Are lemons Safe for the skin?

Dear Gorgeous Reader,

There are many DIY videos and recipes on the internet that recommend using fresh lemon or lime juice on our skin. Often the idea is that the lemon or lime contains many times more concentrated vitamins than creams or serums and that it clarifies hyperpigmentation. But is that really the case? When looking at fresh lemon juice, the percentages of vitamins per lemon differ because the vitamin content depends on several factors: the variety, the origin, the climate where the lemon grew, and even the temperature of the lemon’s storage.

But in a typical sample of fresh lemon juice, you will find 0.04% ascorbic acid (vitamin C), 5% citric acid (citric acid), and 0.0001% niacinamide (vitamin B3). In good serums, you will find no less than 3-15% ascorbic acid, 2-15% AHAs (including citric acid), and 1-10% niacinamide. In a good serum, the percentages of vitamins are often much higher than in the juice of the fruit itself. This is because cosmetic ingredients are ultra-concentrated and then incorporated into the product at higher percentages.

But is fresh lemon or lime juice safe on the skin?
It is often thought that if you can eat it, then it is safe to apply on the skin. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. With the juice of certain citrus fruits, you run the risk of phytophotodermatitis, a photo-contact allergic reaction from contact with plants in combination with sunlight (UVA). This is because some citrus fruits such as lemon and lime contain furanocoumarins and psoralens. These substances are in different plants and can cause phytophotodermatitis if you expose the skin to sunlight after applying the substance. Also, using fresh lemon or lime juice can cause chemical leukoderma (leuko = white, dermie = skin), causing white spots.

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