Why You Should Think Twice Before Putting Lemon On Your Face

Acne is a nuisance, no matter what age you are, and many people turn to the internet for advice on how to obliterate it. If you're one of them, you've probably seen claims of the amazing effects lemon juice can have on your skin. But take the advice with a grain of salt.

It's true that lemon juice has properties that make it a potentially powerful skin treatment. Since it's naturally highly acidic, it can be used to fight acne by decreasing inflammation and the amount of oil on the skin. It also has antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties, which can be used to fight against certain skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and candida rashes, and it's known to be an effective lightening agent when used on age spots (via Healthline). Sound almost too good to be true? It may be. There's definitely a downside to the lemon juice regimen, too.

The same high level of acidity that can fight acne, can also cause skin irritation, including dryness, redness, and peeling. Using lemon (or any citrus) juice on the face can make your skin extra sensitive to the sun's UV rays. So, instead of a glowing tan, you could get swelling and blistering of the skin — a nasty condition called phytophotodermatitis, also known as 'margarita burn' because of the lime juice present in margaritas.

Citrus on skin + UV rays = 'margarita burn'

Michele Green, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist based in New York City, told Greatist, "Citrus substances can cause an inflammatory/allergic reaction when exposed to UV rays. There's also the risk of developing a sunburn with lemon juice  — this can happen if you apply lemon right before going outside into the sun."

If you want to try using lemons on your skin anyways, after all, they're cheap and there's probably one in your fridge already, there are a few dermatologist-recommended steps you can take to make it as low-risk as possible.

First off, don't use lemon juice on your skin if you plan to spend time soaking up some sunshine over the next few days. Before using it on your face, test it on a less conspicuous patch of skin first, like inside the crook of your elbow, and allow time to check for irritation. Then, use it as a spot treatment only.

If all of that seems too complicated, you can still get the healthful, antioxidant-packed benefits of lemon juice another way, by just keeping it in your food and drink.