Three women holding a lemon

We all have heard millions of beauty influencers and skincare gurus who recommend endless day-to-day ingredients as the ultimate key to having healthy, glowy skin. From DIY sugar and coffee scrub to baking soda for acne, every tutorial on YouTube promises that these and other natural ingredients are the best-kept secrets of celebs, models, and actors. 

Above all, one of the most trendy ingredients is the legendary lemon. Yes, old wives' tales and some YouTubers suggest that lemon for skin is an excellent ally thanks to its astringent and antibacterial properties. However, can you really squeeze the benefits of lemon for skin or are they a big no-no? Let’s discover it!

Lemon skincare: the heart of the matter

Here’s the thing: lemons became the Internet’s favorites because they are high in alpha-hydroxy acids and vitamin C, properties that are beneficial for the skin. In the early 2010s, netizens popularized the use of this citrus to remove blackheads, lighten blemishes and treat wrinkles. In fact, fans started squeezing lemon on acne scar to make it disappear, using it as a vitamin c serum or as an astringent. 

Ever since lemon went viral, beauty blogs, Pinterest posts, and hundreds of tutorials started showing recipes to create toners, serums, and anti-acne treatments using lemon citrus and other ingredients like baking soda, sugar, and honey. 

But why did everyone prefer to use lemon juice instead of investing in skincare products? Because it was cheaper! A good serum or acne treatment could cost more than $10, while you could go to the kitchen and get a lemon out of the fridge for $0. It was a no-brainer, right? 

That is the heart of the matter. Lemon became the king of DIY skincare because it was more accessible and promised magical results. 

Is lemon bad for skin? Yes and no!

As mentioned before, lemons are acclaimed by influencers and infamous among dermatologists because they (apparently) help with acne and pimples, eliminate hyperpigmentation, and lighten skin. However, in this battle, who is right? Let us break it down for you: 

  • The good: 

Lemons contain vitamin C, B3, and alpha-hydroxy acids. These antioxidant properties can help reduce sebum production (the main cause of acne), diminish the appearance of blackheads and whiteheads, lower the accumulation of dirt and lighten scars. Also, like other citrus fruits, lemons have healing properties capable of removing blemishes.

In addition, lemons are rich in citric acid, calcium, and magnesium. For starters, citric acid helps exfoliate the skin, reducing pores' size and carrying dead cells away, resulting in healthy-looking skin. Furthermore, calcium is a mineral that can restore reddened and dry skin to its natural glowing state. Finally, magnesium is a great component that helps slow down skin aging and prevent the formation of free radicals.

  • The not so good

First of all, lemon is, in fact, a great antioxidant, but, for it to really have an advantageous effect, what is important is the concentration of said vitamins. In this sense, the concentration of antioxidants in lemon is very poor when measured against chemically formulated skincare products. For example, while a commercialized serum contains 5-15% vitamin C, a lemon only has about 0.05%. This means that one lemon bought at your favorite bodega is not enough for your skin to get all the benefits.  

On the other hand, being an ingredient in its natural state, lemon juice is not stable and can quickly degrade when exposed to light, heat, or air. This causes all the benefits of lemon to disappear, leaving only an acid that can irritate and redden the skin. 

Moreover, thanks to certain components, lemon can make you develop some dangerous conditions such as: 

  • Phytophotodermatitis: 

Do you know what you’ll get if you mix lemon juice with sunlight? Burned skin! Commonly called “margarita burn”- because you can actually get it while drinking margaritas at the beach- this condition occurs when you are exposed to direct sunlight while you have some type of citrus fruit on your skin. 

This skin reaction can cause skin depigmentation, weals, redness, irritation, scars, and a lot of pain. This is because lemon causes an inflammatory reaction when used during UV exposure. So if you are going to the beach, better keep the lemons away. 

  • Chemical leukoderma:

Also known as contact vitiligo, you can develop this condition when your skin is in constant contact with certain chemical elements found in domestic products like lemons. Like regular vitiligo, the condition can leave you with white spots all over the places you have applied lemon juice directly.

What do the experts say?

So is lemon bad for skin or not? The reason why dermatologists do not approve of the use of lemon on the skin is not caused by the fact that its benefits are a big lie, but because of the way in which it is used. 

The fact that the components of a fruit are good for the skin does not mean that you can buy it at the farmer’s market and apply it directly to your face. There’s a big difference between formulated lemon skin care products and literally squeezing lemon juice all over your face. Don’t forget this: edible products like lemon are not always the best option to replace a professionally approved and safe skincare routine

So if you recently watched a DIY YouTube video or Pinterest post selling lemon juice as a cheap solution to get glowing skin, RUN AWAY. Better go for chemically formulated products! 

