“Natural” does not always mean “gentle.”

Lately, I have seen a lot of information recommending to apply lemon juice on your face. It is important to know the risks and if you apply it how to do it correctly to avoid negative side effects, including burns or hyperpigmentation.
The fame of lemon as a skin brightener comes from lemon juice containing vitamin C (ascorbic acid), well known for making the skin look more radiant.
However, lemon juice also contains citric acid and malic acid. With a low pH ranging between  2 to 3, it is way more acidic than your skin normal pH which about 5.5. creating an exfoliating action.
Acids need to be treated with care because they can cause a lot of damage to the skin if you don’t handle them properly. Although a few drops in a mask can be helpful for its astringent and clarifying properties, I am not an advocate of using pure lemon juice directly on the skin, especially if you have sensitive skin. It can cause rashes and irritation and the skin becomes more vulnerable and sensitive to the sun.
Also, it’s not a good idea to apply lemon juice on your face in the morning, you will run a huge risk of getting hyperpigmentation when your face gets exposed to daily sun light. Another important thing to know is that citric acid is an alpha hydroxy acid; therefore, it needs to be neutralized. So, if you use lemon juice make sure to rinse it off with water thoroughly to bring the pH back to normal and stop the exfoliating effect. I have seen cases where people had been drinking beer or tequila shots with lemon by the pool or the beach and the lemon touching the hands or the mouth when left on the skin and in contact with the sun caused terrible burns.
If you decide to use it, treat it as an acid and always use a well formulated sunscreen with an spf 30 or higher to protect the skin.
However; keep in mind, that daily use can cause too much exfoliation and eventually incur in hypersensitivity and irritation creating post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
If your concern is dark spots or dull skin, there are many effective skin brighteners, — yes, including vitamin C,—  but blended into skincare formulations like serums or moisturizers for example, that are safer to use and better tolerated than  pure lemon juice. These are known as tyrosinase inhibitors, tyrosinase being an enzyme that is fundamental in the production of melanin. So, by controlling the production of this enzyme the melanin or pigment of the skin becomes lighter.

Some of the best tyrosinase inhibitors are :

  • Kojic Acid
  • Azelaic Acid
  • Arbutin
  • Licorice Extract
  • Mulberry Extract
  • N-Acetyl Glucosamine

Always keep in mind that everyone’s skin is different and what worked for someone else might not be the best for you. Another thing to consider is that not all natural ingredients are gentle, it is important to do some research before applying something new on your skin, and if in doubt, do a patch test first on the side of your neck and wait 24 to 48 hours to determine if it is suitable for your skin.

Thank you very much for being here.

Until next time,

Dora Salazar

Med. Aesthetician

Disclaimer:

The article above represents my personal opinion and it is intended for educational purpose only.