Beauty, Skincare

Lemons: To Use or Not To Use On Skin?


Lemons. Pinterest loves them. Your facebook friends love them. So does grilled salmon.

You either hear two sides on using lemons in skincare: they’re either a miracle skincare cure in your fridge or do not use them ever. Usually those who a little more “in the know” and knowledgeable in biology and chemistry are on the “do not use never ever” team. But, with a little more info than people yelling  “just say no!”, the arguments about using lemons on skin might be more blurred then you think.

Why is the overall census on using lemons in the skincare community against? Frankly, because they’re unpredictable and the possible complications are not worth risking to save a few bucks.
1. They can cause discoloration. 

There is a documented case of a woman who used a homemade lemon-juice toner with glycerin and alcohol added who experienced hypopigmentation on her face and neck. It was directly attributed to the use of lemon juice. She was trying to lighten her skin, but you can’t control how well or where the lightening occurs.
2. They can cause burns.

If lemon juice is left on the skin and then exposed to sunlight, it can cause burns and blisters.This is primarily from the chemicals and oils found in the rind of lemons, the kind that like to squirt in your eyes when squeezing a slice of lemon into your water.

3. It’s not precise.

How do you know if the lemons you bought a week ago have the right pH level or the right amount of effective chemicals? There’s no scales, beakers or test strips involved with just buying a lemon and putting it on your face. The chemical make-up of each fruit can vary depending on factors ranging from where it was grown to how long it’s been sitting on a shelf. It’s just guess work from there.

4. The pH is too low.

Lemon juice contains citric acid, which is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA). We use that as a chemical exfoliants! Yay! Lemon juice falls at a 2.0 on the pH scale and chemical exfoliants are best if they are between a 3.0 and 4.0. Any higher they don’t work, and any lower they just damage your skin. (why is pH so important?)

5. Bioavailability is still up in the air

noun: the proportion of a drug or other substance that enters the
circulation when introduced into the body and so is able to have an
active effect.

A products bioavailability determines whether or not it be effective in a particular delivery system. Are the molecules small enough to be absorbed directly through skin? Or are they better absorbed through the digestive tract? (Effecitve) Products made for skincare take into bioavailability for skin into consideration, and formulate molecules to be readily absorbed by skin. This study tested bioavailabilty of citrus limonoids through ingestion, not topical application. 


So, in my opinion, lemon juice is most harmful when left on the skin for an extended period of time like a toner. If washed off immediately the risk of irreversible damage drops.

Lemon juice overall isn’t worth the risk and trouble, but there is one way I will use it in my skincare. I like to use lemon juice and sugar as a pre-shave body scrub. Because oil gunks up the razor and tub and leaves an unfavorable film on my skin to reduce the closeness of my shave, whereas lemon juice rinses off clean. But by no means am I advocating using lemon on your face or on a daily basis. Lemon juice is better off than on, but let’s stop the spread of misinformation that comes from both sides. Now you know why you should “just say no” to DIY lemon recipes.

For people trying to “avoid chemicals” – I don’t know if there will ever be reasoning with them. Everything is a chemical. Water is a chemical. You need to be a little more detailed on what chemicals you want to avoid. Just like “toxins”. Can someone please tell me what toxins are?


xoxo Miss C

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