Spoiler alert: you will realize that many of them include lemon extract in the right concentration so that you get all its benefits without risking red, irritated, and dry skin. 

This does not mean that eating and drinking lemon is not beneficial. Including this fruit in your diet will not only help your skin but also your entire body. So go ahead and add lemon to your favorite recipes, but NOT DIRECTLY ON YOUR FACE.

bottles with lemon

Benefits of lemon extract as an ingredient in skincare product

  1. Even skin tone and help with hyperpigmentation

The lemon extract contains anti-tyrosinase properties, that treat skin pigmentation and reduce dark circles and blemishes that appear as you age. By using products that contain lemon extract, you will reduce the overproduction of melanin pigmentation, resulting in a balanced skin tone. 

  1. Clears up acne breakouts and pimples

Its antibacterial properties make lemon extract an excellent ingredient to treat acne. Lemon skincare products can regulate sebum production and unclog pores, eliminating all the elements that can cause an acne breakout without drying or peeling off your skin. 

  1. It’s an antiaging elixir

Being rich in vitamin C, lemon skin care products can smooth wrinkles and fine lines, and boost collagen production when used daily on the face and neck. Moreover, vitamin C can shield the skin against sun damage and free radicals, which are responsible for attacking the skin’s collagen and creating wrinkles, saggy skin, and blemishes. 

  1. Revives and brightens the skin

Do you have tired-looking skin? Lemon extract can help you lighten dull skin, eliminate oxidative stress, and restore your skin to its natural radiance. 

  1. Compresses large pores

Open pores are no problem when you include lemon-rich products in your skincare routine. Its astringent qualities can visibly reduce pores’ appearance while exfoliating your face to prevent the pore from clogging. 

Lemon skincare: What you should do

Including products that contain lemon among their ingredients can be very beneficial, however, there are two considerations that you must take into account before applying them. 

  • Consult with your dermatologist: although commercial lemon-containing products are properly balanced, there is a chance you may be allergic to lemon, causing burning and itching. To avoid these risks, talk to your dermatologist and clarify all your doubts before including this ingredient in your routine.
  • SPF is a MUST!: remember phytophotodermatitis? If you use a vitamin C serum or any product that contains lemon, don't forget to apply sunscreen on top, as these components can make your skin sensitive to UV rays, causing redness and a citrus burn. 

Who may *really* benefit from lemon skincare products?

There is no definitive answer to this question. There are millions of creams, scrubs, toners, and serums that contain lemon, so you can choose the type of skincare product that best suits you and take advantage of the benefits of lemon extract

Some of the products that contain lemon extract are formulated for all skin types. Those address general skincare concerns such as antiaging, pigmentation, dark spots, and obvious pores. 

Nonetheless, most lemon-rich products are focused on treating acne, pimples, and blackheads. Therefore, if you have oily or combination skin and tend to have acne breakouts on your T-zone or on the cheeks, choosing a skincare line that includes lemon in any of its forms could benefit you. But remember, this doesn’t mean you can use natural lemon juice on your skin. 

Before you go: Let’s catch up!

If you are all in to include lemon skin care products in your routine, we have prepared a little summary with do’s and don’ts plus some final recommendations for you to take into account: 

  1. Lemons are better in lemonade, not on your face: in addition to drying, irritating, and reddening your skin, lemon juice can cause depigmentation, contact vitiligo, and severe burns when exposed to the sun or used daily *yikes*. 
  2. The Internet doesn't always tell the truth! Although millions of influencers proclaim lemon as the king of homemade skincare, DIY recipes, and videos,  the reality is that not all these old wives' tales are true.
  3. Just because lemon is an antioxidant doesn't mean you can squeeze this citrus fruit directly on your face. The benefits of lemon extract can only be enjoyed when formulated in the proper concentration. That is why it is better to choose a vitamin C serum than to buy a lemon in the store and use it. 
  4. Everyone can use lemon-rich products to prevent wrinkles and fine lines, remove blemishes and rejuvenate the skin. However, people with oily or acne-prone skin may benefit most from its use.
  5. Finally, if, after reading this blog, you are brave enough and want to start using lemon juice in your face as a skincare alternative, follow the same recommendations listed in our lemon skincare section, use it preferably at night and rinse it away the day after, dilute the juice in water, and beware of the risks. 

All in all, lemons are a popular and effective ingredient in organic and vegan skincare products, nevertheless, there is a “but” you need to keep in mind: you cannot confuse the effectiveness of a well-formulated product with that of a fruit bought in the supermarket. So say ‘goodbye’ to *literally* squeezing the benefits of lemon into your skin, and start including lemon-rich products in your routine to enjoy its amazing beauty benefits.

Do you want to keep reading more about skincare products and ingredients? Visit our Idol Beauty blog!

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