By Molly Harris

Hair extensions can beautifully add volume, length or more layers to a look as well as serve as a means to test a new hairstyle before committing to the new do. Because extensions are not exactly cheap or disposable, color treating them needs to be carefully executed. Approach the process of lightening or custom coloring extensions as if the locks were your own naturally grown hair. With the right care, products and steps, achieving the desired aesthetic does not have to be overly difficult or exorbitantly expensive.

Woman with smooth curls of hair
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How to Lighten Hair Extensions

Lighten Naturally

While bleaching is best left to expert hair colorists because of the potential damage it can do to hair, hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleach that can be used at home to lighten the darkest of hair. When combined with baking soda, the mixture will form a paste that can be left on locks briefly before washing out. A mineral shampoo can also help lighten without as much drying out of the hair.

Lemon juice mixed with water is another favored method for naturally lightening along with sunlight. Use the juice of two lemons combined with equal parts water for a mild solution. Citric acid and essential lemon oil can be used in smaller quantities – just drops combined with a couple of cups of water – for shorter periods of time. These solutions are significantly stronger, which allows them to lighten darker hair. Be sure to wash out each solution.

Try a honey and olive oil hair mask for three or four hours to soften locks while lightening. Cinnamon added to conditioner can be left in overnight to bring out lighter tones. The spice may even act as a natural sun protectant by reflecting UV rays.

Use Proper Product

To prevent excessive bleaching, which causes hair to become brittle and break, do not allow a commercial or natural bleach to remain in the hair too long. Additionally, to avoid drying the follicles too much, don't attempt to lighten hair more than once per week.

For the best results, check that the extensions are, in fact, human or virgin hair. Usually, this kind of hair has not been previously dyed, which means the strands will take on and hold color significantly better. If the desired color appears out of reach, or if the color is too dark to naturally lighten, seek professional advice. Remember that the darker and thicker the hair is, the longer it will take to gradually lighten locks.