7 way to use lemon on face without side effects: Dermatologist Guide

Written By Dr Surbhi, MD Skin

Last updated: 26/09/19

"Doctor, how to use lemon on the face? Is it good or bad? What are the side effects?"

These are the questions, that I come across dermatological consultations, regarding the use of lemon on the face. I have seen both excellent results and worst rashes with the use of lemon on the skin, especially face.

As a dermatologist, I DO NOT recommend to rub lemon on your face or keep it overnight. Instead, try the home remedies listed in this article for reducing pimples, skin whitening and degreasing oily skin. 

Here are key watch outs for using lemon for face safely without side effects:

  • Always do a patch test by applying lemon on a small part of the facial skin that is more sensitive or breaking out.

  • Always dilute lemon juice with plain or rose water., if your skin is sensitive.

  • Never expose the skin to the bright sun after applying lemon on it.

  • Always use fresh lemon juice because the concentration of vitamin C in lemon reduces with time.

Read further to know 7 ways of using lemon on face without side effects.


List of questions answered in this article:



7 ways of using lemon for skin

1. Lemon for pimples:

Lemon juice works on the acne-prone by reducing oil secretions and pimple-causing bacteria. However, never make a mistake of rubbing lemon directly on your pimples because it might lead to a bad reaction especially if you are also using anti-acne medications or other harsh home remedies.

Therefore, you can try the following recipes:

  • UBTAN: You can make a totally natural chemical free cleansing powder or ubtan using lemon peel powder. Click below for the recipe of
  • ACNE SPOT TREATMENT:  you can use either of two remedies directly on red pimples overnight:
    • Mix 1 spoon of multani mitti/fullers earth, 1/4 spoon turmeric, a drop of honey, a pinch of cinnamon(optional)  and a drop of lemon water to make a thick paste. Apply on red or pus-filled pimples, cover with a band-aid and leave it overnight. This helps to clear acne in 3-7 days.
    • Neem and tea tree oil based acne spot remedy that can clear your red pimples in just a single application. For the recipe, click on this link, Neem and tea-tree oil home remedy that cures pimples overnight
  • TONER: Mix 1 ml of lemon juice with 10 ml of rose water. Wipe your face with a cotton pad dipped in this toner after washing your face as a part of your CTM routine. Make small portions and store in the refrigerator, consume within a week.
  • FACE PACK: You can put few drops of lemon to any kind of face pack.

Do not forget to combine the above home remedies with anti-acne tips given in this article, Acne or pimples: Dermatologist advice for treatment, tips and products for the acne-free skin.



2. Lemon for pigmentation:

Lemon reduces pigmentation in the form of dark patches/spots, tanning or melasma with the help of its two integral components, Vitamin C and citric acid. You can make the following natural face packs (based on your skin type) using lemon along with other potent skin whitening ingredients like papaya, aloe vera, cucumber and licorice:

For robust and non-senstive facial skin, apply few drops of lemon juice on the pigmented area. Leave it for 15-30 minutes and rinse off.


3. Lemon for oily skin: 

Lemon has a unique ability to remove excess oils from your skin. It can be used for making the following face wash in just 5 minutes, that too at fraction of a cost:

I have used the above mentioned chemical-free face wash for almost 3 years, with excellent results. They have an oil absorbing base of fuller’s earth and chickpea flour along with anti-acne ingredients like neem, lemon and tea-tree oil.


4. Lemon for dandruff: 

Are you fed up of changing anti-dandruff shampoos? Try these steps to get rid of your dandruff naturally. Put 5-10 drops fresh lemon juice in 5 tablespoons of coconut oil and massage it into your scalp. Leave it overnight and wash your hair next morning thoroughly to remove all the traces of oil. If needed, you can combine this remedy with these effective anti-dandruff products.


5. Lemon for freckles: 

Lemon juice can be used to fade freckles, the tiny dark spots, commonly seen on the face of people with fair skin. The method is as follows:

  • Put fresh lemon juice exactly on the freckle with the help of toothpick at night.
  • Watch how your skin reacts over the next 48 hours.
  • Wash immediately, if you notice intolerable burning, redness, or rash, and do not repeat.
  • However, if you tolerate it well, repeat the above procedure once or twice a week until your freckles fade.


6. Lemon for dark elbow and knees: 

Have you ever seen your grandma rubbing lemon on their hand and feet? Yes, contrary to the delicate skin of your face, you can directly rub the lemon on elbows, knee, hands or feet. Rinse off after 5-10 minutes and pat dry. Repeat once or twice a week. However, make sure that you do not expose the skin after applying lemon to the bright sun, otherwise, it might cause a phototoxic reaction. 


