If you’ve been on the prowl for ways to fine-tune your skin care routine—say, by adding more natural ingredients to your repertoire—you may have noticed that witch hazel is starting to make a comeback.

Best known for shrinking pores and easing inflammation, witch hazel is already a key player in a variety of beauty products. “Its unique properties offer medicinal anti-inflammatory and anti-viral qualities that are often used as a topical botanical in skin care,” says Joel Schlessinger, MD, Omaha-based board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon.

But is witch hazel worth the hype—and more importantly, should you create a spot for it in your medicine cabinet? Here’s everything you need to know about the potential skin benefits of witch hazel.

Contents

What is witch hazel, exactly?

Anne Green-ArmytageGetty Images

“Witch hazel is a tree-like plant indigenous to North America and parts of Asia,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “Products that offer benefits from witch hazel generally contain witch hazel extract derived from either the bark or leaves of the plant.” Once it’s harvested, the bark and leaves are distilled to bring out the active chemical compounds of the plant.

Unfortunately, much like other herbal remedies, there are very few scientific studies backing the skin benefits of witch hazel. But because it’s pretty easy on the wallet and, in general, doesn’t cause adverse effects (unless you’re allergic or have a pre-existing skin condition, such as rosacea), it might be worth giving it a whirl—particularly, if your skin’s on the oilier side.

The benefits of witch hazel for your skin

Wards off signs of aging

The polyphenols witch hazel contains may help fight premature aging: “Theoretically, witch hazel may have antioxidant effects that help mitigate and prevent free radical damage to skin from UV and oxidizing air pollution,” says Los Angeles-based board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD. Plus, its astringent properties can make your skin look firmer.

Tightens pores

“Witch hazel is a rich source of constricting compounds that make the proteins inside skin cells come together,” says Deborah Longwill, DO, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Miami Center for Dermatology. The result? It temporarily makes your pores appear smaller.

Reduces inflammation

The natural tannins that witch hazel contains may temporarily calm the appearance of red, irritated, or blotchy skin, says Dr. Shainhouse, making it a handy product to have around when breakouts, insect bites, or a pesky sunburn are cramping your style.

MORE NATURAL SKIN REMEDIES:

Sops up oil

Witch hazel is extremely antioxidant-rich with tannins, which act as a natural astringent on the skin that can help to sop up excess oil, says Dr. Schlessinger. This is why it’s such a popular ingredient in toners and mattifying products.

Fights acne

Besides witch hazel being an astringent that decreases oil and redness, the antimicrobial properties of tannins can reduce bacteria growth on the skin, says NYC-based board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, author of Skin Rules. So not only can it show acne bacteria who’s boss, but reduce the irritation that can strike when breakouts do happen.

Soothes puffy eyes

Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and astringent properties, witch hazel may reduce puffiness and soothe the under-eye area, says Dr. Longwill, while also providing a tightening effect.

Improves skin tone

Because witch hazel’s various properties refine the appearance of pores, reduce inflammation, and tighten the skin, this trifecta of perks adds up to a more even skin tone, says Dr. Longwill.

How to choose the best witch hazel for your skin

Go alcohol-free: Witch hazel is typically extracted with alcohol to create an astringent toner; however, “if the alcohol content is too high for your skin, it will dry out or cause disruption to the skin’s barrier function,” says Dr. Longwill. For this reason, dermatologists recommend choosing a witch hazel product that’s alcohol-free—especially if you’re planning on making the ingredient a regular in your skin care routine.

Check for moisturizing ingredients: When purchasing witch hazel, Dr. Longwill recommends looking for products that also contain hydrating ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid or aloe vera, so that the delivery of the product isn’t too drying to the skin.

Do a patch test: To avoid an adverse reaction, read the label to make sure it doesn’t contain any ingredients that you’re sensitive or straight-up allergic to, says Dr. Schlessinger. If you’re not sure, test the product on a small, concentrated area of skin first—say, on your arm—to see if a reaction occurs before using it on your face.

The Best Witch Hazel Products for Your Skin

Thayers Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel Toner with Aloe Vera amazon.com $9.25

Thayers’ Witch Hazel contains no synthetic ingredients or alcohol to dry out skin. It uses a base of rose water, which helps to balance the skin’s pH, while the aloe cools and soothes any irritation, says Dr. Jaliman.

Obagi Nu-Derm Toner amazon.com $31.06

“This toner uses witch hazel as a key ingredient to tighten the skin and fight aging by reducing inflammation,” says Dr. Schlessinger. It also contains aloe vera to calm and hydrate the skin, balancing out the drying nature of witch hazel.

Simple Kind To Skin Soothing Facial Toner walmart.com $7.31

This alcohol-free toner is pH balanced to refresh your skin without drying it out. It contains witch hazel to tone and tighten your pores, chamomile to soothe, and allantoin to help soften.

Glo Skin Beauty Renew Serum amazon.com $48.00

This serum is formulated with retinol to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and uses witch hazel and salicylic acid to draw out impurities and minimize the look of pores sans irritation, says Dr. Schlessinger.

How to add witch hazel to your skin care routine

When it comes to witch hazel, moderation is key—otherwise, you run the risk of voiding the potential benefits. Using too much too often can cause adverse reactions (such as drying out the skin and damaging the protective skin barrier) that leave skin irritated and more sensitive to topical products, says Dr. Shainhouse.

The most convenient way to add witch hazel to your skin care routine is to use it as a toner: Wash and rinse your face with a gentle cleanser, then add a few drops of witch hazel to a cotton ball and apply it to your face, says Dr. Jaliman. (There’s no need to rinse it.) Finally, apply a face moisturizer afterward to lock in hydration.

Or, if you decide on a product that includes witch hazel instead of using it straight-up, apply the product as directed on the label. If a reaction occurs, discontinue use and check in with your dermatologist.

Krissy Brady Krissy is a regular contributor to Prevention, and she also writes for Cosmopolitan, Weight Watchers, Women’s Health, FitnessMagazine.com, Self.com, and Shape.com.

Today, we have hundreds of different beauty products available to us — acne washes, toners, scrubs, etc. — but what did people use thousands of years ago before commercial chemicals existed to help heal their skin? When it comes to natural skin care, one time-honored medicinal plant is witch hazel, which American Indians relied on for fighting swelling, sores and infections.

There may be no plant more beneficial to your skin, as research showcases the many advantages witch hazel provides.

What is witch hazel good for?

Thanks to its astringent properties, it’s one of the most effective natural acne treatments known to man — and it’s even been shown to help protect against skin cancer. Other benefits include naturally reducing blisters, insect bites, poison ivy, inflammation, hemorrhoids, toothaches and much more.

So if you’re looking for cleaner, healthier skin with the help from a natural product, look no further than witch hazel.

