Ever since I was a puberty-stricken (and acne-prone) teen, I’ve considered adding witch hazel to my skincare routine. But it wasn’t until Thayer’s came out with an alcohol-free formulation (yippee!) that I decided to finally try it out.
What It’s Supposed To Do
Witch hazel, in itself, has a ton of benefits. Most notably, it has:
- Astringent properties (meaning it can tighten and cleanse pores)
- Anti-inflammatory properties (meaning it can bring down inflammation and swelling)
The bottle claims that it can: “cleanse, soften, refresh, and moisturize skin.” So, there are a bunch of other ingredients in the mix (like aloe vera and glycerin) that would promote these functions.
Side note: It seems like Thayers is hell-bent on distancing itself from the “astringent” label. But, tannins—the antioxidants that are essential to witch hazel—are, in fact, astringents.
What It Smells Like
There are a bunch of different formulas available—including an unscented version—but I chose “rose petal,” the OG of Thayers’ line.
First off, it’s not perfume-y whatsoever. It kind of smells like rose water (or golab, if you’re from the Middle East)—meaning it’s distinct, yet delicate.
Second, the smell dissipates after about 20 minutes. So, you don’t have to worry about stinking up the place with anything overwhelming.
How It’s Used
If you bought the spray bottle (like me), you have two options:
Option 1: Do as intended and mist that stuff on your face and/or body.
Option 2: Take the road less traveled by saturating a cotton ball in toner and swiping it across your face and/or body.
The first option is more refreshing (and bodes well for the lazy type—you know who you are), while the second option is more cleansing.
You can use it up to 2 times a day after cleansing. Or, if you’re using an exfoliant in your routine, after your exfoliant.
Oh and some people use it as a setting spray. Since I don’t wear makeup on the regular, I can’t verify if this would actually work or not.
Spray bottle side note: The packaging worked as intended. And it didn’t leak. I just think I would’ve been happier if I bought the normal bottle (as opposed to the spray bottle). That way, I could control where this stuff actually goes—I definitely didn’t like that it got on my lips because I felt like I was constantly eating this stuff.
Did It Work?
Yes and no.
The yes part:
I have a cluster of closed comedones on my 3-finger forehead.
And I’ve tried a lot of remedies (including Nizoral) to get rid of them. But, sometimes, I feel like those remedies are too harsh for my sensitive, easily-over-exfoliated skin. And, quite frankly, I don’t want to trade closed comedones for dehydrated skin.
After incorporating Thayer’s Witch Hazel into my routine for about 2½ weeks, everything came to a head and I was FINALLY able to extract those pesky suckers! And when all was said and done, I was left with a smooth-to-the-touch forehead.
I don’t know exactly why this toner did the trick. But I suspect it’s because three of its ingredients (witch hazel, aloe vera, and grapefruit seed extract) have antifungal and antibacterial properties. They must’ve knocked my acne right out of the ballpark.
The no part:
During my trial run, I developed two huge cystic pimples on my face.
Of course with cystic acne, you can never be too sure of the cause. But considering that I don’t regularly get this type of acne (at least not since I was a teen) and I developed cysts right when I started using this product, I feel like I can more-or-less attribute it to the witch hazel. I suspect that I’m allergic to one or more of its ingredients.
You might like: Cystic Acne: What You Need to Know About the Devil
Certified Organic Witch Hazel Ext Blend (Hamamelis Virginiana Extract (Witch Hazel), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (Filet of Aloe Vera), Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol (find out more about this common preservative by reading my article about it here), Rosa Centifolia (Rose) Flower Water, Fragrance (Natural Rose), Citric Acid, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract
What I Liked
- Seriously cheap.
- Reduced inflammation.
- Skin felt less oily.
- Smells great.
- Brought closed comedones to a head.
- Helps with the appearance of my hand veins.
What I Didn’t Like
- Using it twice daily (in both my morning and nighttime routines), dried me out. Luckily, when I cut back to a once-a-day application, my skin started acting normal again—it wasn’t too oily and it wasn’t too dry.
- Developed some cystic acne during use
Who Should (And Shouldn’t) Use It
Rosacea sufferers should be cautious when it comes to witch hazel. Actually, they should be cautious when it comes to any and all astringents. The thing is, astringents can be drying. And you don’t want to add that to an already dry, damaged, rosacea-prone skin barrier.
If you don’t have rosacea, will this toner work for you?
Maybe, maybe not.
You see, rose flower water (aka rosa centifolia) is a pretty common allergen (source). So, if you’re the kind of person who’s allergic to everything, you might want to exercise caution when using this formula.
If you don’t fall in with these two groups—the rosacea-prone and the allergy-prone—it’ll probably be gentle enough for everyday use.
Where To Purchase Thayers Witch Hazel
Check out Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel here on Amazon.
Or if you suspect that you might be allergic to rose water, check out the unscented version here.
On the one hand, this product smoothed out my bumpy forehead. Which is is a huge plus. On the other hand, it caused a couple of cystic breakouts. Which is a huge minus. Because of this, I don’t know if I’ll continue using it. I’ll probably try using it as an aftershave because the skin on my legs is much hardier than the skin on my face, so I probably won’t break out in that area—fingers crossed.
If you’re looking for a serum that works, I recommend Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum. I wrote an article about it. Check it out here.