Witch Hazel for Skin: Why It Works and How to Use It

When it comes to improving your skin health there are loads of natural skin care products that can help.  Essential oils, carrier oils (like coconut), homemade moisturizers and other ingredients are all great.

But one of the most popular ‘natural’ skin care products out there is witch hazel, and for good reason. It is inexpensive, easy to find, and has so many uses.

I’ve been using witch hazel since my teenage years.  It was the perfect toner for my oily skin and it always made my skin feel ‘clean’ without stripping it of natural oils.  Today I still use it but have to share it with my daughter who has also become a big fan.

Not only is witch hazel great for skin, it is a handy addition to any medicine cabinet.

Here we’ll take a close look at witch hazel, how it can be used for skin care and where to buy it.

What is Witch Hazel?

So, what exactly is witch hazel?

You might have seen bottles of this clear liquid at your local drug store or health food store and aren’t sure what it is.  It looks just like water but there is more to it than that…trust me.

witch hazel plant
Witch Hazel Plant

Witch hazel is a type of herb that typically grows in North America. It’s botanical name is Hamamelis virginiana and it was originally used by Native Americans as a natural medicinal herb.

The witch hazel plant is most commonly processed via steam distillation.  Both the leaves and bark of the plant are used to produce a mildly astringent product.

At home, you can also make your own ‘real’ witch hazel that is even more beneficial than many commercial versions.  This is because the healing tannins in witch hazel aren’t reduced like they are during the commercial distillation process.  Tannins from the bark give witch hazel it’s astringent properties (read more below)

To make witch hazel, take leaves and bark of the plant, boil them for 3 minutes then allow to cool.  Strain the liquid and keep it in the fridge for up to 1 month. Use as required.

There are a few different uses for witch hazel, as you will learn below, but it is most often used as a toner and face rinse. There are so many natural healing qualities to witch hazel, that it might become your favorite new product in the home medicine cabinet.

Why Witch Hazel is Great For Your Skin

The next most common question about using witch hazel on the skin is why is it so effective?

Witch hazel works well on skin due to the tannins and polyphenols found in the herb. These are extracted from the bark and twigs of the plant when making witch hazel then added to water or alcohol to give the end product.

It is important to know that there are 2 different methods for producing witch hazel – a traditional ‘steeping’ process or steam distillation.  During steam distillation, tannins are removed which reduces the astringent properties of the witch hazel.  This is compensated for by giving the product an alcohol base which makes it astringent.

When traditionally processed, witch hazel maintains its natural tannins and astringency in a water base.

Apart from its astringency benefits, witch hazel has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.  These make it even more useful for skin conditions.

How to Use Witch Hazel on Your Skin

Below are some of the top ways you can improve your skin with witch hazel.

  • Astringent action
  • Improve acne
  • Help dry skin
  • Reduce stretch marks
  • Minimize puffy eyes
  • Hide bruises and skin blemishes
  • Natural anti aging
  • Relieve itching
  • Bug bite treatment
  • Protect lips and gums

There are many more options, but follow the details below to get you started.

Astringent Action

Using witch hazel as an astringent

Using it as a natural astringent tops the list as this is one of the best known ways to use witch hazel for your skin. When using it as an astringent, make sure you get an alcohol-free version. Most witch hazel products are going to be water-based (like this popular brand), but you should still check to be sure. Otherwise, it will work more like a toner.

When you rinse your face with an astringent like witch hazel, it removes excess oil while cleaning out your pores.  This helps reduce them over time. It will also remove other makeup or buildup left on your face after a typical makeup removing technique.

Improve Acne

Witch hazel is great at treating acne in a more natural way (here are some other natural acne treatments).

To start with, cleaning out pores by rinsing your face with witch hazel is going to reduce those pores.  Straight away this begins improving the appearance of acne.

Witch hazel also works as a natural anti-inflammatory.  When it comes to face acne this means reduced puffiness, pimples, and redness of the face. It is also a natural anti-bacterial, so helps to wipe out bacteria that can clog pores over and over again.

If you have old acne scars, the witch hazel can help reduce the appearance of the scars as well.

Lastly, witch hazel is much better for sensitive skin that is prone to breakout from other types of skincare products.

Help Dry Skin

If you suffer from dry skin it can be very frustrating. Dry skin not only causes dry flakes making it hard to put on other products, but it can lead to itching and pain of the face or neck. A great addition to your dry skincare regimen is to use witch hazel on your face.