What Is Witch Hazel?

The witch hazel plant (which has the species name Hamamelis virginiana) is a type of plant native to North America and a member of the Hamamelidaceae plant family. Sometimes also called winterbloom, the bark and leaves of the witch hazel plant are used to make a skin-healing astringent.

Does witch hazel kill germs?

Yes, this multi-purpose product has many uses, including killing bacteria that can live within skin’s pores. The most popular use is for skin care, since its strong antioxidant and astringent properties can keep acne, wrinkles and more at bay. It can also help stop cellular damage that can lead to skin cancer, while preventing signs of aging and speeding up healing.

When it comes to the products that you apply directly to your skin, you always want to treat the surface of your body how you would the inside: Avoid as many chemicals and toxins as possible. Witch hazel offers benefits over other beauty products because it’s completely natural and free of environmental pollutants, irritating ingredients, fake fragrances and other contaminants.

How Witch Hazel Works

How can witch hazel do so much? High levels of healing active ingredients reduce inflammation, cellular damage and swelling, while also soothing wounds.

  • The bark, twigs and leaves of the plant are used to extract active constituents called polyphenols and tannins. They’re then added to either alcohol or water to make a concentrated product called witch hazel water, Hamamelis water or distilled witch hazel extract.
  • Tannins are responsible for making witch hazel extract a natural astringent, since they remove excess oil from skin. This is the reason why witch hazel is one of the most popular natural acne treatments worldwide and is used in dozens of over-the-counter treatment gels, washes and lotions. Studies also show that tannins from witch hazel can be used to make plant-based antivirals, such as to fight the flu and other illnesses.
  • In addition to tannins, witch hazel is high in compounds called “gallate esters,” which include proanthocyanidins that have antiviral effects, hydrolyzable tannins (galloylated sugars) and methyl gallate.
  • Witch hazel extract is considered to be polyphenolic and has been shown to help inhibit cell proliferation in cancerous human cells. Studies show that it is capable of stopping mutated cell cycles and inducing apoptosis (death of dangerous cells).

Because witch hazel is a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, it’s effective as a “free radical scavenger.” This means it helps protect against DNA damage and tumor growth. Oxidative stress and free radical damage build up over time from exposure to things like UV light, pollution, a poor diet, stress and so on. Plants like witch hazel that are high in polyphenols are the same kind used to create anti-aging nutritional supplements that slow down disease development by protecting cells.

Top 10 Uses and Health Benefits

Witch hazel has been used for centuries to naturally help treat and prevent:

  • acne
  • skin sores
  • bruises
  • redness and swelling
  • ingrown hairs
  • psoriasis or eczema
  • oily skin
  • excess sweating
  • varicose veins
  • cracked or blistered skin
  • insect bites
  • poison ivy
  • irritated scalp
  • sunburn and melanoma
  • razor burn
  • mucous membrane inflammation
  • hemorrhoids
  • allergic reactions

Recent studies even show that the tannins found in witch hazel may exert a protective action against colon cancer cells.

The skin is our largest and most vulnerable organ, so it could use all the support it can get. Skin is our natural barrier to the outside world and provides us with protection against UV radiation, chemicals in our food supply, bacteria and other germs, and environmental pollutants.

All of the “stress” that our bodies deal with every day, both internally and externally, show up on our skin in the form of aging, puffiness, infections, inflammation and sensitivities. That’s why we rely on eating and using natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatories to help curb inflamed and diseased cells.

Herbal plant therapies for skin disorders have been used for thousands of years, and today many traditional herbs are being reintroduced, studied extensively and experiencing a resurgence in popularity since many chemical treatments don’t always work or have harsh side effects.

As the authors of the book “Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects” point out, more and more people are turning to the use of herbs for the following reasons: the side effects of chemical drugs, wanting to return to nature, being a part of the green revolution, and wanting to use more organic and safe products.

1. Reduces Acne

What does witch hazel do for acne?

As a natural home remedy for acne, applying witch hazel to acne-prone skin can help slow down bacteria growth and decrease inflammation, redness, oiliness and bleeding.

Can you clean your face with witch hazel?

Yes, since it’s a natural cleanser, it’s capable of reducing bacteria growth on the skin and speeds up the time needed to heal infections or scabs.

Another benefit for sensitive skin is that it reduces the look of pores (although no product can actually shrink pores) and helps stop excess oil production, sweating, and development of blackheads or whiteheads, which can contribute to breakouts and tempt you to pick at your skin. You can skip irritating acne products and turn to witch hazel to lower the severity of blemishes forming under the skin and prevent blackheads caused by dried sebum buildup in pores.

How long does witch hazel take to clear acne?

It depends on how severe someone’s acne is. It may take effect in just several days or take several weeks.

Does witch hazel get rid of acne scars?

It can help, due to its anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Applying some can help stop swelling and redness if you already picked at your acne. It can also curb signs of past irritations and deal with skin infections that may result from picking.

2. Fights Signs of Aging and Damage from Sun Exposure

What does witch hazel do to your face? Does witch hazel fade dark spots? Can it tighten skin?

If you’re looking for a natural way to firm up your skin and slow down signs of aging like scars, redness, discoloration, dryness and puffiness around the eyes, then look no further than witch hazel. It tightens skin and is protective against skin cancer, melanoma and other damage caused by UV light because of its protective polyphenols and tannin antioxidants. These inhibit the proliferation of melanoma cells and help protect healthy skin cells into older age.

Use it to keep your skin free from irritating chemical products that can alter oil production and increase dryness. Witch hazel has been shown to help protect collagen and skin elasticity just as well as many commercial beauty products. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties make it a great way to preserve skin’s elasticity, saving your complexion and helping you deal with the effects of environmental stress on your skin. And because using witch hazel for your pores helps them look smaller, this can make your skin appear more even.

3. Treats Insect Bites

Many bug repellents and commercial products used for treating insect bites contain witch hazel. Wondering how to get rid of mosquito bites? People turn to witch hazel to reduce the effects of bug bites, such as pain and swelling from stings, allergies and irritations.

Certain studies have found that applying witch hazel cream to skin irritations can curb symptoms just as well as synthetic chemical creams, including dexpanthenol, which is often used to fight skin irritations in children. It can also be used to help speed up healing scabs or minor cuts because witch hazel extract contains isopropyl alcohol, which is another natural disinfecting ingredient that kills bacteria and helps prevent infections.

4. Cleanses Hair and Protect the Scalp

Use witch hazel on your hair to help reduce oil buildup. This leaves your hair shinier, healthier and more volumized. It’s also great for removing hair odors, helping with an irritated scalp, or speeding up healing from any bites or acne at the base of the neck when you’re prone to sweating.

