It was midway through a Brady Bunch episode about how much Jan hated her freckles when I realized how much I wanted some of my own. I was probably twelve or thirteen– somewhere in those years when you first start to notice that you’re a girl and that girls are supposed to care about their skin– and wanting freckles became a thing in my life. I immediately sought out information about how to procure some, and all I could find was advice for making them go away. My American Girl beauty book told me to put lemon juice on my cheeks. My Seventeen magazine also pointed out that lemon juice could lighten my hair. Some janky little Geocities page recommended lemon juice for getting rid of the discoloration on my legs. I didn’t know what discoloration was, but I was hooked. Lemon juice was, obviously, the cure-all. I accepted this for years, and it wasn’t until a few days ago that I found myself being like, Wait, what?

Is there any real evidence to suggest that lemon juice is a beauty fix?

Is it just some nonsense that someone made up when they were on a deadline to write a beauty article? It’s really hard to get a straight answer.

There are hundreds of sources on the internet that claim to have looked into this, or who claim to have consulted scientists, but I’m still skeptical of any “how stuff works” site that’s just hoping to get enough search engine clicks to stay alive. Then I found this hair tutorial that shows someone bleaching their dreadlocks with lemon juice and I got my hopes way up… just to find out that there’s no After picture to compare to the Before. I was just about to give up all hope when I came across something promising. This guy did an experiment where he soaked film in bleach and lemon juice to see what would happen. It’s hard to be sure, but it does appear as if lemons have bleaching abilities. Does that apply to beauty, though? In any way? Ehh.

I was getting ready to give up on my quest completely when I discovered a video that might be a huge clue. Kandee Johnson, a YouTuber who calls herself “the skin doctor” and has a hefty resume as a celebrity makeup artist, actually takes the time to explain the science behind lemon juice’s ability to remove dead skin cells. In her video (that has 4.7 million views, by the way), she takes us through the process of using lemon juice as a cleanser of sorts. Again, there’s no before-and-after proof that the trick works, but Kandee’s work has been featured in various women’s magazines with good reputations, which leads me to trust her a little bit more than some cheap website with plain black text on a plain white background.

(Related: 15 Ways To Use Baking Soda In Your Beauty Routine)

So does lemon juice solve all the world’s problems? Does it make skin glowy and freckleless? Hair shiny and bright? Meh. If it did, there would be real studies from real scientists easily available. However, I’m not about to say that it’s pointless to even try. There’s enough anecdotal evidence (people claiming to have seen results) to keep me curious. I’m going to consider this myth lightly busted, but I’m not closing my mind to the possibility. If you have any experience with using lemon juice as a beauty fix, don’t be shy to leave us a comment!

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