Man, I love lemons.
Their tarty flavour enlivens salads, soups, and desserts (lemon cheesecake, anyone?). Their zesty aroma instantly transports you to an enchanting Mediterannean garden in the middle of the summer. Their sunny, bright yellow colour never fails to cheer you up when you’re feeling down.
But, I would never put them on my skin. That’s just asking for trouble.
I know, I know. How can something so innocent and natural like a lemon cause trouble for the skin? Especially since it contains lots of kick-ass ingredients commonly used in creams and lotions? You see, lemons seem made for skincare.
Why Lemon Sounds Awesome For Skin
Lemon is full of goodies skin loves and can never get enough of:
- Vitamin C: an anti-aging superstar, this vitamin fights the free radicals that cause premature aging, boosts the production of collagen to keep skin firm and elastic, and reduces dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
- Niacin: also known as vitamin B3, it has anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate dry and irritated skin, and reduces hyperpigmentation, too.
- Citric acid: this is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), a family of exfoliants that gently dissolve the “glue” that holds your dull, old, and overpigmented dead cells together, revealing the brighter, smoother, more even toned skin underneath.
So, lemon should be amazing for the skin, right? But, there’s a catch (or two):
1. Lemon is highly acidic
Because of its high vitamin C content, lemon is often the top choice for DIY treatments to fight hyperpigmentation. But, vitamin C is also highly acidic. It has a ph of just 2.
What does this mean? Well, skin’s natural ph is around 5.5 or 6.5. When you put something on it with a ph as low as 2, you could potentially damage its protective barrier. You know, that wall that keeps moisture in, and germs, pollutants, and all kinds of crap out?
When this barrier is damaged, skin becomes dry and prone to irritations. Why risk these nasty side effects, when there are plenty of products out there that help reduce dark spots much more gently and safely? Ok, they’re more expensive, but this is your skin we’re talking about. Skimping on it can harm it.
2. You Never Really Know What You’re Getting
A lemon is a lemon, right? But, have you ever noticed how some lemons taste different from others? Have a more tarty flavours, or are more acidic? That’s because, even though all lemons are made up of the same compounds, their quantity changes.
This depends on a lot of different factors, like the variety of lemon, where it was grown, the time of year, if it was refrigerated or not after it was picked up, and how long it’s been sitting at the grocery store…
How much goodies does that lemon in your kitchen really contains? Enough to be effective? Too much, meaning it’ll be so effective it’ll damage skin (a 61 year old woman ended up with patches on her skin after using a lemon toner because it had reduced the dark pigment in her skin too much)? So few they’re useless?
You have no way of knowing. Each lemon is a gamble that could result in little improvement, no improvement, or red and irritated skin. Again, why take the chance?
3. Lemons can cause blistering burns
Did you know that fruits, like lemons, are made up of thousands of different substances? Some of them are good, others not so much. Lemons, for example, contain fluranocourmarins and psoralens, which, when exposed to sunlight, can irritate and even burn the skin!
This condition has a name, phytophotodermatitis (or PPD for short), and is more common than you think. PPD is tricky, because it doesn’t always show up immediately. But, it will, eventually. When it does, you’ll recognize it: you’ll see rad rashes and brown discolourations that worsen the hyperpigmentation you were trying to correct. Ironic, isn’t it?
Oh, in case you were wondering, these phototoxic compounds can be removed from citrus oils during the processing phase, so not all of them are necessarily bad. But, there’s no way you can remove them at home. So, never ever put lemons on your skin and then go out into the sun unprotected. Never.
The Bottom Line
Lemons are delicious little treats, but when it comes to skincare, they’re too unpredictable. The risks aren’t worth the benefits, so keep them away from your face (and the rest of your body). Drink up their juice, instead. That does you a world of good.
Have you ever made a homemade beauty recipe with lemons? How did it go?
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