One study conducted by the Center for Dermatology and Disease in Zurich, Switzerland, found that shampoo containing witch hazel extract helped soothe patients’ irritated scalps, redness, itching and inflammation. After testing the effects of witch hazel on 1,373 patients, a percentage of patients reported improvement in symptoms and better tolerance of other hair products.

5. Prevents Ingrown Hairs and Rashes

After shaving, you can apply witch hazel to any part of the body to slow bleeding from nicks or cuts, prevent bacteria growth and infections within hair follicles, soothe razor burn, and prevent ingrown hairs from forming. Some people also like to use the toner along with other healing essential oils on skin after waxing to reduce pain, swelling and bleeding.

6. Stops Ear Infections from Developing

Since witch hazel is an effective antibacterial, and “swimmer’s ear” or other ear infections are usually caused by bacterial infections, it’s a natural way to treat irritations within the ear canal. Witch hazel helps clear up bacteria overgrowth and infections within the ear; dry up oil, pus and excess sweat; break up wax; and even remove odor. To clean the outside of the ears, apply several drops to a swab and rub around the inside of the ears.

7. Soothes a Sore Throat

Some people like sipping on witch hazel tea (not witch hazel water or a drink made with extract, which contains isopropyl alcohol) to soothe an irritated, infected or sore throat. The natural astringent properties make it beneficial for fighting illnesses that affect the throat, while its soothing properties lower pain and discomfort caused by coughs, strep throat, sore throat, sinus infections, tonsillitis or other throat problems.

8. Stops Pet Odor and Bug Bites

Witch hazel can stop excess bacteria from forming on the surface of your pet’s skin, including in wounds or bites, which can lead to odor. It is non-irritating to pets, helps prevent them from getting bug bites by repelling mosquitoes and other insects, can slow down itching or bleeding, and helps cleanse their skin.

9. Treats Hemorrhoids

Witch hazel also acts as a hemorrhoids home remedy. You can apply witch hazel water to the skin to help lower pain and inflammation caused by uncomfortable hemorrhoids. It’s useful for relieving itching, irritation, bleeding and burning from hemorrhoids as well.

10. Protects Your Mouth, Lips and Gums

If you have blisters on your lips, inner cheeks or gums, turn to witch hazel to speed healing and get rid of pain and swelling. It’s safe to apply the extract to the inside of your mouth to slow down bleeding, blisters, sores, bad breath odors and infections of the gums, especially when combined with other healing oils like coconut oil or peppermint oil.

Witch hazel also helps relieve pain from toothaches or teething in infants, prevent infection after oral surgery, and fight bleeding and inflammation from mouth sores.

How to Safely Use (Dosage and Preparations)

Where to Buy Witch Hazel

Look for witch hazel in pharmacies, health food stores, stores that sell beauty products or online. Extract derived from the witch hazel plant can be used topically (on the surface of the skin) or taken internally just like medicine. Depending on how you use witch hazel, it can help stop manage skin conditions like acne and skin redness or other types of issues like diarrhea, colds, mucus colitis, vomiting, coughing, the flu and more.

The most popular way to use witch hazel extract is to dilute it with a carrier oil (like coconut or jojoba oil) and then apply it directly to the skin, either as a serum, lotion, toner or homemade face wash. Doctors and holistic healers recommend it for itching, pain, redness, swelling (inflammation) and other wounds, even for people with sensitivities to most topical treatments.

But the benefits of witch hazel aren’t limited to the skin. It also has considerable antioxidant and has antibacterial properties, which means it can fight symptoms caused by all kinds of illnesses. This is why it’s used for soothing sore throats, toothaches, coughs, hemorrhoids, ear infections and allergies.

What to Look for in Witch Hazel

Witch hazel products include Hamamelis water, distilled witch hazel extract and witch hazel tea. Ideally you want to be sure to purchase a pure organic witch hazel. It’s also important to always check that the ingredient label, looking for the correct species name: Hamamelis virginiana.

For sensitive or dry skin, you might want to use a non-alcoholic witch hazel water over an extract, since alcohol can add to dryness and scabbing.

According to the Environmental Working Group, because of its effectiveness, today you’ll find witch hazel extract added to a variety of over-the-counter beauty and medicinal products, such as:

  • anti-aging serums
  • shaving cream and aftershaves
  • bug repellents
  • nail treatments
  • hemorrhoid products
  • shampoos and conditioners
  • sunscreens
  • makeup like lipsticks and blush
  • diaper creams
  • antiperspirants
  • and many others

Witch Hazel Tips and Dosage Recommendations

How often can you use witch hazel on your face and skin? What about taking it internally?

As long as your skin doesn’t become too dry or irritated, daily use of witch hazel topically is safe for most people. Witch hazel toner, pads, gel, extract, ointments, etc., can be applied directly to your skin several times per day if needed. Taking three to four teaspoons of witch hazel by mouth each day is generally considered safe, although this may cause stomach upset in some people.

  • To treat acne — Instead of opening up a pimple and making the problem worse, put several drops of witch hazel directly on the skin wherever you notice a zit forming or where acne tends to break out. It’s even more effective when used in combination with other antibacterials like tea tree oil, coconut oil or apple cider vinegar. Dab witch hazel on your skin with a clean cotton ball or cotton pads up to several times per day anywhere you experience irritation, starting slowly and giving your skin time to adjust.
  • To fight signs of aging — You can easily blend witch hazel with vitamin E oil and other natural ingredients to make your own homemade anti-aging serum. Then apply it to discolored skin, bruises, old acne marks and bites to help fade their appearance and reverse damage. Combine it with other skin-saving oils like evening primrose, frankincense and tea tree oils for even better results.
  • To lower eye puffiness and inflammation — Apply diluted witch hazel to the area around the eyes before bed, being careful not to get any in the eyes.
  • To prevent varicose veins from developing — Use witch hazel pads or make your own. Add witch hazel to a cloth or swab and rub it into the skin wherever you see bruising and veins forming.
  • To clean your hair without drying it out — Add several drops to your shampoo or make your own hair wash using coconut oil, argan oil, witch hazel, and other cleansing essential oils like lemon or orange oil.
  • To make a natural ear infection remedy — Add witch hazel extract to an eye dropper to insert several drops into each ear several times a day.
  • To treat a sore throat — Either drink one to three cups of witch hazel tea daily, or add pure witch hazel (alcohol-free) to a tea mixture with honey to soothe an inflamed throat.
  • To treat hemorrhoids — Most experts recommend using hazel water (Hamamelis liquid extract diluted with water) up to six times a day on irritated skin or after every bowel movement.
  • For dental health — An easy way to use witch hazel to protect your mouth is to add some to my homemade probiotic toothpaste. You can also use a teaspoon of witch hazel tea with several drops of wintergreen, clove and myrrh oils as a mouthwash.

