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Don’t let the name (or the touch-and-go reputation) fool you: you shouldn’t be spooked by witch hazel in your skincare routine. Now, you mightremember that back in the day astringents weren’t too popular in skincare communities - but that’s all changed.
Here’s why you should perk up when you see witch hazel on an ingredient list, and what products you can find it in today.
where it’s been used for everything from promoting skin health to fighting off infections and deterring unwanted pests.
Witch hazel comes from a shrub called Hamamelis virginiana that’s native to North America. The twigs, bark, and leaves of this booth have been used internally for centuries to treat diarrhea, tuberculosis, colds, fevers, tumors, and even cancer (though there’s not a ton of scientific evidence to back up these uses).
It has also been used topically to help with pain, itching, swelling, eye inflammation, bruises, and other irritations.
Now, most commonly, it’s used as an astringent. Here are the basics on that.
Astringents are specifically formulated to remove excess oil from the skin. They used to be alcohol-based (more on that later), though many natural astringents these days use less harsh botanical ingredients - like witch hazel!
That said, for a while, astringents were major no-nos in the skincare community. That’s because they used to contain a huge amount of ethanol (alcohol) which is extremely harsh, stripping, and drying to the skin. Applying an astringent, then, was like applying a recipe for dry and irritated skin.
However, this has definitely changed, particularly as great-for-your-skin toners, face mists, and essences made their way over from Korea and began changing the astringent and toner landscape for the better.
Now, astringents can be a great part of any skincare routine, helping to:
But that’s not all that witch hazel is used for. Here’s everything it can help with in skincare.
First, witch hazel can definitely help control excess oil production. It’s naturallyastringent, and it contains anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that can help control acne and oil - whether it’s in an astringent formula, in a moisturizer, or in a cleanser.
These anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties also make it great for treating razor burns. This is also due to the high quantity of tannins - a particular astringent molecule - which has been known to reduce swelling, help broken skin, and fight bacteria.
Antiseptic means that witch hazel can totally help with cuts and scrapes, too. Plus, it’s less likely to over-dry or aggravate small wounds.
The natural tannins in witch hazel can also calm redness or irritation, which can be particularly helpful for temporarily calming:
These astringent and anti-inflammatory properties also give witch hazel the ability to reduce puffiness, particularly in the undereye area.
The problem with many acne treatments is that they can be too harsh on the skin, particularly when you’re dealing with high concentrations and synthetics. This can cause irritation around the acne and dry the skin, both of which can actually exacerbate concerns in the big picture.
That’s why we recommend that you stick with naturally sourced ingredients like salicylic acid and witch hazel.
While witch hazel’s astringent properties can make it effectively dry out blemishes, it is less likely to overly-dry.This is especially true because witch hazel also contains skin-soothing and rebuilding antioxidants.
Choose alcohol-free products:Again, many old-school toners and astringents had high alcohol content - but alcohol is notgood for your skin or for your natural barrier. Make sure, then, that your formula is alcohol-free.
Incorporate moisturizing ingredients:In the same vein, you want any products that you use to also contain moisturizing and skin-soothing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, green tea, and MSM.
Check for reactions:As with any new ingredient, you want to keep an eye out for signs of adverse reaction. To this end, you could do a patch test on a small area of skin - like on your arm or neck - to make sure that you don’ thave any issues before applying.