It feels like everyone and their mother is raving about witch hazel lately.
So, that got me thinking:
Is witch hazel actually good for your skin? Or is it just another fad?
Keep reading the article to find out what I learned.
What The Heck Is It?
Judging by its name, you might think witch hazel’s origins are rooted in some kind of, well, witchery.
But, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
You see, witch hazel has ultra-pliable branches. And, as it so happens, “wiche” means bend in Middle English. So, when European settlers arrived in North America (aka witch hazel’s place of origin), they put two and two together. And its name was born.
Okay. Now that the etymology is all sorted out, let’s look at it from a more scientific perspective.
Sometimes when you hear people talk about witch hazel, they’ll mention that it’s a tannin-rich plant. Tannins are substances that have antioxidant, astringent, and anti-inflammatory properties. Essentially, they’re what make witch hazel so skin-friendly.
Instead of continuing along with background info, let’s jump into the benefits!
Witch Hazel Benefits
When I picked up a bottle of witch hazel from my local Target last week, I wasn’t expecting much. Generally speaking, natural products don’t live up to their synthetic counterparts. Why should this be any different?
Well after using it, I gotta say, I’m impressed.
Let’s take a look at some of its benefits down below.
1. Effective Spot Treatment
I sprouted a big, red, angry, cystic pimple this week. Usually, I’d take a moment to curse the skin gods about my uncomely plight. But hey, I was using myself as a human guinea pig and I needed something I could experiment on.
Now, whenever I get a cystic pimple, it takes forever to heal—I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about.
I spritzed witch hazel on my pimple 2 times a day. Within a couple days, it shrunk dramatically—I’d say ~50%. Within 4 or 5 days, the pimple was completely flat.
I still had to deal with hyperpigmentation (enter Vitamin C). But at least the pimple was gone.
2. Acne Prevention
Aside from being an awesome spot treatment, it can (anecdotally) prevent breakouts.
Since witch hazel is an incredibly powerful antiseptic (1), it can curb the growth of bacteria. Which may help with bacterial acne.
3. The Perfect After Shave
According to Reddit’s /r/wicked_edge, witch hazel is one hell of an aftershave.
Its astringent properties can tighten-up your pores and reduce the prevalence of pesky razor bumps.
Some Redditors have even reported that it reduces the itchy feeling you get after shaving. Which makes it a godsend to anyone shaving their nether regions.
4. Soothes Sunburns
Admittedly, most of witch hazel’s benefits are anecdotal.
But not this one. It’s backed by science!
One study in particular, found that lotions containing witch hazel reduced UV-induced erythema significantly better than other lotions (2). That might sound like jargon. But it just means that witch hazel can speed up the healing time of your sunburn.
Oh and another thing.
Remember when your mom told you to put chamomile lotion on your skin after a sunburn. Well, as it turns out, another study found that witch hazel is better than chamomile (3).
Obviously, apply witch hazel (or any other treatment) to your burn as soon as possible. All bets are called off when your skin starts to peel.
5. Use It As An All-Natural Toner
As a toner, witch hazel is a great option for a ton of reasons.
First off, its tannins have astringent qualities. So it can tighten things up and reduce the size of your pores (albeit temporarily).
Second, most decent witch hazel products have a skin-balanced pH. Using it after an alkaline cleanser will rebalance your skin.
Third, as I already mentioned, witch hazel has antibacterial properties which can clear up bacterial acne.
Pro Tip: Decant it into an empty spray bottle to avoid wasting cotton pads.
6. Bug Bite Begone
Here’s the real reason I bought witch hazel.
This week I had a huge—and I mean HUGE—spider bite on my leg. After a quick Google search, I found that witch hazel subdues itching. So, I sprayed the heck out of my leg and hoped for the best.
It definitely provided a much needed cooling sensation. But I wouldn’t say it completely eliminated the itch.
It did, however, flatten the bug bite by 90% within 24 hours. I went to bed after applying a heavy dose and, by morning, the bite was hardly inflamed.
7. Makeup Remover
Yep, you can use witch hazel to remove your makeup. Just pour some on a cotton pad and swipe your makeup away. Woohoo!
If you need more slip for stubborn makeup, you can mix witch hazel with a carrier oil like almond oil (or anything else that suits your skin).
My Final Thoughts
Witch hazel is one of those all-purpose products that can manage different ailments. Which makes it a good thing to keep on-hand in your skincare arsenal.
I’ve only been using it for a little over a week, so I’m not sure if I can give it a “holy grail” status just yet. But, I’ll keep using it and then I’ll update this section later if I feel strongly about it.