Witch hazel may sound scary, but this scary-sounding beauty product comes with many sweet benefits! Although the name makes it seems like it would be harsh, it’s actually a softening emollient that is good for the skin.
What Exactly Is Witch Hazel?
Witch hazel is a deciduous shrub from the Hamamelis family that blooms with groups of yellow flowers in early fall. Some varieties bloom in the winter after the flowers fall, they are replaced by woody seed pods.
In the summer, the seed pods burst open. This has led the plant to be called “snapping hazelnut.”
According to Mother Earth News, it is unknown where the name “witch hazel” comes from. One theory is the word “witch” stems from the Teutonic “wik,” the foundation of the word “weak.” This word may describe the plant’s flexible branches.
The branches of witch hazel plants were used for dowsing. Dowsing is a method spiritual practitioners used to locate objects or obtain answers to questions. It was often associated with witchcraft.
The bark and leaves of the witch hazel are used to create a tea, tincture or poultice. Although witch hazel is often associated with topical use, the tea can be consumed to treat internal bleeding and digestive problems. Still, many of its benefits have to do with the skin and face.
Some of the reported therapies involving witch hazel have never been studied in a clinical trial. However, you can find a great deal of current and historical anecdotal evidence for many of witch hazel’s benefits and uses as:
- A natural astringent
- Overall skin care but also sensitive skin and dry skin
- Relief from poison ivy, insect bites and razor burn
- Hemorrhoids and inflammation
According to the Handmaiden’s Kitchen, Native Americans used witch hazel heal swelling and lesions. Its use in treating many ailments was passed to the American colonists, who used it for a variety of skin conditions.
The Monterey Bay Spice Company explains that some of the ingredients in witch hazel contains quercetin, kaempferol and gallic acid.
Quercetin is a potent antioxidant. Kaempferol is another antioxidant that may protect against obesity and cancer. Gallic acid is used to combat inflammation.
Witch hazel has been used and sold way back in the 1800’s.
#1 – Use Witch Hazel As A Skin Toner
Witch hazel is perhaps most commonly used as a facial toner in skin care. After cleansing your face use a cotton ball or cotton pad with witch hazel to swab over the skin. It will remove additional dirt and excess oil from the pores. It can make your face look smoother.
Witch hazel used as a natural astringent, can shrink skin cells and blood vessels. Using it on the skin can result in a more even appearance. Some claim it works on varicose veins.
Witch hazel toner used as a natural remedy to help remove ruddiness and diminish dark circles under the eyes. Witch hazel can also shrink the pores making it a good partner for face wash.
According to Dana Oliver, the executive fashion and beauty editor at Huffington Post, witch hazel restores the skin’s pH balance after cleansing.
#2 – Use It to Spot Treat Acne Prone Skin
According to a 2010 review of alternative treatments for dermatological problems, witch hazel has antibacterial properties that would benefit acne-prone skin. Swiping it on the oily skin can help eliminate the bacteria causing acne.
However, the authors of the review stated that no randomized trials have been conducted to research the efficacy of witch hazel for acne.
If you’re using witch hazel for acne, make sure to wash your face before applying it. Bare skin will allow the witch hazel’s acne-fighting properties to work more potently. If you have sensitive skin, apply witch hazel sparingly on each acne spot.
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#3 – Witch Hazel Can Soothe The Perineum After Childbirth
During childbirth, the perineal area may stretch and tear. It may be extremely sore.
According to Wellness Mama, witch hazel is recommended to help the area heal. Midwifery Today explains that witch hazel’s cooling and natural anti-inflammatory properties make it particularly effective for postpartum care.
It can be kept in a spray bottle and applied to the sore area during the first few weeks postpartum. Some even recommend soaking menstrual pads in witch hazel and freezing them for use after giving birth.
You can soak a washcloth in cool water, add witch hazel and place the cloth on any painful areas. It can be used as a sitz bath to reduce inflammation and slow bleeding.
#4 – Witch Hazel May Improve The Appearance of Scars and Stretch Marks
Many anecdotal reports online claim witch hazel helps diminish scar tissue on the skin. Zenmed Stretta Stretch Mark Removal Formula contains witch hazel as part of a three-step process for eliminating stretch marks.
The cream is blended with vitamin E and aloe vera gel. It is used after applying other products to help encourage the growth of new skin cells and collagen. Many other stretch mark creams and serums contain witch hazel in the ingredients.
#5 – Use Witch Hazel To Diminish Bruising, Swelling and Varicose Veins
According to an article in the Alternative and Complementary Therapies publication, witch hazel’s astringent properties make it effective for shrinking blood vessels anywhere on the body.