Precautions and Side Effects

Is witch hazel ever bad for your skin?

Most adults and children react well to using witch hazel on their skin and don’t experience any side effects. But there’s always a chance for an allergic reaction or other irritations, especially if you have sensitive skin and spend lots of time in the sun.

Does witch hazel make acne worse before better?

It’s possible if you overdo it. If you over-use witch hazel it may cause skin dryness, so more is not necessarily better. Dryness leads to skin irritation and can trigger rebound oil production, which may trigger a breakout. Choosing an alcohol-free witch hazel product can help limit dryness.

To be on the safe side, do a skin patch test first, applying a small amount to a patch of skin on your arm or leg to make sure you don’t have a bad reaction. Sop using the product right away if you experience any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing, swelling, etc.

When it comes to taking it internally, it’s considered safe for most people, although it’s capable of causing minor indigestion, nausea/vomiting or an upset stomach in some people.

Keep your dosage low, and always follow directions since taking high doses has been linked to liver problems in some rare cases. The reason there is concern over taking large doses of witch hazel internally is that it contains a chemical called safrole that may have carcinogenic effects. While safrole is only found in witch hazel in trace amounts, it’s considered to be an “agent that is possibly carcinogenic to humans” when consumed in higher volumes. Some studies have found that following the ingestion of safrole, symptoms can include vomiting, stupor, vertigo and pallor, although this is very rare and typically lasts for about one to two hours.

Final Thoughts

  • Witch hazel (hamamelis virginiana) is a natural skin care product and astringent that is often used as a topical remedy. Its uses include treating problems like acne, inflammation, infections, bites, redness, oiliness, ingrown hairs, burns, large pores and more.
  • There are many benefits of witch hazel. It works to help fight bacteria both internally and on the skin because it contains antioxidant and antibacterial compounds, including tannins, proanthocyanidins and phenols.
  • Reasons to use it for your hair include making it cleaner, giving it more volume and helping it become shinier. It can also be used internally as a medicine to help treat issues like hemorrhoids, ear infections, sore throats and more.
  • While it’s generally very safe, possible witch hazel side effects include skin dryness, an allergic reaction, upset stomach when taken internally and potentially liver-related problems if used in high amounts.

Read Next: 7 Pine Bark Extract Benefits, Including for Skin, Hearing & Diabetes

5 reasons you should be using a witch hazel face toner

Here are five reasons why you should make witch hazel part of your skincare routine ASAP.

5 Reasons You Should Be Using a Witch Hazel Face Toner

More times than not, Mother Nature has a solution for our skin concerns, and witch hazel is a prime example. Derived from the bark and leaves of the witch hazel plant (technically called hamamelis), this botanically-based ingredient has long been used around the world as an effective traditional remedy for a wide array of concerns ranging from bruises and insect bites to myriad forms of skin irritation. So what about using witch hazel for acne? This ingredient’s natural properties make a witch hazel face toner a no-brainer, especially for oily and acne-prone skin. Often formulated with other ingredients like aloe vera or glycolic acid to enhance its skincare benefits, witch hazel does more than merely remove any dirt, oil and debris your cleanser leaves behind. Here are five reasons why it’s a win-win for your skin.

Witch hazel is a natural astringent

By definition, an astringent is an agent that causes temporary constriction of body tissues, and this is a major plus for our pores. As anyone with oily skin knows, enlarged pores are often a side effect of excess oil production—and witch hazel helps shrink the appearance of pores on contact. A toner that offers astringent affects is a good thing, but it’s best to use an alcohol free witch hazel toner to remove excess oil (which may help prevent future breakouts) without stripping the skin of its natural moisture.

Witch hazel is rich in antioxidants

Antioxidants are key for shielding the skin from damage caused by both internal and external factors, and witch hazel is bursting with these protective compounds. Rich in a particular type of polyphenol antioxidant called tannins that are known to attract the free radicals that damage your skin, witch hazel face toner helps you whisk them away more easily, and perhaps prevent the visible signs of aging they can cause.

Astringent has received quite the bad rap, and in many cases, rightfully so. Many astringent toners of the ’90s contained high levels of ethanol (alcohol) that was dangerously harsh on skin. Nowadays, we have more options when it comes to toners as well as natural plant-based options, like witch hazel. Witch hazel, a natural toning ingredient, rode the clean beauty wave and is now popular again in the beauty community.

But, what exactly is witch hazel? And, does it actually work to fight acne-ridden skin? New York City-based dermatologist Robyn Gmyrek answered all our questions about the buzzy beauty ingredient.

What is witch hazel?

Witch hazel is a plant, but more specifically a shrub known as Hamamelis virginiana. The plant predominately grows in the eastern and midwestern regions of the U.S. and in southern Canada. The leaf, bark, and twigs are commonly used to make medicine. Liquid is extracted from the plant and distilled from dried leaves, bark, and twigs of witch hazel.
This extract is then usually mixed with alcohol and purified water. It can also be combined with other skin-conditioning ingredients such as aloe and rosewater. Alcohol-free, water-based preparations of witch hazel as well as lotions, creams and ointments are also available.

What can witch hazel treat?

Witch hazel is believed to be helpful when taken orally for ailments like diarrhea, mucus colitis, vomiting blood, coughing up blood, tuberculosis, colds, fevers, tumors, and cancer. However, the evidence for benefit is not conclusive and it should be noted that witch hazel contains tannins, which can be irritating to the digestive tract. Some sources have even suggested they could be carcinogenic.

Witch hazel has also been applied directly to the skin for itching, pain and swelling, eye inflammation, skin injury, mucous membrane inflammation, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, bruises, insect bites, minor burns, acne, sensitive scalp, and other skin irritations.

How can witch hazel treat acne prone skin?

Witch hazel leaf extract, bark extract, and witch hazel water are used as astringents which can tighten the skin. The tannins (a class of astringent molecules) are thought to be effective when applied directly to the skin to reduce swelling, help repair broken skin, and fight bacteria.

Can witch hazel treat any other skin issues?

It is reported to be helpful in ointment and cream formulations as an anti-inflammatory in eczema and psoriasis, but I could find no support for this in the medical literature. It is also anecdotally helpful in treating bug bites and stings, and soothing hemorrhoidal itching and irritation.

Can witch hazel cause negative effects on the skin?

Yes. If your skin is already inflamed or irritated and you are putting any topical on it you may sustain an allergic or irritant reaction due to the fact that the normal barrier function of the skin is not intact – (i.e. it has microscopic breaks which allow chemicals that are normally blocked from entering the skin to enter the skin surface.

Now that you’ve passed witch hazel 101, shop a few products below and give the ingredient a try for yourself.