7. Lemon for ageing skin: 

The anti-aging action of applying lemon juice on the skin is attributed to the antioxidant action of vitamin C and exfoliating action of the citric acid. Vitamin C is a potent anti-aging ingredient and my research revealed that L-ascorbic acid, the form of vitamin C present in the lemon is the most potent form. Studies show that ascorbic acid present in these Vitamin C serums can reduce the signs of skin ageing in 3 months.

On the other hand, oral intake of lemon provides vitamin C that strengthens the walls of vessels and prevents senile purpura. It also reduces the risk of heart diseases and degenerative bone diseases by providing flavonoids. You can make a super anti-ageing drink by adding a few drops of lemon juice and a half teaspoon of honey to a cup of green tea. It will keep both your skin and heart young!


Is lemon juice safe to use on your face? Can we apply lemon directly on the face? Is rubbing lemon on face good or bad?

The answer is:

  • LEMON IS SAFE to use on your face if it is NOT sensitive, red, irritated or breaking out.
  • LEMON CAN BE BAD for the face if it is sensitive, red, irritated or breaking out. 

Therefore, always do a patch test by applying lemon on a small part of the facial skin that is more sensitive or breaking out. Keep a watch on the development of burning, redness or rash. Rinse off immediately if any untoward side effects occur.

If everything is fine for a 5 minutes or so, then apply lemon juice on your full face. Please do this patch test before every use, because your skin might be more sensitive on certain days. 

I still remember, a girl walking into my clinic with a fiery red face. She had rubbed lemon directly on her pimples last night. She had used lemon earlier, but now she was applying anti-acne medications that made her skin more sensitive. She even experienced burning after applying lemon that she tolerated thinking that her skin will be clean the next morning. Unfortunately, she ended up in bad irritant reaction needing steroids.

Therefore, do not blindly follow the recipes given on the internet, instead understand your skin type, sensitivity pattern and major skin concerns first.


How long do you leave the lemon juice on your face?

You can keep lemon on the face for 15 to 30 minutes if it does NOT cause any side effects. However, if your skin burns, stings, darkens, turns red or develops rashes after applying lemon directly on skin then wash it immediately. Never go in the sun before rinsing lemon from your skin.


Can I apply lemon juice on my face overnight?

Well, I am not a big fan of leaving lemon overnight, however, you may try it if your skin is robust enough to tolerate it.


Can we apply lemon on hair? How to use lemon for dandruff?

Yes, you can apply on hair especially to reduce dandruff. Put 5-10 drops fresh lemon juice in 5 tablespoons of coconut oil and massage it into your scalp. Leave it overnight and wash your hair next morning thoroughly to remove all the traces of oil. If needed, you can combine this remedy with these effective anti-dandruff products.


Is lemon juice good for hair growth? Is lemon juice good for hair loss?

There is no evidence that lemon increases hair growth. However, it might help to some extent by producing an irritant reaction.


Why does it burn when I put lemon on my face?

You feel a burning sensation on applying fresh lemon on skin because it has acidic pH. This burning is more common if your skin barrier is compromised for example, in the case of sensitive skin, rash or pimples.


What are the side effects of using lemon on the face?

1. Sensitivity reactions: 

Lemon might irritate your skin because lemon (pH 2-3) is much more acidic than your skin (pH = 4.5). The extreme acidic pH of lemon can disturb in the delicate acid mantle of your skin. This has a detrimental effect on the normal flora of the skin, that in turn triggers inflammation leading to redness and burning. Therefore, always dilute lemon to match its pH to that of your skin, especially in the rosacea-prone skin. 

I could not believe that lemon had such an acidic pH. Therefore, I checked the pH of lemon, water (control) and apple cider vinegar (for comparison). Any guesses, what the pH paper showed? Watch this video to see the results. 

2. Phototoxic reaction:

Never expose the skin to the bright sun after applying lemon on it. Do you know why? You might end up literally burning your skin because the bergamot oil present in lemon might react with UVA rays of the sun leading to a phototoxic reaction. This reaction can manifest as redness, burning or even blisters that might subside leaving another dark patch on your skin.

This reaction was observed for the first time when people squeezing lemon under bright sun noted burning and redness on their fingers. Therefore, say no to lemon under the sun.

3. Fragrance allergy: 

Fragrance derived from citrus fruits like citronellol, geraniol, eugenol, coumarin, limonene, citral, etc. are the common cause of skin, nasal or lung allergies. Therefore, avoid lemon if you are prone to fragrance allergies.


How to use lemon peel powder for the face?

Lemon peel powder or dried lemon zest can be used for skin whitening in pigmented or tanned skin, cleansing and de-greasing the oily skin and reducing pimples in acne prone skin. I use lemon peel powder for making following homemade products that can be stored for 1-3 months without refrigeration:

Lemon peel powder is available online at:

*Above are affiliate links.




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