Skincare products and cosmetics may be drying out your skin even more, without you realizing it. Try rinsing your face each day with witch hazel to get a little natural hydration to your skin.  This can quickly make a dramatic difference.

Reduce Stretch Marks

Yes, you can reduce your stretch marks naturally! One thing to keep in mind is that stretch marks are never going to go away completely, but you can reduce the appearance of them.

Alongside other natural remedies for reducing stretch marks, including vitamin E oil and certain essential oils, witch hazel can be a great help for this.

Get yourself a bottle of witch hazel extract that is water-based (like this one that smells beautiful). You then just want to start spraying your stretch marks on a daily basis – or multiple times a day. You should notice a difference within a few months.

Another option is to try dry brushing first before getting in the shower, then use your witch hazel and jump in the shower.

Minimize Puffy Eyes

Are you someone that is plagued with puffy eyes? If so, you might find it hard to keep it under control. Puffy eyes can come from a few different sources, including being tired, stress, too much time out in the sun, and just the natural aging process.

Witch hazel provides an excellent natural remedy for reducing those puffy eyes and dark circles under your eyes. Just dab a little bit of the witch hazel liquid to your under eye are with cotton balls once or twice a day.

Hide Bruises and Skin Blemishes

Getting bruises anywhere isn’t fun – it usually means some pain has been incurred.  And if they are on your face, neck or arms they can be hard to cover up with make up.

If you are unlucky enough to have a bruise or skin blemish, you might be able to reduce and fade them more quickly with witch hazel. Again, use a cosmetic pad or cotton ball to apply witch hazel to the area. It will reduce irritation, redness, and help them heal faster.

Natural Anti-Aging

Who doesn’t want to look younger for longer? While nothing natural (there are of course ‘unnatural’ options) will take 20 years off your appearance, you can help your skin to gradually age more casually.

Minimizing some unhealthy habits and diets can go a long way, as well as using natural products like witch hazel on your skin.  Witch hazel will help with aging in the following ways:

  • Reducing the signs of wrinkles and lines
  • Helping with sun exposure
  • Providing your skin with antioxidants
  • Tightening your skin
  • Reducing redness and puffiness

Dab it on daily to give your skin an anti-aging boost.

Relieve Itching

Witch hazel is fantastic to relieve itching skin. This is not only for comfort reasons, but for aesthetic reasons as well. When you have skin that is itching a lot, you tend to scratch it, which can lead to scars that are a lot harder to hide. Relieve the itching before it gets to this point by applying some witch hazel on irritated areas.

Bug Bite Treatment

Related to itching is using witch hazel for bug bites that result in irritated, red, and inflamed skin.  Witch hazel is a miracle for bug bites because it helps with all of this at one time.  Try my DIY Bug Bite Essential Oil Spray with witch hazel.  It will repel bugs, while also help soothe bug bites.

Check out these other bug bite remedies too.

Protect Lips and Gums

You can use witch hazel to protect your lips from sunburn.  Plus, if you have a little blister on your lip or inside your cheek, dab a little witch hazel on them. This reduces the pain and inflammation while helping it to heal a little faster.

Any gum blisters can also be treated this way.  You might want to combine it with another oil (coconut is a good one) for taste purposes if you are using it inside your mouth.

Tips for Buying Witch Hazel

So you now have a good idea of the many ways to use witch hazel.  But where to get it and which one should you buy?

Where to Buy Witch Hazel

The good news is that you probably won’t have much trouble finding witch hazel.  Make sure to read the label and ensure it is genuine with only natural additives.  To start your search, here are some good places:

  • Drug stores and pharmacies
  • Regular grocery stores
  • Health food stores

If you’re having trouble finding it check the first aid section. It is often found next to other first aid products like antibacterial soaps and rubbing alcohol.

What Witch Hazel to Buy

Pay close attention to the ingredients and label of the witch hazel you are purchasing.

First of all, you need to see if it has alcohol or not. Some witch hazel is alcohol-based and some of it is water-based. This does make a difference depending on where you are using it and for what purpose.  For example, if you want to use it as an astringent, buy a water-based product.

Also look at the ingredients to see what has been added (if anything).  Often additional natural ingredients are added to boost the qualities of the witch hazel.  While these can enhance the qualities of the witch hazel, if you have allergies they could give a reaction.

Witch hazel is a natural skin miracle in a bottle.  We always have a bottle in the cupboard and it gets used all the time.  As you can see above, there are many, many ways it can benefit your skin.  If you don’t already have some, give it a try. Your skin will thank you 🙂

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