Murad Clarifying Toner sephora.com $25.00 Sunday Riley Martian Mattifying Melting Water-Gel Toner sephora.com $25.00 Thayers Alcohol-free Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera amazon.com $8.00 First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Blemish Patrol Pads amazon.com $29.95 Chloe Hall Beauty Director Chloe Hall oversees all beauty coverage at ELLE.com.

Why Witch Hazel is a Problem for Skin

In the world of natural ingredients, witch hazel has a somewhat exaggerated reputation as the solution to an endless list of problems. Applied to skin, it’s said to fix everything from acne to oily skin, puffy eyes, and sunburn; for the body, witch hazel is said to lessen varicose veins and hemorrhoids. But just how effective is witch hazel for skin and other problems?

Aside from the anecdotal information you may have read, the research is mixed. Witch hazel can indeed help skin when used as a short-term remedy, but long-term use is a problem, no matter your skin type or concern.

What is Witch Hazel?

The witch hazel plant, Latin name Hammamelis virginiana, is a flowering shrub that grows wild throughout a good portion of North America and Asia. The leaves, bark, and twigs are processed to create a clear liquid that’s sold commercially as witch hazel. The plant extract itself is also used in topical ointments, although the toner-like liquid form is far more common for skincare and home remedies.

Like many plant-derived substances, witch hazel is a source of several antioxidants, many of which benefit skin; however, one main antioxidant is a group of chemicals known as tannins. Applied to skin, tannins have a constricting and drying effect. They compress proteins in skin, creating an invisible “film” that can, to a minor degree, temporarily de-grease skin and minimize the look of enlarged pores. While that’s good for the short term, the long term is another story, and it doesn’t have a happy ending!

The tannins in witch hazel are sensitizing. Depending on the part of the witch hazel plant used to make it, witch hazel naturally contains between 8% and 12% tannins.

In addition to the tannins, almost all types of witch hazel are distilled using denatured alcohol (ethanol), with the extract containing about 14% to 15% alcohol. Although the distillation process destroys some of the tannins (which ironically is a good thing, given that the tannins are irritants), applying alcohol to your skin is always a bad thing because it generates free-radical damage and impairs the skin’s surface.

By the way, while a 14% to 15% alcohol content might seem low, research has shown that even lower amounts of alcohol can damage skin.

Another concern related to long-term use of witch hazel is the volatile oil it naturally contains. This oil is a source of the potent fragrant sensitizer eugenol, which is definitely not good for skin. Taking the best care of your skin requires using ingredients that contain only the good stuff, and none of the bad stuff.

Witch Hazel for Acne and Blemishes

A lot of people wonder if witch hazel can clear up acne on the face or body. It’s commonly thought that because witch hazel has “astringent” properties, it can “dry up” acne. However, acne isn’t about skin being wet, so drying it with astringent ingredients won’t help. In truth, the irritation caused by the witch hazel can make blemishes worse.

You may have also read that witch hazel’s astringent action can help control the microbes on skin that play a role in causing acne, but research hasn’t shown that to be true. For certain, witch hazel is not a replacement for benzoyl peroxide, one of the gold standard anti-acne ingredients. Stick with what years of research has shown what really works to get acne under control.

Witch Hazel for Oily Skin

Witch hazel for oily skin also receives a lot of interest. We understand how tempting a witch hazel toner sounds, as it’s readily available, inexpensive, natural, and seems to be a smart choice for keeping oily skin in check. Witch hazel can remove oil from the skin, but that’s due to the denatured alcohol (ethanol) it contains.

As we mentioned above, most of the witch hazel preparations contain between 14% and 15% alcohol, an amount that can significantly irritate skin. Even if you don’t see or feel that happening on the surface of skin, the irritation is still taking place, below the surface.

It comes down to this: Using witch hazel to control oily skin can end up making it worse! Find out what research has shown works to get oily skin under control.

Witch Hazel as a Makeup Remover or Cleanser

Should you use witch hazel as a makeup remover or cleanser? No! That’s a really bad idea, as the trace amounts of tannins and the alcohol content are just too sensitizing for skin, to say nothing of using witch hazel to remove eye makeup. Please don’t do this.

There’s also the fact that witch hazel isn’t really that effective at removing most types of makeup, especially today’s long-wearing formulas. This poor performance might lead to you pull and tug at your skin, unlike how a gentle, efficient makeup remover works. All that extra pulling can hasten skin sagging.

Witch hazel as face wash? Well, it doesn’t have much cleansing ability for skin, not when compared to a well-formulated water-soluble cleanser. Using a witch hazel face wash shortchanges your skin of all the benefits a gentle facial cleanser can provide—and such products are much easier to use!

Does Witch Hazel Get Rid of Puffy Eyes?

If you’re curious about how to get rid of puffy eyes, there’s some truth to this recommendation if your undereye puffiness is due to fluid retention beneath the eyes. Witch hazel’s astringent and soothing properties can reduce this type of puffiness.

However, witch hazel cannot reduce or eliminate undereye bags that occur with age. In either case, it isn’t something we recommend doing on a regular basis because the resulting daily irritation will be pro-aging, not anti-aging.

Witch Hazel Home Remedies

Keeping a bottle of witch hazel around the house for occasional use can make sense. Research has shown that the calming components and antioxidants in witch hazel can help ease discomfort from:

  • Bug bites and stings
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Bruises
  • Diaper rash (witch hazel ointment, not the toner-like liquid)
  • Poison oak and poison ivy

Keep in mind: Just because something is good for acute short-term situations doesn’t necessarily make it good for long-term use. The claims for witch hazel’s skincare benefits are misleading; you might see short-term results, but ongoing use is likely to cause problems.

To sum up, witch hazel has its place, but it’s not the skincare solution it’s often touted to be.

Witch Hazel For Skin: Is It As Irritating As Paula Begoun Says?

“Did you hear? Witch hazel is super irritating. Like, worse than alcohol!”

“What are you talking about? Everyone knows that witch hazel soothes irritations! It cant’t be bad.”

“Enough you two! Can’t someone just take us out of our misery and tell us if witch hazel for skin is a good idea or not?”

I’ll try, but it ain’t easy. Truth is, there are as many reasons to love witch hazel as there are to hate it. Here’s what I mean:

What The Heck Is Witch Hazel?

Witch hazel is the nickname for Hamamelis Virginiana, a flowering shrub that grows in North America, China and Japan. The extract used in skincare comes from its leaves and bark.

For centuries, Native Americans used witch hazel for its soothing properties. Now, rumour has it can fix any skincare woe, from acne and oily skin to sunburns and even varicose veins.

Can it really do all that – without side effects? Let’s find out:

Witch Hazel For Skin: The Case For It

Fans of witch hazel for skin like to point out it has superpowers:

1. Witch Hazel Is Anti-Inflammatory

Witch hazel is famous for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Studies show that 10% distilled witch hazel helps treat inflammation from excessive sun exposure (but it doesn’t work as well as 1% hydrocortisone).

