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Lemon Juice On Face Overnight? It’s A Bad Idea…

OK, I’m officially at risk of running a blog where we just talk about what can you put on your face and what it’ll do to your skin! My very first article was one about applying a face mask overnight, followed by “Applying olive oil on your face overnight,” and the topic of the last one was should you apply vitamin e on your face overnight.

And now we are at it again! I’m going to talk about whether you should apply lemon juice on your face and leave it on overnight.

lemon juice on face overnight

Spoiler alert… you probably shouldn’t!

I know this goes against most DIY recipes you’ve read online but, despite containing beneficial ingredients, you should not put lemon juice on your face! Though lemon juice may lead to some immediate skin improvements, there is a much higher chance it will cause skin irritation when applied topically, cause skin burns when mixed with direct sunlight(phytophotodermatitis) and uneven skin tone(chemical leukoderma).

Can You Sleep With Lemon Juice On Your Face?

So, is sleeping with lemon juice on your face dangerous? Of course, it’s not dangerous, and it won’t cause any lasting damage if you just try it out once or twice. But, if you insist on using it for more extended periods of time, in combination with direct sunlight, it may damage your skin.

Why Is Lemon Juice So Dangerous When Left On Face Overnight?

Though lemon juice has some beneficial properties, such as antibacterial, and some beneficial ingredients such as:

  • Vitamin C – (in the form of ascorbic acid) which can help even out skin pigmentation
  • Citric acid – great for skin exfoliation and
  • Niacin – which helps with hyperpigmentation and has some anti-inflammatory properties

Lemon Juice Is Highly Acidic

Healthy human skin has a pH level of around 5.5 while lemon juice is much more acidic (with a pH of only 2). Keep in mind that the pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, so when we say that the lemon juice has a pH of 2 it does not mean it’s 3 times more acidic than the skin… it’s more like 100 times!

It May Cause Contact Dermatitis When Applied Topically

Remember the good old days when we thought something was “working” if it stung when you applied it to your skin? I know I did. Especially after shaving (when I first started to shave), when I would slap my dad’s astringent all over my wounded face and jump 5 feet off the ground because it burned the crap out of my skin.

Same goes for lemon juice; just because it burns your skin, it doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Also, just because it’s natural, it does not automatically make it great for your skin either.

On the contrary, letting lemon juice stay on your skin overnight may irritate your skin so bad it causes chemical burns. But even if it does not burn your skin, it can cause contact dermatitis – an unpleasant, intense, itchy rash over the affected area.


Quite a mouthful, I know, but if you split the word up, you’ll see it makes perfect sense:

phyto – means plant,

photo – light,

derma – skin,

itis – inflammation

Putting these words together, we get phytophotodermatitis – a condition where plants we applied to the skin react with the sunlight and cause nasty sunburns.

This condition is one of the main reasons I did not try this at home. My original idea was to buy a few lemons and apply to my face several times through the week and then give you guys (and girls) the results. But finding out about phytophotodermatitis made me reconsider, and good thing I did or I might have ended up like a woman described in this article from US National Library of Medicine. Here is a quick summary:

A 26-year-old woman was admitted having painful blisters erupting on her hands. What she did was squeeze lemon and lime the day before, trying to make sangria; she spent the rest of the day outdoors, without sunscreen.

 Soon after she was horrified as she realized the blisters on her hands starting to appear and get more prominent by the second. As she was an otherwise healthy individual and was not exposed to poison ivy or oak, she was quickly diagnosed with a full-blown phytophotodermatitis.

Imagine if this happened to your face…

Chemical Leukoderma and Hyperpigmentation

If you’ve ever left lemon juice on your face overnight to fade out hyperpigmentation evenly, pay close attention to this section of the article!

Though not as common, it is not unheard of for lemon juice to have the exact opposite effect! I’ve read some testimonies from people who tried this and reported excellent results but only in the first few days. After 4-7 days, they started noticing hyperpigmentation coming back to a slightly worse degree; not only that the lemon juice did not help, it actually made matters worse.

And as for leukoderma, this is a condition where small patches of your skin become depigmented, leaving tiny white patches all over your face.

It is still unclear as to how exactly does this happen, but the general belief is that it has something to do with the acidity of the lemon juice.

How To Use Lemon Juice – If You Still Insist Of Using It

If you are still hell-bent on using lemon juice on your face – you either saw a recipe online you just loved and want to give it a go, or just don’t “buy” the story, here are some safety tips you can follow:

  • Don’t put lemon juice on your face overnight – I would advise you against this practice, especially if you intend of using in several nights in a row.
  • If you do, stay out of the Sun – if you’ve read the “phytophotodermatitis” section thoroughly, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about here. Make sure you avoid direct sunlight, and if you can’t, at least wash it off your face and apply sunscreen.
  • No more than a few minutes – lemon juice is highly acidic, so make sure you don’t leave it on for long.
  • No more than a few times a month – if you make this a regular routine, you will quickly end up with a dry, sensitive, irritated skin. Not to mention you can permanently mess up your skin tone.
  • Stop if you spot any changes – if you spot any visible changes or notice some skin irritation, stop immediately. And if the irritation does not go away, make sure you contact your doctor.
  • Mix with other ingredients – there are a ton of way you can dilute the lemon juice and make it more tolerable. You can use honey, oatmeal, even plain old water.

How To Fix Lemon Burnt Skin

Here is the situation: you left lemon juice on your face overnight, and you woke up went to the mirror and saw red patches of irritated skin, maybe even some blisters starting to form… what do you do?

First of all, do not panic; if this is just a minor burn, you will quickly take care of it. One of the very first things you could do is make an improvised cold pack (wrap some ice in a cotton cloth and apply gently to the affected area).

Once your skin calms down a bit, you can apply topical moisturizer to treat the sensitivity and hydrate your skin.

Ideally, you should then “lay low,” try not to leave the house until your skin recovers. And if you must go outside, make sure you apply sunscreen!

How Do You Recognize A Citrus Burn?

Chances are you won’t… or, at least, you will not know it’s a citrus burn! Most people are stun just by this very idea. People (doctors alike) sometimes mistake it for a poison ivy burn since these are quite similar.

Anyways, first symptoms will start to appear some 24 hours after the initial contact; 48 to 72 hours later you will see a full-blown skin burn once the chemicals from the lemon juice react with the sunlight. This is when those nasty blisters start to appear.

Will Lemon Burnt Skin Scar?

Well, it depends on the severity of the burn. If you develop large blisters on your skin, after they are gone, you might be left with patches of darker, hyperpigmented skin. Though this is unfortunate, there is no need to worry since your skin will even out in a few months.

Igor Marcikic

I've struggled with acne and oily skin for the better part of my life. Along the way, I've picked up some valuable information, tips, and tricks, which helped me manage my "situation." This website is a way of giving back and trying to help others like me! Enjoy your stay, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.