t really want it to grow that fast as the highlights will grow out quicker! So perhaps just once a week for that!)

    So anyway, my current pre-poo that I do twice a week overnight on my longish dry hair before wash day consists of olive oil for brightening and softening, coconut oil for protein retention, and adding castor oil to the scalp for strength and a little growth.

    I’ve started adding honey to this now not just for brightening but for its moisturising and nutritional benefits. I’ve only done about 3-4 experiments so far with different recipes. I use organic, raw honey.

    Firstly I just added honey to the above pre-poo. It wasn’t great as it was really sticky and difficult to get through my hair, and impossible to get a wide tooth comb through (I like to gently detangle when doing a pre-poo). However, it definitely brightened my highlights, which were looking a bit dull.

    Second experiment I added aloe vera gel to the honey first to act as the water. This is proper runny lumpy aloe vera gel, not the other thick stuff that has all sorts of chemicals in it.

    I mixed this in with the oil and applied. It went on a little better but was still sticky and still didn’t distribute as I’d liked.

    The 3rd experiment yesterday I mixed 1 tbsp honey with 2 tbsp water, then mixed with the oil and this was much better. Glided on and I could detangle.

    Next time I might try half aloe vera gel and half water, as I like the benefits of aloe.

    I guess time will tell if this actually works. My highlights are definitely brighter. Maybe my brown hair is very slightly lighter? Unless it’s a trick of the light ????

    I know this is a long winded way of asking a few questions but I wanted to add some context to what I was doing.

    So I guess what I want to ask is, bearing in mind your recipe has a lot more water, but mine is a lot more practical for me as I do this overnight, is mine enough to lighten my natural hair over time?

    Does the oil get in the way of the honey doing its job?

    Will the aloe interfere with the honey doing its job?

    Am I using enough honey? I don’t know how much a tbsp weighs, I’ll check it next time.

    Is doing this twice a week enough?

    Many thanks for taking the time to read this ????

  8. PS sorry about all the question marks in my previous post. Not sure what happened there, they were supposed to be smiley emoticons!

  9. PPS, would using cardamom essential oil work instead of ground cardamom? I have had trouble in the past washing ground cardamom out of my hair, especially with the oil

  10. Disappointing that I’ve not had a response to my questions, particularly when I’ve been helpful by sharing my experiences. Everyone else got a response to their comments I notice.

  11. Vanessa, I am so sorry about not responding sooner. We have been having a bit of a crisis here with our dog Rosie. It has taken me some time to find an answer to your question, and I am so glad you did because I have found some new research. When I first started using honey, I too wanted to use essential oils. At the time, and found research that claimed there is no peroxide values in the oils.

    Since then, there is a renewed interest in the role that essential oils can play in food safety. Specifically, there is a growing out of the need to use essential oils as a safer alternative for butylated hydroxy-anisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) as antioxidants in food products. One study found that Lavender oil did contain small amounts of peroxide.

    And the best news is, you can purchase peroxide test strips! I will be ordering some soon, testing my honeys and comparing the results with my essential oils, and combining them!

  12. In answer to your questions:
    1. So I guess what I want to ask is, bearing in mind your recipe has a lot more water, but mine is a lot more practical for me as I do this overnight, is mine enough to lighten my natural hair over time?
    The honey needs water to activate the peroxide — and yes, it creates lots of drips and messes. I’m not sure that Aloe has enough (any?) water to activate the honey. But, now that we know about the test strips — I guess we can now measure! There is water in conditioners that can be used in place of honey to make the mixture less runny.

    Does the oil get in the way of the honey doing its job? No, the oil does enhance the work, as there are some peroxide values in the oils.

    Will the aloe interfere with the honey doing its job? I don’t think it interferes — it may, or may not, have water in it. Water will help activate the peroxide. We must test this!

    Am I using enough honey? I don’t know how much a tbsp weighs, I’ll check it next time. Check the ratios again to see.

    Is doing this twice a week enough? It should be — are you seeing results?

    I might add that mixing the honey with water not only activates the peroxide but makes the honey less “sticky” and easier to work through your hair!

    Now that you have been doing this for some time — what do you think? How are the results?

  13. Help Susie!
    I love your cardomom and honey hair lightening mixture, and use it a lot. However, this time when I got my honey jar out of the cupboard (to mix with the water)…..the honey I had just bought last week had already thickened and crystallized, and was unusable for mixing.
    Help! How do I return the honey back to its liquid state without ruining it, since heating raw honey will destroy its benefits?

  14. Hi Susie,

    This thread is so helpful. I was wondering if there are any benefits of sitting in the son with honey in my hair? Would it be ok to reduce the water amount so it’s not so drippy?

    Thank you!

  15. Hi,I have dark caramel blonde hair, but I wish my hair was like when I was young, light blonde. Just wondering, since I can’t go to the store and I don’t have cardamom is there anything I can use instead.

  16. Crystallized honey can be retirned to effective normal consistency by placing container in warm water. Do NOT boil or microwave.

  17. I wish I had read this first….
    After looking at various Youtube vids on lightening hair naturally, I duly went out and purchased Organic Cinnamon and raw honey, and was so excited about finding this natural process, however, within of minutes of applying I though I could feel my scalp burn slightly but thought it was all in my imagination, so kept on applying, the next thing my forehead, neck and ears bright red…..I know I probably should have done a patch test on skin, but honestly thought it would be ok, how wrong I was…Anyway I wanted to ask if the cardamom needs to be black or just any old cardamom, I prefer organic whenever possible…Many Thanks

  18. Hi Susie J, thanks so much for all the helpful info! I just have a few questions:

    1. In your new method, how can we know if our conditioning treatment has the right kind of water (since your original method calls for distilled)? And how do you know how much honey to add?

    2. In your original post, you mention that we could begin preparing a second treatment while the first treatment sits on our hair. But then you also specify that we put the honey application on dry hair. So will this second application be effective if we apply it to wet hair (as our hair would be wet from having the initial application on it)?

    3. I’ve been adding cardamom but then when I apply the mixture, its grittiness makes it hard to mix in and rinse out. Do you have this problem and if so what do you do?

    Thanks in advance for taking the time to respond….and again, for giving your readers so much great info that’s both effective and good for our hair!

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