It works thanks to Proanthocyanidins, a group of antioxidants with soothing abilities.

FYI, witch hazel also contains tannins, a family of astringents that soothe skin too. BUT, they’re usually removed during the distillation process.

Related: 9 Soothing Ingredients That Calm Down Inflammation

2. Witch Hazel Is An Astringent

Witch hazel is an astringent. That’s a fancy way of saying it can dry and constrict skin.

Here’s how it works: the tannins in witch hazel compress proteins in your skin, causing it to shrink. They do this either by drying or irritating the skin.

That’s why oily skin loves astringents. By constricting the skin, they dry up oil production. No excess sebum = no shine. Plus, the skin around the pores squeezes them shut, making them look smaller. Goodbye large pores!

But wait, didn’t you say that tannins are removed during the distillation process, Gio? I said USUALLY. Some types of witch hazels are not distilled so you still get your fair share of tannins. But, unless the brand tells you, how do you know how, or even if, witch hazel was distilled?

Either way, I’m not a fan of astringents. I don’t think drying out skin is ever a good idea. Plus, the effects are only temporary, anyway.

3. Witch Hazel Is An Antioxidant

Between proanthocyanidins and tannins, witch hazel has its fair share of antioxidants.

Antioxidants patrol your skin looking for free radicals, the “criminals” that give you wrinkles and dark spots. When they spot on, they immediately destroy it, keeping your skin safe from harm.

That’s cool. But it doesn’t mean witch hazel is best thing to prevent wrinkles. Studies shows that green tea is a more powerful antioxidant than witch hazel.

Having said that, you know my stance on antioxidants: the more, the merrier.

Related: What The Heck Are Antioxidants And How Do They Work?

Witch Hazel For Skin: The Case Against It

Detractors of witch hazel for skin have their good points too:

1. Witch Hazel Is Loaded With Alcohol

The “natural is better” brigade always forgets one thing: you don’t put the whole plant in a serum or moisturiser. Nope, you must extract, distill and/or process it.

Talking about witch hazel, the extract is ALMOST ALWAYS distilled with alcohol.

You see, alcohol is very good at soaking stuff up. It drinks up all the goodies from the plant and carries it into your skincare products. Problem is, a lot of this alcohol remains there, too.

The witch hazel extract sold by Bulk Apothecary, for example, contains 14% alcohol, a concentration they claim is “the typical concentration for premium Witch Hazel.”

14% may sound tiny to you but it’s not. It’s high enough to disrupt the skin’s protective barrier and cause dryness and irritation.

If you’re the kind of skincare fanatic who wouldn’t touch anything with a drop of alcohol in it, witch hazel is off-limits too.

Related: What Does Alcohol-Free Really Mean?

2. Witch Hazel Contains Eugenol, An Irritant

Again, the “natural is better” brigade believes that plants only contain antioxidants and all that good stuff.

I wish! Truth is, plants are complex living beings with both good and bad qualities. They have antioxidants to protect themselves from the environment. But they also have toxic compounds to keep predators away.

Often, they have a scent, too. The stuff that makes them smell so good – like eugenol – is usually irritating for skin.

If you find that anything scented – be it a moisturiser, laundry detergent or perfume – gives you a rash, you’d better stay away from witch hazel, too.

Related: Why I Think Fragrance Has No Place In Skincare

Witch Hazel For Skin: The Verdict

Wouldn’t it be easier if everything was black and white? This is good, use it. That’s bad, avoid it.

But if you’re older than 5, you’ve probably figured out that life doesn’t work that way. There are many shades of grey.

Witch hazel falls in this grey area. It does have soothing and antioxidant properties that help skin heal faster, reduce irritation and prevent wrinkles. BUT, it also has its fair share of irritants – especially when distilled with alcohol.

The real question here is: does the good outweighs the bad? It depends on what witch hazel plays with. Here’s what I mean:

Take the majority of Western toners for oily skin. They have a huge dollop of witch hazel, plenty of alcohol and little else. That’s asking for dryness, irritation and all kinds of skin troubles.

But when witch hazel is a small part of a cream that has its fair share of moisturising oils and soothing antioxidants? That’s when witch hazel shines. It can do its job without drying out your skin.

In other words, judge the formula, not the ingredient.

FYI, it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that if you’re allergic to witch hazel, you should avoid it completely.

What are your thoughts on witch hazel for skin? Share them in the comments below.

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My skin type is very dry and the witch hazel toner I was using made it even drier and irritated. I was using a cheap witch hazel toner from Publix that had a high percentage of alcohol. So I thought witch hazel was the culprit. But I later learned it was the high percentage of alcohol, not the witch hazel.

Is Witch Hazel good for dry skin? Witch hazel is good for dry skin. It has a similar pH to our skin so it won’t dry it out. Witch hazel products with added alcohol can dry the skin because of the alcohol. So avoid labels with isopropyl or ethyl alcohol on them.

Choose an alcohol-free witch hazel toner to avoid drying out your skin. An alcohol-free toner that has been fine for my dry skin, and has received a crazy amount of positive reviews on Amazon is Thayers Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel. We’re not sponsored by Thayers, I’ve just been a fan for many years. Plus unlike many toners, it won’t break the bank.

I did read a few reviews of Thayers of users who said it did dry their skin. This may be because their skin is extremely sensitive. The majority said it did not dry their skin, My skin is very dry and sensitive, and it was fine with Thayers. It is important to follow up with a good moisturizer. See our favorite moisturizers post to find the perfect moisturizer for your skin type.

Read on to learn how witch hazel can benefit you, even if you have dry skin!

Is Witch Hazel Good for Dry Skin?

Witch hazel is a natural remedy made from the bark and leaves of a plant called Hamamelis virginiana. It has been used in traditional medicine for a very long time, applied topically, for certain skin issues.

Witch hazel has amazing benefits. It is an astringent which helps to tighten your blood vessels and blood tissues which will then reduce your under-eye puffiness. It’ll reduce, minimize, and tighten your pores on your face. By reducing and cleaning our your pores, you will have fewer breakouts and even less or no rosacea. It also helps your skin maintain its natural moisture levels so it won’t dry out.

In case you aren’t aware, an astringent is simply defined as a substance that contracts skin cells and other body tissues. Witch hazel is an astringent. Other common astringents include very cold water, rubbing alcohol, alum, acacia, sage, yarrow, bayberry, and distilled vinegar. But unlike most astringents, witch hazel won’t dry out your skin.

l have personally been using witch hazel since middle school and it is such a great cleanser and toner to use on your face to really clean it. When I wipe my face down with a cotton pad in the morning or even evening, you can see all the excess oil and dirt from the day. I find that this really cleans my face better than actually washing it.

