Shampoos that Gradually Lighten Hair

Attractive young blonde woman after treating her hair with a lightening shampoo


  • What is a Hair Lightening Shampoo?
  • What are the Benefits of Hair Lightening Shampoo?
  • Best Lightening Shampoos 
  • Lightening Shampoo for Dark Hair
  • Common Ingredients in Lightening Shampoos
  • How to Use a Shampoo to Lighten Hair?
  • Hair Lightening Conditioners  

What is a Hair Lightening Shampoo?

A lightening shampoo is designed to gradually lighten natural, colored, or highlighted blonde hair. This product works best on dark blonde and medium blonde hair, but lighter brunettes can also achieve good results. This type of shampoo will enhance the color you already have and give you very subtle lightening effects. However, if you want to lift shades, or achieve immediate results, you need to use bleach.

A lightening shampoo subtly lightens the hair by neutralizing the color pigments as well as decreasing the brassy and yellow tones. For best results, manufacturers often recommend using it in combination with the complementing conditioner and a lightening spray.

It may be difficult to find a lightening shampoo at drugstores that only carry basic beauty products, but you can purchase it from many online stores. Carefully select the brand, especially if your hair is chemically treated. The most popular product is not necessarily the right product for your hair. To make the right choice, read the product reviews, ask questions, and carefully read the label to ensure that the shampoo is not loaded with harsh chemicals.  

Benefits of Hair Lightening Shampoos

The effects of using lightening shampoo will vary depending mainly on the color, and condition of your hair. Ordinary, sulfate-containing lightening shampoos are not suitable for very fine or over-processed hair, because of their drying effect and a tendency to cause breakage.

  • A lightening shampoo works well to enhance natural blonde or light brown hair. It also works well for a dyed blonde to medium-brown hair.
  • This product keeps blonde hair bright and removes yellow, brassy, and orange tones caused by exposure to chlorine, hard water, and sunlight. If your blonde hair tends to get dull, this product will brighten the color and add some shine.
  • This shampoo will make light brown hair slightly lighter.
  • If your natural hair is dark and you dye it blonde, this shampoo will make the new growth less noticeable.
  • It helps boost highlights and keep them fresh between salon visits. It also helps bring out natural highlights, making the hair look naturally sun lightened.
  • It may be helpful during the transition from dyed back to naturally blonde hair.
  • The product may help stretch out your color appointments by keeping blonde hair looking bright and fresh longer.

How Long does it Take to See Results?

The lightening shampoo produces very subtle effects, and you need to continually use the product until your hair becomes slightly lighter in color. The results may be noticeable after several uses. You need to keep using the shampoo to maintain the achieved results.

Best Lightening Shampoo Brands

Tio Nacho Natural Lightening Shampoo is formulated with botanical extracts including royal jelly, jojoba, aloe vera, ginseng, rosemary, and wheat. Those ingredients work together to give your hair a lighter appearance. This shampoo also helps to strengthen hair and provides it with volume, shine, and softness. The product can be used either on color-treated hair or on non-colored hair.

Abbey St. Clare Chamomile Shampoo for Light Hair is a gentle, SLS free, chamomile, and natural oils based formula made to intensify highlights, strengthen hair, eliminate static, and reduce breakage and split ends. Sun exposure helps enhance the lightening effect. Natural chamomile and lavender essential oils give the shampoo a pleasant scent and produce soothing and calming effects when inhaled.  The product is suitable for lighter shades of hair.

OGX Sunkissed Blonde Lemon Highlights Shampoo is infused with lemon extract to enhance natural highlights and to give a summertime look to colored blonde and naturally blonde hair.

This product doesn’t contain ammonia or peroxide and doesn’t need sunlight to lift blonde hair color or bring out shiny blonde streaks. However, this shampoo is not just for blondes. It helps bring out some highlights in all hair colors.

The tropical blend of lemon citrus oil, coconut oil, and key lime extract boosts highlights, eliminates discoloration, and tames frizz.

Coconut oil and bamboo extract hydrate your hair, leaving it looking healthier and shinier with every use.

If your hair is in good shape and you don’t mind using sulfate-based shampoos you might want to consider John Frieda Sheer Blonde Go Blonder Lightening Shampoo. It is designed to be used on all shades of natural, color-treated, or highlighted blonde hair.

This shampoo uses citrus lightening complex and chamomile to gradually brighten blonde strands, making blonde hair look lighter. It might take a month before you notice any noticeable result.

Aveda Camomile Shampoo is designed to gently cleanse hair while brightening highlights, blondes, and lighter shades of hair. This shampoo also forks for enhancing naturally blonde hair.

The formula keeps your highlights looking bright and blonde and leaves your hair looking shinier. It also does a good job of preventing your hair from getting brassy.

This shampoo is formulated with organically grown chamomile which can help cleanse and brighten your hair and organically grown calendula which soothes and nourishes sensitive scalps.

Although formulated mostly with natural and organic ingredients this shampoo includes Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in its formula.

Lightening Shampoo for Dark Hair

John Frieda Brilliant Brunette Visibly Brighter Subtle Lightening Shampoo is formulated with honey and marigold flower extract to gently cleanse and gradually infuse your hair with golden tones. This product claims to steadily brighten natural or color-treated brunette hair, bring out the highlights and make the dark roots less noticeable. The formula is not SLS free.

Like most lightening shampoos, it will not work on very dark hair.

Common Ingredients in Lightening Shampoos

Lemon juice is a popular and highly effective natural hair highlighter. Lemon has a high content of citric acid which acts as a mild bleaching agent. Lemon juice works with the sun to naturally lighten hair or works even without sunlight if other enhancers are included in the formula like chamomile, hydrogen peroxide, or honey. It works well on blonde to dirty-blonde hair shades as well as on light brown hair.

Chamomile extract is one of the best natural lightening agents. The natural yellow color of chamomile flowers brings out lighter tones in the hair.

Honey contains an enzyme called glucose oxidase, which acts as a bleaching agent when applied to hair.

Natural lightening shampoos also may contain botanical extracts, vitamins, and natural oils like rosehip and jojoba.

Some lightening shampoos contain yellow and violet color pigments.

How to Use a Lightening Shampoo?

Gentle, natural formulas can be used on a regular basis, the same way you use your regular shampoo. Daily use will help achieve the maximum lightening effects.

Drugstore lightening shampoos contain sulfates and harsh chemicals as well as lemon extract, without beneficial moisturizing ingredients can dry out your hair. If you use such a product, use it for a couple of weeks and then return to your regular shampoo. Make sure to follow it with a good conditioner.

If you stop using a lightening shampoo your hair will return to its previous color shade.

Hair Lightening Conditioner  

Lightening conditioners work as a complement to lightening shampoos to brighten hair, recover softness and shine, and make combing easier. They need to be applied to freshly clean, wet hair and left on for the recommended time (usually for 2 minutes) before rinsing.

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