Witch hazel astringent can be used for:
- Treating bruises
- Shrinking hemorrhoids
- Reducing the appearance of varicose veins
- Treating chronic venous insufficiency
Many commercial hemorrhoid treatment remedies contain witch hazel. Some people suggest applying witch hazel to a cotton pad and place it over their eyes to reduce puffiness in the mornings.
If you have a small bruise, saturate a cotton ball or cotton pad with witch hazel. Stick it to the skin using an adhesive bandage to speed up healing.
#6 – Use Witch Hazel To Help Control Dandruff
Dandruff can be caused by a number of different factors, including inflammation, fungus and dry skin. According to Allure Magazine, some people can benefit from applying witch hazel to the scalp before shampooing.
If your dandruff is caused by irritation or fungus, the natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities of witch hazel may help. However, witch hazel can be drying to the skin. If your dandruff is caused by dry skin already, witch hazel may exacerbate the problem.
#7 – Witch Hazel Soothes Many Skin Irritations
- Bug bites and stings
- Irritated skin and razor burn from shaving
The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that you can even use witch hazel on oozing skin irritations.
#8 – Witch Hazel Makes A Great Addition To Homemade Baby Wipes
If you want to avoid using harsh chemicals and ingredients on your baby, make your own baby wipes. Add witch hazel to a wet washcloth to wipe your baby’s diaper area. It will cleanse and soothe the skin as well as eliminate bacteria.
According to Mommy’s ER, witch hazel extract can also be used for diaper rash. Some types of witch hazel solutions are mixed with lavender essential oil or rose, which can be extra soothing. Make sure that any witch hazel you use on your baby does not contain isopropyl alcohol. There are many alcohol-free witch hazel available in the market.
#9 – Witch Hazel Can Help You Smell Better
Because witch hazel kills bacteria, it works as a natural deodorant. Swipe it on clean armpits to eliminate odor-causing bacteria.
Witch hazel cannot mask your body’s natural odor. However, using it regularly can help prevent additional odor buildup.
If your feet smell after a long day at the gym, try soaking them in a witch hazel solution. Apply witch hazel to any parts of the body that get stinky. Add your favorite essential oils to create your own “fragrance.”
#10 – Witch Hazel Can Help You Feel Better
According to Mountain Rose Herbs, witch hazel is often used by athletes. Apply the product before a strenuous workout to prevent sore muscles. Also rub it into the skin after exercising to relieve aches and pains.
The anti-inflammatory capabilities of witch hazel are responsible for its ability to relieve soreness. It has also been used to treat injuries like strains and sprains.
According to Buddha Teas, witch hazel can improve the symptoms of respiratory ailments. Applying witch hazel tea or tincture as a compress on the throat and chest can help calm the lungs. This can help during an asthma attack or when you’re experiencing allergies.
Drinking the tea can soothe a sore throat. The soothing effects typically last even after you’ve finished the tea.
Jennifer Brett, N.D., explains that the tea can also be effective for stomach flu. Some medical professionals recommend drinking witch hazel tea to combat the intestinal secretions that may occur in people with chronic inflammatory digestive disorders.
What Kind Of Witch Hazel Should You Buy?
For most uses on the skin, make sure you purchase an alcohol-free version like this Best Seller.
Isopropyl alcohol can be excessively drying and irritating.
Limiting fragrance in the product may also be beneficial for sensitive skin. In fact, the fewer ingredients, the better.
If witch hazel dries out your skin, mix it with an oil-based product. You can even mix it with coconut oil to apply to stretch marks or acne. Coconut oil and Neem oil have antimicrobial properties that complement the witch hazel.
Can You Make Witch Hazel Tea?
Some experts say that commercial witch hazel may lack some of the tannins that deliver healing effects. You can find dried witch hazel bark, leaves and powder at many online retailers.
The dried herb can be used to make tinctures and teas. Even though the dried bark and leaves are natural, check with a doctor before taking them internally.
Buddha Teas provides a recipe for making witch hazel tea at home:
- Boil the dried bark or leaves in hot water.
- Let the tea steep for 45 minutes before drinking.
- The tea can be flavored with other herbs, such as chamomile, mint or thyme.
- Keep the tea in a spray bottle in the refrigerator for a cooling remedy for skin irritations. You can do the same thing with commercial witch hazel extract. Don’t use the commercial extract or any product with alcohol internally.
- Everyone’s skin responds differently to beauty products. Just do a quick online search, and you’ll find anecdotal evidence for and against just about everything.
- The same goes for witch hazel. Try it for its healing, cleansing and soothing benefits. If it doesn’t work for you, try something else.