Avoid Witch Hazel with Added Alcohol as It Dries the Skin

Years ago, I saw a beauty guru talking about witch hazel. I asked my dad to see if he could find it in the store for me at Publix and to my surprise, he brought a Publix-brand bottle of witch hazel home. I thanked my dad for getting it for me but I saw this product has 14% alcohol and that is too much alcohol. I thought I can’t put that on my face because it will dehydrate and dry out my skin. It would strip away much of your natural oils not leaving anything behind when it’s done.

Even if you’re prone to oily skin, you will get more oily skin after you use this much alcohol on your face. Not only would the alcohol strip away all of your natural oils, but it would also create inflammation throughout the body which causes your blood vessels in your skin to widen, enlarging your pores, drying your skin, and making you more prone to wrinkles due to being dehydrated. So the witch hazel is good for the skin, it’s too much alcohol that is bad for the skin.

Use an Alcohol-Free Toner Like Thayers Witch Hazel to Avoid Drying Your Skin

So in my search for answering the question “is witch hazel good for dry skin?”, I found the alcohol-free toner, Thayers Witch Hazel, on Amazon and was drawn by the positive feedback. Once I realized there was this alcohol-free witch hazel, it shook to my core all the years of thinking the only witch hazel products out there have lots of alcohol in them.

It was doing more harm to my face because of the alcohol content. I have noticed that as I’m older now I have enlarged pores which I blame on using too much alcohol on my face in my younger years.

Thayers Witch Hazel is now one of my go-to toners and has been for several years now. See more of our favorite toners on our post: Best Toners for Large Pores, Dull Skin, Oily Skin, or Dry Skin. I love it as a cleanser and a toner. A great thing about it is that it also has aloe vera in it which will help in reducing your acne scars and hydrating your face. Applying this witch hazel strips some natural oils from your face, but the added aloe vera is there to make sure it’s not all stripped away. Combined with the witch hazel, it will soften your skin in the long run and make it more even and blemish-free.

The witch hazel will help strip away the dirt and oil from your face but won’t strip away all of the natural oils, so your body doesn’t have to compensate for that. If you use a product that is too harsh or has too much alcohol, it will strip all of your natural oils away. This makes your skin overproduce oil to compensate, making your skin very oily.

The Publix brand witch hazel with high alcohol content I used years ago made my face extremely dry and dehydrated. It widened my blood vessels and made my face irritated and inflamed. When I first got the Thayers Witch Hazel I thought I would have to experience the same irritation, but it didn’t get irritated. This was because there is no alcohol and has aloe vera to soothe and keep the skin from becoming inflamed.

It also has a pleasant scent of roses as it has rosewater in it (distilled from rose petals). Rosewater helps to reduce the redness from the skin as it prevents inflammation. It helps to maintain the skin’s pH balance which helps to control the overproduction of oil. It also does not lead to dry skin. Rosewater hydrates the skin which is perfect for dry skin. It is still a good idea to follow up with a moisturizer.

Eleven Benefits of Witch Hazel

If my history and experience of using witch hazel aren’t enough to convince you of its benefits, I’ll list 11 uses for witch hazel in your beauty routine. Kind of like how I was surprised to find out so many other uses of vinegar, then just for eating with french fries, witch hazel can be used for way more than just as a toner.

1. Hydrates Dry and Dehydrated Skin

As mentioned earlier, witch hazel is good for dry and dehydrated skin. It may seem counter-intuitive because witch hazel is beneficial for oily skin and acne, so therefore, it seems like it wouldn’t be good for dry skin. But witch hazel has a pH similar to our own skin, so it won’t disrupt it or dry it out. It removes excess oil but does not strip the skin of its natural oils. Just remember to choose a witch hazel product that is alcohol-free. And also remember that it is best to follow use with a moisturizer.

2. Makeup Remover

The first way that you can use witch hazel in your beauty routine is as a makeup remover. This was news to me. it was an accidental discovery one night I ran out of my makeup remover and I wanted to use something I already had. I was so happy when I found out I could use witch hazel and it takes off makeup with ease.

3. Cleanse Oily Skin

Another way you can use witch hazel is to cleanse oily skin and balance oil production. I started using witch hazel as a toner after I would wash off my makeup at night and it has helped to reduce a lot of the oiliness in my skin. So two thumbs up for using witch hazel as a cleanser.

4. Tame Frizzy Hair

Another way that you can use witch hazel is to tame your frizzy hair. I love this tip. it’s been one that I’ve been using a lot since I first discovered it. You take a little bit of witch hazel, mix it in with your shampoo, apply it to your hair, rinse and condition like normal. I’m telling you, what that small amount added to shampoo really has helped to tame my hair and make it a lot more manageable. I’m noticing a lot less frizz since I’ve been doing that routine.

5. Prevents Razor Bumps

For years I struggled with razor bumps on my legs and bikini area. One trick that I found many years ago was to apply deodorant to the skin after shaving and that would always help to prevent the razor bumps from forming. This was also a way that I like to use up my all-natural deodorants that don’t work so well under my arms anymore.

Well, you can also use witch hazel for this same thing. So after you’re done shaving the problem areas, take a little bit of witch hazel on a cotton ball and apply it over the skin and this will help to prevent your razor bumps from forming. I’m telling you, this stuff is miracle stuff.

6. Reduces Redness

Along the same lines of reducing razor bumps, one of the great things about witch hazel is that it’s very calming to the skin and it’s what’s considered a vasoconstrictor which means that it helps to tighten up blood vessels. This will help to reduce redness in the skin and I noticed redness reduction ever since I started using it as a toner. So not only does it help with excess oil production but it also helps to minimize redness in the skin so that’s a two-for-one special right there if you struggle with both.

7. Tightens Under-Eye Bags

And because witch hazel is a vasoconstrictor and it helps to tighten blood vessels, it also tightens the skin at the same time. So if you have under-eye bags that you’ve been struggling with, try witch hazel underneath them also with a cotton pad and you may notice a significant difference underneath your eyes. I have not tried that method with it personally because I don’t have eye bags that badly but it was something I read about in reviews and a lot of people really swear by it.

So there you go, something for you to try if you have tired, puffy eyes either from crying or lack of sleep do this one. Just use cotton pads soaked in witch hazel, apply them onto your eyes for about ten minutes and once again witch hazel will help to shrink the blood vessels around the eyes which will reduce the redness and the puffiness altogether.

8. Relieves Skin From a Sunburn

Just like aloe vera gel, witch hazel helps to relieve the skin after it is sunburnt. If you get a sunburn, apply the witch hazel all over the sunburnt areas as soon as possible. This will help prevent the skin from peeling which we all know is an uncomfortable after-effect of the burn. You can add witch hazel into a spray bottle and use it to spray on the sunburnt area. The Thayers Witch Hazel that I use and recommend has aloe vera in it so you get best of both worlds.

