Unlike many of the herbs, plants, flowers, and fruits that are extracted for essential oils (e.g., lemon oil, peppermint oil, lavender essential oil), it’s safe to say that you already know what a lemon is and have probably enjoyed it countless times already.
It’s not as though lemons are an exotic fruit of which most of us are unaware. Still, the question remains – what can they do for your skin and hair care regimen?
That is actually a more complex question than you might imagine. On the one hand, there are some unique upsides to using lemon oil in your hair, but on the other hand, if you’re not careful, it could potentially damage your hair and scalp as well.
With that in mind, let’s get to the bottom of what makes lemon oil such a unique skin and hair care option. This article will cover how to use lemon oil for healthy hair growth, lightening, dandruff, and much more.
The History of Using Lemons (and Lemon Juice)
Lemons were first cultivated throughout Asia, from India to Burma to China and beyond, being introduced to the Middle East, Africa, and Europe over the centuries.
Excavations of Pompeii have revealed carbonized lemon remains. As the centuries progressed, the humble lemon began to grow more popular.
Lemons appear in Roman mosaics depicting Northern Africa, though the first proper description of the lemon comes from Qustus al-Rumi in the 10th century, while the 12th century saw Ibn Jami, Saladin’s personal physician wrote about them as well.
Lemons make an appearance in Ibn al-‘Awwam’s 12th century Book of Agriculture. The lemon’s popularity in Europe began to grow in Genoa in the 15th century and was introduced to the Americas in the course of Christopher Columbus’ colonizing voyages.
If you buy lemons in or from the United States, chances are you bought them from California or Florida, which first started producing them in big numbers in the 19th century.
The English word “lemon” is Middle English in origin. “Limon” dates back to around the 14th century, with “limon” itself being an Old French word that is thought to have been derived from the Italian word “limone.”
“Limone,” in turn, may trace back to the Arabic word “laymum,” coming from the Persian word “limun.”
Today we know lemons to be rich in vitamin C, which will prove important in terms of determining out how effective they can be in terms of helping your hair.
Even before we knew vitamin C was good for treating scurvy, however, we knew lemons were good for it as they were introduced to sailors of the Royal Navy for that very reason.
Pablo Neruda wrote poetry about lemons, and he is far from the only one to incorporate these citrus fruits into his art.
On the contrary, a 2016 study conducted by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab of 140 paintings stretching across different artistic eras from 1500 to 2000 found lemons to be an incredibly popular choice – especially in the Netherlands, with lemons appearing in more than half of the Dutch paintings surveyed.
These aren’t some minor paintings, either – this period overlaps with both the Dutch Golden Age painters and later the genius of Vincent van Gogh. Lemons figured prominently in the Still Life genre of Dutch Golden Age painting in works such as Willem Claesz.
Heda’s 1635 “Still Life with a Gilt Cup,” Jan Davidsz. de Heem’s “A Table of Desserts” from 1640, and Adriaen van Utrecht’s “Banquet Still Life” from 1644.
Vanitas paintings depicting the fleeting futility of worldly pursuits were a major subgenre among Still Life Dutch Golden Age works, and paintings of peeled lemons fit that perfectly.
van Gogh, meanwhile, painted them in 1887’s “Still Life with Lemons on a Plate” and “Carafe and Dish with Citrus Fruit” along with 1889’s “Still Life of Oranges and Lemons with Blue Gloves.”
The Dutch are far from the only ones to take advantage of the naturally eye-catching bright and bold yellow hue offered by lemons in their paintings.
The American painter Raphaelle Peale had a go at painting them in “Lemons and Sugar” in 1882, the French Impressionist Edouard Manet painted “Le Citron” in 1880, and Henri Matisse created his own “Lemons et Saxifrages” in 1943.
What Does Lemon Oil Do?
The potential effects of lemon oil are wide-ranging. A 2006 study conducted on mice found that exposure to lemon oil vapor produced a calming effect in them.
In a way, this should come as no surprise, since one of the biggest marketing stances of aromatherapy and essential oils (e.g., coconut oil, tea tree oil, extra virgin olive oil, etc.) have always been their ability to soothe and calm subjects with their fine aromas.
This idea is further backed up by a 2016 study in which patients undergoing orthopedic surgery reportedly felt calmer when exposed to lemon essential oil.
On another note, if you are suffering from morning sickness, a randomized double-blind 2014 study suggests that lemon oil may be able to help reduce nausea.
Two studies in 2008 and 2014 on fourth-grade students and elderly patients, some with Alzheimer’s Disease, found that when lemon oil is used in aromatherapy, it may be able to help people’s concentration.
Some have also reported lemon oil helping with sore throats. Helpful though those qualities may be, however, for our purposes studies conducted on lemon oil’s potential as a skincare and pain relief agent are even more important.
Vitamin C itself is a big game-changer as described below, but there are other factors contributing to the rise of lemon oil in the skin and hair care industry as well.
For example, a 2019 study found that lemon oil can be used as an antimicrobial agent (it was specifically tested on E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus), which, as described below, can be a game-changer itself for your scalp’s long-term health.
Then there’s a 2014 study in Molecular Pain (another one conducted on mice) that found that lemon oil, when inhaled, had potential as a pain-relieving agent.
Lemon oil has also shown promise in helping treat both acne and wounds, either of which on your scalp could pose a significant problem for the long-term health of your hair, with the former in particular also helping bolster its credentials as an antimicrobial agent.
The Benefits of Lemon Oil for Hair
There are numerous benefits of using lemon oil for hair care. You could incorporate a lemon oil mixture into a scalp massage treatment to mitigate an itchy scalp or use the massage as a way of increasing blood circulation and stimulating hair growth.
