Witch hazel (available to buy on Amazon here) is a plant native to North America and parts of Asia that has been used for centuries for its skin soothing properties. You’ve probably noticed witch hazel extract in the list of ingredients in many beauty and health products as its powerful antioxidant and astringent benefits are known to help speed healing, prevent signs of aging, stop cellular damage that can lead to skin cancer and eradicate bacteria that lives within the pores of the skin.
The bark, twigs, and leaves of the witch hazel plant are used to extract active properties known as tannins and polyphenols which are added either to water or alcohol to produce distilled witch hazel extract or witch hazel water. It’s the tannins in witch hazel extract that make it a natural astringent, as they help to remove excess oil from the skin. That’s why it’s considered one of the best natural acne treatments out there and is used in all sorts of washes and treatment gels.
Plants like witch hazel contain a high level of polyphenols; the same compounds used to create anti-aging supplements that help slow down disease. As it’s a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, it’s able to battle free radicals to protect against DNA damage.
Now that you know a little bit about witch hazel and how it works, here are some of the reasons you should start using it on your face.
1. Fight Acne
No matter what our age, acne can be a problem, and witch hazel is one of the very best remedies. This natural astringent can help control it by reducing inflammation, and decreasing oil and redness. It can lessen bacteria growth on the skin while speeding up the healing of scars, scabs, and infection. If you have oily skin, it will help to balance the skin’s pH level and moisturize without leaving your skin feeling greasy.
Another benefit of witch hazel for acne-prone skin is that it reduces the look of pores, stops excess oil production, and it helps to stop the development of whiteheads and blackheads that contribute to those frustrating breakouts.
Instead of picking at a zit and making the problem worse, if you apply witch hazel directly to the area of the skin when it first begins to form, it can halt progression in its tracks, helping it to heal before it becomes bigger.
Apply witch hazel with a cotton ball anywhere irritation is experienced up to a few times a day. You should also use it as part of your cleansing routine after you wash your face. Saturate a cotton pad or cotton ball with witch hazel and wipe it across your face. You’ll likely notice excess dirt and oil dissolving right on the cotton, and you may be surprised at just how much there is – that’s how you know it’s doing its job. Afterward, your skin will feel smoother and tighter too.
Further Reading: 10 Best Home Remedies For Acne Scars & Pimple Marks
2. Nourish Dry Skin
You might think that if witch hazel is good for treating acne and oily skin that using it on dry skin is a bad idea, but you’ll be surprised to find that it’s the opposite. It removes the stuff you don’t want, like excess oil and impurities, and then nourishes the skin with healthy moisturizing properties that prevent the skin from drying out. Although witch hazel does remove oils from your skin, it won’t dry it out like most store-bought astringents. When you use witch hazel right after a shower, it works to seal in moisture, which is wonderful, particularly if you tend to have dry skin in the winter months.
3. Reduce That Puffy Eye Look
Puffy eyes are another common skin problem that many people face, it can be caused by allergies, stress, overindulging in alcohol, sun exposure, cigarette smoking and many other factors. The next time you wake up and find yourself with puffy eyes, be sure to have some witch hazel around, and you’ll have a quick fix for that problem.
Witch hazel is known to tighten skin, which helps reduce under eye baggage and puffiness. Just soak some cotton balls with witch hazel, and apply it to closed eyes. Let it remain for five minutes or so, allowing it to soak into the skin. Repeat one more time for severe puffiness. As it can be more effective if it’s cool, storing your witch hazel in the refrigerator is a good idea, particularly if this is the main reason you plan to use it.
4. Treat and Protect the Lips, Gums, and Inner Cheeks
If you get those annoying blisters on your lips, inner cheeks or gums, you can use witch hazel to help speed healing and eliminate the pain and swelling. It’s safe to use it on the inside of your mouth to heal all sorts of issues – combine it with another healing oil like coconut oil and apply it to sores, infections, bleeding, and blisters. It can even help with bad breath too.
Further Reading: 12 Home Remedies For Cold Sores Ranked By Effectiveness
5. Relieve Discomfort From Sunburn
Witch hazel can bring relief to a sunburn as healing damaged skin is one of its specialties. It will lessen healing time as well as prevent skin peeling and flaking. Treat a sunburn by spritzing witch hazel on the affected area, or applying a cotton pad soaked in witch hazel to soothe the inflamed skin. Instant relief!
6. Minimize Damage From Sun Exposure and Fight Signs of Aging
Too much sun on the skin promotes premature aging, and signs like wrinkles and loss of elasticity, as well as discoloration, redness, dryness, and scars. If you want to slow down those signs, witch hazel is one of the best things to turn to. It also helps protect the skin against cancer, melanoma and other damage that results from UV light, thanks to its tannins and polyphenols which are known to inhibit the proliferation of melanoma cells, helping to protect healthy skin cells as you age.
Chemical products found on store shelves, irritate the skin, increasing dryness by altering oil production, while witch hazel helps protect collagen and skin elasticity.
By combining it with oils known to soothe and protect the skin, like frankincense and evening primrose, you’ll experience even greater results, saving your complexion and helping the skin fight off the effects of environmental stress.
7. Treat Eczema
If you’re suffering from eczema, witch hazel can help with that too, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. It not only helps stop that incessant itching, but it improves symptoms like scaling, redness, burning and even scarring. One study found that patients with eczema who were treated with witch hazel on one arm, and a non-steroidal cream on the other over three weeks, experienced just as effective relief in improving symptoms with the witch hazel as compared to the cream.
Simply apply witch hazel onto affected areas of the skin twice a day, or for more immediate results, you might want to make a mask using French green clay and witch hazel. The clay, which is rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium and other minerals, makes the ideal paste that will immediately bring down heat and inflammation, stopping pain and itching in its tracks. Just add enough witch hazel to a 1/2 cup of green clay so that it forms a paste. Apply to the affected area and let it dry. When it’s dried, rinse off under cool water and pat dry with a soft cloth.
8. Refresh Your Face
Whenever you’re feeling tired or stressed, you can use witch hazel to refresh yourself. Simply add witch hazel to a spray bottle and keep it handy. Spraying it on your face will feel invigorating, while also helping to remove excess dirt and oil and soothing the skin all at the same time. You can also use it for tired eyes (not by spraying witch hazel into them, of course) but by soaking a cloth in witch hazel and cold water and placing it over closed eyes for about 10 minutes. Afterward, any redness should be gone, and your eyes will feel refreshed and ready for tackling whatever you need to.
9. Soothe and Prevent Razor Burn
Witch hazel’s anti-inflammatory properties help to stop those itchy, annoying bumps that form up around irritated hair follicles. You can apply it before shaving to help prevent, or after to soothe any razor burn that occurs.
10. Heal Cuts and Fade Bruises
If you ran into that kitchen cabinet or did something else that left a nasty bruise on your face, applying witch hazel three times a day can help speed the healing time to get rid of the bruise faster. The witch hazel helps to heal injured skin, reduce swelling and constrict blood vessels.
Many experts refer to witch hazel as nature’s answer to Neosporin when it comes to healing minor cuts. Use it as you would the famous ointment to cleanse the cut, protect against infection and encourage faster healing.
Where To Purchase Witch Hazel
Many products – especially those found on the shelves in large chain retail stores may be labelled as witch hazel. However, most are actually diluted with isopropyl alcohol which will dry out your skin and hamper its healing and rejuvenating abilities. When purchasing witch hazel, be sure you are getting a high quality organic witch hazel (like this one) which contains no isopropyl alcohol or other potentially harmful chemicals.