9. Clears Dye Off Your Skin

This next one is not one that I have personally tried but I’ve seen it in action so I know that it works. It was when my husband was coloring his hair, he got a little bit of hair dye on his skin and I had read about using witch hazel to remove the hair dye from the skin. So when he came to me with this issue I said witch hazel. I know I’m a nerd like that but it worked and it took hair dye right off of his skin.

You wouldn’t believe how many things I have turned this man on to simply by reading about experimenting. He’s like, how did you think of that?

10. Homemade Deodorant

This next use was right over my head. I didn’t even know it would work. Did you know you can use witch hazel as a deodorant? I mean who knew! All you need is half a cup of witch hazel, a quarter of a cup of aloe vera gel or juice (either one works), a quarter teaspoon of baking soda, and then ten drops of your favorite essential oil. Sage oil is best because it also has deodorant properties. if you mix this together in a spray bottle, spray it under your arms, and let it dry, it’s a great deodorant.

I find I have to change my deodorants every other month because my body gets accustomed to them and then they stop working especially natural deodorants. So if that describes you, just be aware that it may work for some time, but then it may not work. So I have to kind of put this one to the side, come back to it, put it aside, come back to it.

11. Treats Acne

Another way to use this wonderful product is to treat acne. And what makes witch hazel so great for treating acne is because it helps to unclog pores and dry out the acne. It is best to use witch hazel in conjunction with a product that contains activated charcoal for the best results. So that can be a charcoal cleanser, a charcoal sheet mask, or a charcoal foam mask.

A charcoal foam mask is a product I discovered on Amazon recently and I love this stuff. The one I use is One Bad Motha Foamer Bubble Mask and this is so cool. It goes on to your skin and it bubbles up, gently exfoliating your skin and cleaning deep within the pores. It’s not only a neat product to use by itself, but when you do combine it with the witch hazel, you do have a better chance of clearing acne faster.

Conclusion – Is Witch Hazel Good for Dry Skin?

To recap, is witch hazel good for dry skin? Witch Hazel is good for dry skin because it has a similar pH to our skin so it won’t dry it out. Witch hazel alcohol products can dry the skin because of the alcohol. Avoid products, including witch hazel products that have added isopropyl or ethyl alcohol.

I hope you found this helpful and learned that witch hazel is not just safe and good for dry skin, but for many other uses.

Witch hazel is one of those things that Does. It. All. Have a bug bite? Witch hazel. Dealing with a honking zit? Witch hazel. Skin looking mad oily? Witch hazel.

Seriously, if you’re not stocking this in your bathroom, apologize to your skin rn.

Witch hazel, a botanical extract, is a natural skin healer and cleanser. “The twigs and bark of the plant contain therapeutic constituents that, when extracted and distilled, create the clear, fragrant, natural astringent that has been known for generations as a natural skin care solution,” says New York-based dermatologic surgeon Dendy Engelman, M.D.

“Witch hazel extract can be good for all skin types,” says David E. Bank, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in Mount Kisco, New York. Just don’t go crazy with the stuff. In excess, it can strip moisture, which is why some dermatologists don’t recommend it to patients. Bottom line: Listen to your skin and adjust accordingly.

Here’s how to tap into its many beauty and medicinal uses, from makeup-removing to sunburn-soothing:

1. Tone skin

belif Witch Hazel Herbal Extract Toner belif sephora.com $28.00

“I would suggest using as a toner for those with normal to oily skin,” says Bank—its antiseptic properties help zap bacteria. Simply dab a few drops onto a cotton round and rub it over your face after you’ve cleansed. You can also try a product like Belif Witch Hazel Herbal Extract Toner ($28, Sephora), which contains a blend of herbal extracts like raspberry leaf.

2. Fight grease

If you’re feeling greasier than a pizza man, witch hazel can help dry things out, says Engelman. It helps remove excess oil—making it a great option for oilier skin types. (Just be sure to moisturize after using to make sure you don’t overcorrect and dry out your skin completely.)

3. Treat acne (the natural way)

Whether you’re pregnant (and thus can’t use regular acne-fighting products like retinoids and salicylic acid) or you’re just more of a natural beauty girl, you should consider trying witch hazel. Because of its ability to remove oil and calm inflammation, witch hazel is a great option, says Engelman. Use as a spot treatment or as a toner.

4. Prevent razor bumps

Witch hazel’s anti-inflammatory properties might be a blessing for your bikini line. It works well at preventing bumps from forming around your hair follicles (and can help heal any you already have, too). After shaving, swipe a witch hazel-soaked cotton ball over freshly shaved skin to keep skin calm and bump-free.

The Best Witch Hazel Toners

Witch Hazel Astringent Dickinson’s target.com $3.59 Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel Toner with Aloe Vera Thayer’s amazon.com $9.25 Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel Unscented St Clare amazon.com $13.95 Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel Quinn’s amazon.com $13.95

5. Relieve sunburn

Obvi, you should always wear SPF, but you might miss a spot sometimes. For those (hopefully) rare occasions, witch hazel works wonders to ease sunburn pain thanks to its anti-inflammatory powers. It also has a cooling effect, says Engelman, so it will feel great going on.

6. Soothe bug bites

For those times when you can’t stop scratching, grab witch hazel. “Its anti-inflammatory and astringent properties make it great as an anti-itch for bug bites,” says Engelman.

7. Calm poison ivy

Since witch hazel helps with bug-bite itching, it makes sense that it does the same for poison ivy, too. Along with cool compresses and hydrocortisone cream, applying a little witch hazel can help reduce itching and swelling. (But if your poison ivy rash doesn’t improve after a week or has blisters, see a doctor for treatment.)

8. Tighten pores

OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Scalp + Tea Tree Mint Shampoo OGX target.com $6.49

If your T-zone looks more like a pumice stone than skin, reach for the witch hazel. It’s an astringent, which Engleman says can help tighten up pores (making them temporarily look smaller).

9. Calm redness

Another witch hazel use: banishing pesky redness. Engelman says witch hazel is a vasoconstrictor, meaning that it helps tighten up blood vessels to reduce redness.

10. Diminish dandruff

Scalp flakes happen to the best of us. Rather than worry about the snow show on your shoulders, you can try witch hazel as an anti-dandruff treatment, says Engelman (like using it in a shampoo). However, she points out that it’s not as effective as common topical anti-fungal medications. If flakiness persists, talk to your derm.

Jessica Migala Jessica Migala is a health writer specializing in general wellness, fitness, nutrition, and skincare, with work published in Women’s Health, Glamour, Health, Men’s Health, and more.

Witch hazel skin benefits

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