You could also pair the oil with lemongrass, rosemary, and honey to kick start an aromatherapy session to mitigate anxiety. The potential uses are nearly endless. Let’s jump into the most common uses for hair care.
1. Rich in Vitamin C
As alluded to above, vitamin C is one of the most sought-after nutrients for those crafting skin and hair care products.
The reason has to do in large part with the fact that vitamin C is good at fighting free radicals, which are molecules that can become unstable when they are exposed to things such as cigarette smoke, UV radiation, and other harmful agents.
This is why your skin or hair can start to appear as though they’re aging far more quickly than they normally should when constantly exposed to cigarette smoke or UV rays.
You don’t want these things to age your scalp or hair, causing the skin on your scalp to wrinkle or lead to hair loss problems (i.e., hair fall in certain cultures). This is why it’s so important to fight free radicals and renew your skin and hair with anti-aging substances such as vitamin C.
There are other ways in which vitamin C can help your skin and hair as well. For one thing, it also contains antioxidants that can also help with oxidative stress, which results from free radicals.
2. Antimicrobial and Antiseptic Properties
We have already talked about the fact that lemon oil has been tested as an antimicrobial agent on everything from E. coli to scalp acne. Adding to those claims is another study published in 2017, which examined its ability as an antifungal agent.
This matters because not only are bacterial and fungal infections a nasty proposition but they can also have a pronouncedly deleterious effect on your scalp and hair’s health.
One of the most evident examples of this comes in the form of one of the most common and annoying hair care issues, dandruff.
In addition to dry skin, bacterial and fungal infections are a leading example of how dandruff can take root and cause hair problems.
By treating the root of the problem with an antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal agent such as lemon oil, you’ll have a better chance of rooting out dandruff once and for all.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
As alluded to above, a dried-out scalp can be another big prerequisite for dandruff. However, the problem with dried-out scalps goes deeper than that. Imagine trying to grow a garden with a dried-out soil bed.
The plants probably won’t take root, and even if they do, their roots will be loosely set and, thus, more easily exposed and they won’t be able to soak up moisture and nutrients, all of which is bound to doom the plant to stunted growth if not death.
The same holds true for your scalp and hair when your skin is inflamed. Thankfully, the anti-inflammatory properties of lemon oil can help with that, soothing your skin and making it that much easier for other products to help it grow better.
4. Balancing Sebum
While you don’t want your scalp to dry out, you don’t want excess sebum leading to oily skin and greasy hair either. That’s why you’ll want to make sure to balance and regulate the production of sebum on your scalp, and lemon oil can do just that.
5. Hair Lightening
Looking to add a bit of extra shine to your hair, or lighten its hue? The bleaching properties of lemon oil can help.
The citric acid in lemons can act as a natural bleach, thereby lightening your hair without you having to resort to bleaches with all kinds of artificial chemicals.
You should temper your expectations (lemon oil isn’t going to turn your hair Marilyn Monroe Platinum Blonde), but if you’re looking for an all-natural way to lighten your hair, it might be an option to consider.
6. Added Fragrance
In addition to its hair-lightening potential, lemon oil presents an excellent opportunity to imbue your hair with a lovely citrusy fragrance. If you love the smell of citrus and find it invigorating, lemon oil is a fantastic all-natural way to help your hair smell citrusy all day long.
How to Use Lemon Essential Oil for Hair
Whether you apply a few drops of lemon oil to try and lighten your hair or for any of the other potential benefits listed above, however, you need to be careful when applying lemon oil to your scalp and hair.
The citric acid when combined with the sun can help bleach and lighten your hair, but if you aren’t careful or use an excessive amount of it on a hot day it could also cause skin irritation and burn you.
To avoid turning your scalp into a citrusy fricassee, you’ll want to try:
- Diluting lemon juice, due to it’s acidic nature, before applying it to your hair
- Mixing it with a carrier oil, like castor oil, almond oil, or sesame oil, before applying it to your hair
- Crushing vitamin C and adding it to your favorite shampoos and conditioners
Whatever method you choose, be aware that you’ll see the most results once you expose your hair to sunlight, but that you also don’t want to overexpose your hair or do this on an extremely hot day.
Doing so can cause burning as well as irritation, which, if you’ll recall, is the very thing lemon oil is supposed to help you avoid in the first place.
Whether you want to create a lemon oil hair mask, add a scalp massage to your hair care regimen, or use it on your hair and scalp as part of an aromatherapy session to help you relax, a few drops of lemon oil into water or a carrier oil should be enough. Usually, three or four drops are enough, depending on the length of your hair.
In fact, if you apply it topically, you should ideally rinse most, if not all, of it out before stepping out into the sun. Hopefully, your hair will have absorbed the nutrients by that point, so having more on your scalp is just begging to be burned.
When rinsing or washing your hair, you can use regular shampoo or conditioner. Wash your hair with warm water and massage your scalp using a circular motion with your fingertips.
In Conclusion, Using Lemon Oil for Hair Care Provides Several Benefits
Lemon oil can be a potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammation skin and hair care agent with the added unique bonus of potentially being able to lighten your hair.
It can also help you prevent oily hair, strengthen your hair follicles, mitigate dry hair, and provide many other health benefits.
Due to these benefits, its anti-fungal properties, healing properties, ability to mitigate hair damage, and more, we’re supportive of using lemon oil for hair growth and other hair-related needs.
However, you do need to be careful not to use too much oil, so as not to hurt your hair or skin due to overexposure. That said, we recommend conducting a patch test to determine how the oil will perform on your hair and skin.
This is really the best way to determine how any product will work on your hair. If you can avoid issues using lemon oil it could be a sweet addition to your hair care regimen.