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April 01, 2021
The use of lemon extract as a natural home remedy for common skin issues such as dark spots and scars is quite popular. Search online and you’ll find a plethora of information suggesting that lemon extract exhibits many skin benefits, such as brightening the complexion, exfoliating dead cells, and ridding the skin of acne scars.
So why doesn’t everyone ditch all of the expensive skincare products and just dab a little lemon extract on their skin instead? Well, it turns out that the components that offer all of these benefits are the same ones that cause lemon extract to be harmful when applied topically. Keep reading to learn why lemon extract is harmful in skincare products and what you can use instead!
One of the main benefits of lemon extract is its high antioxidant content. Specifically, one hundred grams of raw lemon (without the peel) contains 53 milligrams of vitamin C, one the most widely used antioxidants in skincare products. Topical application of vitamin C has been found to protect the skin from UV-induced damage, to increase collagen production, to lighten discoloration, and to possibly reduce wrinkle formation.
Lemon also contains about 7% to 10% citric acid, which is an alpha-hydroxy acid similar to glycolic or lactic acids. Alpha-hydroxy acids can exfoliate dead skin cells to thin and smooth the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin), to increase cellular turnover, stimulate collagen production, and increase skin flexibility (Skin Therapy Letter).
At first, lemon extract sounds great for your skin. The vitamin C and citric acid should leave your skin bright and tight. Plus, lemons are a much cheaper remedy than other dark spot correcting products on the market. So what’s the problem with the use of lemon extract in skincare products? It turns out that vitamin C and citric acid are harmful when they are present in too high of concentrations.
If you’ve ever sliced lemons and had some of the juice seep into a cut in your skin, you know that the burning sensation it causes is pretty painful. This is due to the pH of lemon extract. Potential hydrogen, or pH, is a measure of the alkalinity or acidity of a solution on a scale from 0 to 14. On this scale, a pH of 7 represents a neutral solution, a pH of less than 7 is considered an acid, and a pH greater than 7 is considered a base (alkaline). While your skin has a slightly acidic pH ranging between 4.5 and 6.5, lemon extract has a very low pH of 2. The low pH of lemon extract makes it highly acidic, which can be irritating and also cause damage to your skin over time.
Lemon extract has a proposed benefit of lightening discoloration of the skin, such as sun spots and scars. To determine the efficacy of this home remedy, a publication in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences included lemon extract in its review of natural whitening products. The review stated that while lemon extract is used in various preparations as a potent skin bleaching ingredient, it can only be used at low concentrations because it easily causes skin irritation.
Lastly, since lemons contain about 80% water, they will dry out your skin. Wait, how can something with that much water possibly cause the skin to become dry? According to Dr. Hanan Taha, M.D., if you apply water without an occlusive moisturizer both the water in your skin and the water you applied will evaporate together, leaving your skin even drier than before.
Overall, home remedies using lemon extract to treat skin discoloration or scarring are going to do more harm than good. This is because the acidity of lemon extract is too high, leading to skin dryness, irritation, and damage over time. It’s important to keep in mind that the human body evolved to eat lemons and absorb all their nutrient goodness, not to apply all of that acidity to our delicate skin!
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