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Does Lemon Juice Really Clear Up Dark Spots On The Skin?

Glam logo: MainLogo Glam 9/22/2022 Mary Wroblewski
Woman with radiant skin holding lemon © BLACKDAY/Shutterstock Woman with radiant skin holding lemon

Perhaps you already appreciate the transformative influence of lemons. They hold the key to savory and sweet dishes, from lemon chicken and linguine to homemade lemon bars. But lemons have transcended the culinary world to reach the starting line of an entirely new domain: the health and beauty domain. Respected medical sources like the Cleveland Clinic tout the health benefits of drinking lemon water every day, from improving digestion to preventing kidney stones. And just try to launch an innocent search to compare recipes and you'll surely find another purported benefit of lemons: how they may clear the skin (via Tasty Yummies).

The lemony chatter seems to be everywhere from dermatologists' offices to websites. And it's striking a chord among people who gravitate to beauty treatments that use ordinary household products and items found in a grocer's produce section. Lemons' newfound popularity as a skincare aid is not without justification. Lemons contain citric acid and so are highly acidic. They also teem with vitamin C (via Healthline). No one in the know would argue these basic facts. But can these facts justify using lemon juice — either from freshly squeezed lemons or out of the bottle — to clear up dark spots from acne and aging?

Lemons Dry Out The Skin

Worried girl with red, flaky skin © shisu_ka/Shutterstock Worried girl with red, flaky skin

The short answer is, they might if you're desperate. But it's generally not worth the risk, particularly when another, safer skin-clearing option exists. This verdict may be disappointing to hear, especially when you learn that lemons "can be an effective solution to brighten your skin tone, lighten dark spots, treat acne, prevent premature signs of aging, among others" (via Skincraft). The operative words here are "can be." Like other produce, lemons aren't wrapped in a label imprinted with the words "individual results may vary if used on the skin." Perhaps a more helpful label would caution consumers about the risks of using lemons on the face, especially on sensitive skin.

As Healthline puts it, the usage of lemon juice on the face may lead to issues rather than benefits. This harm refers to the acidity irritating the skin and turning it red, dry, and flaky. The skin absorbs lemon juice so fast that it doesn't take long -- mere minutes -- for these side effects to surface. Misumi Skincare notes that lemon juice acts quickly on the skin, but this includes the fast protrusion of its side effects. And when you compare the side effects to the benefits, Healthline calls using lemon juice on the face "a risky DIY option.

Consider A Safe Vitamin C Alternative

Girl holding lemon and vitamin C serum © etonastenka/Shutterstock Girl holding lemon and vitamin C serum

You may pass on that comparison, but you may not be deterred. You may be determined to give lemon juice a try anyway. Healthline suggests doing a patch test first, applying lemon juice on your inner arm or the back of your hand. And here comes the tough part: wait two days to see if the lemon juice irritates your skin. If it doesn't, then proceed to your face. Test it there first by putting a small amount of lemon juice on a cotton ball and then on your face. If you're nervous about a reaction or want to protect sensitive skin, consider mixing a few drops of lemon juice with a calming agent like honey or aloe vera (via Skincraft).

Continue applying the lemon juice to the rest of your face. Moving forward, you may be able to apply lemon juice to your face once a day (until the dark spots fade or disappear). Stop using it the moment your skin shows any sign of irritation. Then again, you can sidestep the entire risky issue by using a vitamin C serum on your face. Healthline poignantly notes that whereas serums are formulated to include a balanced amount of safe ingredients, lemons can vary widely in their individual acidic content. One may burn your skin intensely; another may feel as gentle as warm water. Lemons may be transformative, but they're unpredictable, too.

Read this next: 10 Tricks For Getting Clearer Skin Overnight

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