Is it safe to put lemon juice on your face? I like how that rhymes ‘eh *winks*. Lemon juice has a long standing relationship with us beauty lovers. Does anyone remember the days of lemon juice hair sprays? What we want to know is, is lemon juice the good kind of relationship or is it the ‘bad-boy’ kind that gives a little and takes a lot?
Let’s take a look…
Why Use Lemon Juice on Your Face?
You’re probably reading this article because you’re already thinking of using lemon juice on your face… and you know what for. For those of you who are reading and thinking ‘what the heck? I’ve never even thought of putting lemon juice on my skin. I just know how it stings when I accidently flick a little into my eye’. Then this bit is for you my friend!
Lemon juice is a kind of brightening agent.
Lemon juice brightens skin because of 2 ingredients ‘mother nature’ mixed into its makeup.
- Vitamin C, which is a well-known skin brightener (and has many other benefits). Vitamin C brightens existing hyperpigmentation and also helps to prevent more from being ‘cooked up’.
- Citric acid, which is an ‘alpha-hydroxy acid’ (AHA for short), that exfoliates the skin (chemically) getting rid of existing hyperpigmentation quickly.
That means the juice of a lemon naturally contains 2 ingredients which are very well recommended for skin brightening and lightening. All great CV skills when you’re treating things like age-spots or hyperpigmentation.
There are lots of skincare products that contain these ingredients and ingredients which are different but do a similar thing.
Fact is, you’re probably looking at those lemons favourably, because they’re natural and 30p a pop. I mean, whozer, when was the last time you saw a skincare treatment that cheaply? Is it too good to be true?…
Is It Safe to Put Lemon Juice on Your Face?
Let’s take a deeper look at the ‘makeup’ of a lemon and get to the answer of whether it’s safe to put lemon juice on your face. There are 3 things you should be aware of before you wander near a lemon…
1. Lemon juice has a pH of 2.
pH is like a ruler for how acid or alkaline something is. It goes from 0-14, with anything from 0-6.9 being acidic territory. Your skin will have a pH somewhere between 4.2-5.5, in fact if it’s really healthy, it’s likely below 5. How neat is that ‘eh, who knew your skin was acidic? It’s all contributing to something called your skins ‘acid mantle’ which is what keeps skin healthy and safe from invading nasties.
Did you notice where using lemon juice on your face might get a bit weird for your skin?
Lemons have a natural pH of 2, whereas your skin needs to be pH 4.2-5.5 to be healthy.
In fact a pH of 2 is really, really acidic. The pH scale isn’t like a normal ruler, its actually logarithmic, which makes this ruler a bit fancy. What that crazy word means is that every step you go up this ruler is 10X more than the step before. That means pH 2 is 10x more acidic than pH3, which means your skin is over 100x less acidic than lemon juice (because that is >2 x10 steps up the ladder).
Although some exfoliants & skincare ingredient do need to be low pH to work. They are generally around 3.5 in pH which is much more similar to skin pH than lemon juice.
At a pH of 2, lemon juice is likely to cause a lotta irritation and redness, maybe even an ‘acid burn’.
2. Lemon juice contains citric acid
Citric acid is an AHA which is a chemical exfoliant. All that means is it exfoliates without you having to scrub! As is the same with all other AHA’s (Glycolic acid, Lactic acid…) they have a tendency to make your skin sensitive to the sun. This increases ‘photodamage’ which is a ‘proper way’ of saying that the sun is aging your skin.
With lemon juice containing about 19% citric acid, there is a big dose of potential photodamage to be caused if you used this in ‘day-light’ hours.
3. Lemon juice is a ‘natural mixture’
Have you ever asked a friend for a recipe only to be told there’s a ‘secret sauce’ that can never be disclosed to anyone other than a bloodline relative? Nope me neither *winks* but I kinda wish I’d had that experience *smiles*. The thing about natural ingredients is they do have ‘secret sauce’, over the years of research we begin to learn things like the fact that a lemon contains citric acid and vitamin C. There’s lots of other ingredients in there, some we might not even of discovered yet!
This is a risk with putting neat, natural products like lemon juice on your skin.
Lemon juice also contains some well known allergens like Limonene, which because of the low pH are very likely to get deeply into your skin.
Although lemon juice contains ingredients which are ace at brightening skin, the overall ‘make-up’ of lemon juice makes it too irritating. It’s just not skin-identical enough to get on with our skin like only a best-bud can.
But don’t fear my friend because there are lot of other skin brightening ingredients you can turn to instead, 2 of my favourites are vitamin C (if you have sensitive skin, read this article on sensitive skin friendly versions) and niacinamide (which you can read more about here).
(p.s. after reading and knowing this, you’re still gonna be stumbling over lots of pins & internet articles that tell you lemon juice is a fab idea. I’m just glad I could tell you the facts and now when you read those, you can make-up your own mind about whether it’s right for you *smiles*)
Tell me my friend, what led you to start thinking about using Lemons on your face? or better yet, please tell me your stories of lemon based hair lightening *winks*.
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.