One of the most time-honored remedies for a variety of skin conditions and irritations is witch hazel. This all-natural, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory substance has been shown to be effective in the treatment of minor injuries and burns, bruises, sunburn, insect bites, oily skin, varicose veins, diaper rash, several types of rash, dry skin and even helping acne-prone skin.
Its anti-inflammatory properties make it a valuable ingredient in commercial products for the treatment of conditions ranging from acne to hemorrhoids. It is often included in cosmetic products but is an effective facial toner used by itself.
In this article, we will explore the uses of witch hazel toner and provide sound advice on choosing or creating the best quality product. We will also offer tips on adding this all-natural remedy to your daily health and beauty routine. Read on to learn more.
What is Witch Hazel?
This light, all-natural, clear liquid is extracted from the witch hazel bark and leaves of the Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) plant, which is a small, tough deciduous bush or shrub that is native to the eastern United States. This plant has been used for centuries in Native American medicine.
The witch hazel plant does not contain oil, and its extract is not an essential oil. It is a distilled plant water (aka hydrolat or hydrosol). Distilled plant water is a light substance with a mild aroma. It has strong benefits of its own, and it makes a good carrier for more concentrated substances, such as essential oils.
What Is Witch Hazel Shrub Used For?
Witch Hazel uses and benefits are quite renowned. Research published in the European Journal of Pediatrics (2007) confirms that witch hazel extract contains a wealth of falconoid (antioxidant), tannins, and phytochemicals. Additionally, the antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties of the substance are confirmed. These qualities convey a healing and natural astringent effect that is valuable in both cosmetic and personal care applications.
In 2014, the International Journal of Trichology published the results of a study conducted with subjects suffering from sensitive scalp. The results indicate that use of shampoo containing witch hazel extract is effective in treating sensitive scalp when used consistently over a month‘s time.
Anecdotal evidence points to use of witch hazel to treat a variety of skin irritations and conditions; however, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database reports that there is not conclusive evidence of this assertion. Still, centuries of experience have led many people to turn to witch hazel for temporary relief of itching, swelling, and inflammation of the skin.
Is it Safe to Use?
Pure witch hazel is mild, pleasant, and effective. Sensitivity to it is quite rare. Be advised that if you are using the common drugstore variety, it will contain isopropyl alcohol and may contain fragrance and other substances. These could cause skin irritation and further side effects. Additionally, additives detract from the efficacy of the witch hazel.
When shopping, you will usually find this type of witch hazel stocked alongside hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol. While this is a good product to use on minor injuries, sunburn, and bug bites, it is not conducive for cosmetic purposes because the alcohol is very drying and can break down your skin‘s protective barrier.
For cosmetic use, you should seek out alcohol-free witch hazel in the form of witch hazel extract or witch hazel distillate. These are the pure substances you need to create your own witch hazel astringent. Alternately, some high-quality commercially produced witch hazel toners are made without alcohol and unnatural additives.
Using Witch Hazel as a Facial Toner
An effective toner helps balance the pH of the skin. While your skin is naturally slightly acidic, many of the products we use on the skin are somewhat alkaline. Using a good toner can help restore your skin’s ideal pH while protecting your skin against makeup and other products that may contain impurities or simply be too alkaline.
Witch hazel extract contains a great deal of tannin. This is a substance that lends powerful cleaning and astringent properties. These are the basic qualities of a beneficial skin toning product.
A facial toner should be applied with a cotton ball at the end of a facial cleansing routine. It serves as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent and closes the pores to protect from environmental dirt and grime. This helps reduce excess oil production, thereby preventing problems such as acne and blackheads.
While there are alcohol-based skin toners that perform these functions, they have the unfortunate side effect of drying the skin and killing off beneficial skin fauna. Witch hazel extract is mild, discerning, and safe for sensitive skin.
Ready-made Witch Hazel Toners
There are also ready-made witch hazel based toners that are alcohol-free. These alcohol free toners are quite inexpensive compared to most commercially prepared facial toners. Some of the most established brands are dickinson’s original witch hazel and Thayers witch hazel. Some of their offerings also include beneficial essential oils, such as lavender essential oil or rose oil.
There is also a number of higher end hydrating toners that are concoctions of natural witch hazel and other natural ingredients to benefit the skin. These products may contain ingredients such as witch hazel with aloe vera gel, rose petal, citric acid, apple cider vinegar, green tea, vitamin E, and various other hydrating and protective natural agents.
These ingredients are all beneficial to your skin, but to reap the most benefits from witch hazel, make certain it is listed first (or very high) on the ingredients list. Remember to look for the Latin name, Hamamelis Virginiana.
DIY Witch Hazel Face Wash Recipe
For greater control over the ingredients in your facial toner, you can always do it yourself. You can begin with a pure witch hazel extract or witch hazel water, and add your own essential oils and hydrating ingredients.
Ingredients you might wish to add to your organic witch hazel include:
Both of these are very beneficial to aging skin.
- Tea Tree Oil
- Lavender Oil
These have powerful antibacterial & antifungal properties. They are good for acne treatment.
Add essential oils at a rate of 3-6 drops per ounce of liquid.
Give Your Skin a Vitamin Treatment
You might also wish to add ingredients to support the process of removing dead skin cells and promoting a fresh, young-looking epidermis to your skin care regimen. Vitamin C is one such ingredient.
Because it is acidic, vitamin C helps restore the natural pH balance of the skin. Dermatologists often use vitamin C as an exfoliating agent to help break down acne scars and reveal fresh, new skin.
It can be added to witch hazel extract in small amounts to be used as a daily toner. Be careful not to use too much because the acidic nature of the vitamin can burn your skin. There is a fine line between benefit and detriment.
Generally speaking, a half teaspoonful of powdered vitamin C mixed with a quarter cup of witch hazel extract makes a nice, mild toner. You can add essential oils to the mix at a rate of 3-6 drops of essential oil to one ounce of witch hazel. Some desirable choices include lavender, patchouli, frankincense, and/or rose oil.
To use this toner, use a spray bottle and simply apply to your face with a clean cotton pad after completing your usual skin cleansing routine.
It’s important to note that you should only make a small amount of this toner at once because vitamin C breaks down very quickly. Be sure to store the mixture in a dark brown or blue bottle in a cool, dry place such as your medicine cabinet. You may even want to keep it in your refrigerator.
Witch Hazel Facial Toner is a Natural, Affordable Choice
Alcohol-free toner like this is excellent for both cleansing and toning your facial skin. It helps keep oil production under control while tightening and toning your pores. Because it is all-natural and gentle, it is hypoallergenic, and a wonderful choice for people with sensitive skin.
Witch hazel has been in use for soothing and healing skin for many centuries. It is simultaneously mild, powerful, and versatile. Used as a toner in conjunction with the appropriate choices in essential oils and other healing ingredients, it can bring relief from sunburn, windburn, razor burn, acne, excessive oil production, and numerous other conditions that may plague your facial skin.
Its antioxidant properties make it an effective treatment for fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and other signs of aging. Its cleansing, soothing, healing properties, along with its attractive price, make witch hazel a valuable addition to your health, beauty, and personal care arsenal.