“Backyard Blonde” Highlights Are Making A Comeback For Summer 2020

There's something to be said about the restorative power of good old vitamin D. Even if your only safe sun access is on your balcony or a beach towel spread over your driveway, if you close your eyes and inhale for a second, it almost (almost) feels like any other summer. In reality, we're in quarantine and life is weird, but one silver lining of the first full-sun forecast of the year is that you can use the opportunity to casually bump your hair a shade or two lighter.
Given the current climate of continued social distancing and salon closures, we're predicting this will be the summer of the "backyard blonde," with lemon-juice highlights making a huge comeback. With that said, the usual DIY lightening agents (as in, citrus and hydrogen peroxide) aren't exactly going to put a skilled colourist out of business — you're not going to end up with the same shiny, white-blonde highlights you'd get at the salon by sitting around with lemon pulp in your hair.
But if you're down to experiment, and you're cool with a little DIY-style imperfection, we asked a few trusted hair pros to break down the easiest way to use the sunshine to your advantage this long weekend.

Try Lemon Juice

Let's start with the homespun classic: lemon-juice highlights. According to most hair experts, if you're going to DIY it, citrus is the lesser of two evils as opposed to hydrogen peroxide when it comes to dryness and damage to the hair follicle. Better still, NYC-based salon owner Angela Soto tells us the recipe is as easy as ever. "Pour lemon juice into a spray bottle, spritz your hair liberally but don’t soak it, and sit in the sun," Soto says. "On a day hotter than 75 degrees, with a few hours of exposure, the sun will activate the lemon juice and lighten wherever you sprayed, giving you a natural, sun-kissed highlight."

...Or Consider Hydrogen Peroxide

One celebrity endorsement of DIY quarantine highlights came by way of 18-year-old supermodel Kaia Gerber, who recently went Cali-blonde with the help of the household disinfectant hydrogen peroxide. In a recent interview, she told us, "I literally put the straight peroxide on my hair and then dried it with a blowdryer just to hit it with heat and it definitely lightened my colour a shade or two — just a subtle change."
Sure, the Gerber method works, but don't dig into your medicine cabinet just yet. Hair pro Kevin Hughes tells us that peroxide is a lot harsher on strands than lemon juice, so there's more room for error (as in potential for brassiness). "While fresh lemon juice is usually a little drying on the hair, hydrogen peroxide has the tendency to turn hair more orange than blonde if you overdo it," he says. Thus, the best practice is to work in small increments, using a toothbrush to comb a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution on just a few strands of hair.

Use A Deep-Conditioning Mask Afterward

The same way you need to drink more water in the heat, you also want to give your hair extra hydration — especially if you've been letting it dry out in the sun. Celebrity hairstylist Mara Roszak recommends always following up your sun-soaked activities with a hair mask. "I don't think you do a whole lot of damage playing around with lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide, and I think it's fine to experiment within reason," she says, "but definitely make sure you have a treatment mask there to back you up afterwards." One other thing you'll definitely need if laying out to sun-bleach is your only plan for the long weekend? Sunscreen.

More from Hair

R29 Original Series