Witch hazel has been used for centuries for treating insect bites, soothing tense muscles, helping bruises heal faster, and more. Although witch hazel is a staple in many households, far too many people still avoid using skincare products made with this natural plant extract. Why? Because a lot of people assume this plant-based astringent is too harsh for dry, sensitive, or aging skin.
While understandable, it’s important to realize that the astringent properties of witch hazel are widely misunderstood. Once you know the benefits behind the botanical, it’s much easier to see why so many people are using witch hazel to help keep their complexions smooth, supple, and hydrated.
What Is Witch Hazel?
Also known as winterbloom and spotted elder, witch hazel is a flowering shrub with blossoms that range from pale yellow to vibrant red. Each flower has four slender, strap-like petals that appear in mid-to-late fall. Once the leaves, stems, and bark of North American plants are harvested, steamed, and distilled, the naturally astringent extracts can be used on their own or as an ingredient in a wide range of personal care products.1
The Possible Benefits of Witch Hazel for Your Skin
Although witch hazel has been used to soothe irritable skin for hundreds of years, today, you’re bound to find a lot of conflicting advice about applying the botanical topically. Some sources seem to suggest that witch hazel can cause dryness and skin irritation, while others report soothing, protective properties. Both can be true, but there’s a catch.
Many plant extracts are high in eugenol, an oil-soluble skin sensitizer. Witch hazel extracted with alcohol tends to contain higher amounts of this potentially irritating compound. Which hazel obtained through water-based extraction methods is much kinder to your skin because there’s less (if any) eugenol.2
Whether used straight from the bottle or as an ingredient in a hydrating toner, witch hazel helps restore your skin’s natural pH balance. While restoring that balance is an important second step in any skincare routine, it’s not the only reason to consider adding witch hazel to your list of skincare essentials. Your complexion could also respond favorably to any number of the following benefits.
Acne is primarily an inflammatory skin condition most often caused by a combination of increased oil production, clogged pores, and an immune system response to C acnes bacteria. The anti-inflammatory properties of witch hazel are shown to help calm acne-related irritation as the natural antibacterial properties reduce the amount of C acnes bacteria populating the surface of your skin.3
Witch hazel is an excellent cleanser that won’t strip your skin of its essential lipid barrier. However, not all witch hazel products are the same. Many contain varying amounts of alcohol that can be too irritating to cleanse dry or sensitive skin, so it’s important to read product labels. When you want to use witch hazel for cleansing, it’s essential to use a gentle, alcohol-free distillate.4
Witch hazel’s high concentrations of polyphenols and tannins explain its antioxidant, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Since it has anti-inflammatory properties, health care providers often recommend witch hazel for the symptoms of several complex skin disorders, including eczema and psoriasis. Some experts believe reducing skin inflammation helps prevent uncomfortable flares. 5,6
The same alcohol-free formula that can help cleanse your skin and clear congested pores can also help soothe minor burns. As the cooling sensation helps alleviate discomfort, the anti-inflammatory properties help calm irritation and promote healing. Natural witch hazel is one of the few plant-based products that meet FDA standards for effectiveness and safety.7
Witch hazel is often used as a natural remedy to help reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks. Anecdotal evidence suggests the natural antioxidant properties help damaged tissues heal, while the skin-tightening effect of this natural astringent makes minor scars less apparent. According to several sources, all you need to do is apply witch hazel to the affected area twice each day.8
How to Use Witch Hazel Properly
Witch hazel can be an effective cleanser, toner, and skin-soothing moisturizer, provided you’re using high-quality extracts. Not only can this natural botanical decrease redness and help reduce the appearance of your pores, current studies also suggest considerable anti-aging potential explained by its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help protect your skin from the effects of free radical damage, the number one cause of premature skin aging. But before applying witch hazel to your face, consider the following recommendations.
Pay Attention to Extraction Methods
The alcohol content in a bottle of witch hazel could be much higher than you might expect. Companies using alcohol-based extraction methods are not required to list alcohol with other product ingredients. Since even small amounts of alcohol can cause uncomfortable skin reactions, look for a product made by a reputable company that relies on water-based extraction methods.9
Perform a Spot Test
Before applying witch hazel to your entire face, consider performing a simple spot test after cleansing. First, dab a small amount of witch hazel on one side of your jawline. Then wait at least 10 minutes and watch for signs of redness or irritation. If there’s no stinging, burning, itching, or other possible signs of sensitivity, you can apply the astringent to a cotton round and swipe the pad gently over your skin. After toning, apply your usual serums and moisturizer.10
Consider a Botanical Blend
People with oily skin tend to be more comfortable using witch hazel straight from the bottle, but not always. It’s also quite natural for anyone with blemish-prone, sensitive, or reactive skin to worry about the risk of flaking, peeling, or irritation from the plant’s tannins (astringent components).11 If you’re similarly concerned, consider investing in a witch hazel toner infused with a range of botanicals that help enhance its soothing, protective properties, a natural plant-powered formula made with avocado oil, honeysuckle extract, and hemp-derived CBD.
Could Your Skin Benefit from BOTA™ Balancing Micellar Cleansing Toner?
At BOTA™, we’ve identified the best plant oils and extracts nature has to offer. As the witch hazel in BOTA™ Balancing Micellar Cleansing Toner + Witch Hazel helps restore your skin’s natural pH balance, the cannabinoids in our full-spectrum hemp-derived CBD oil penetrate the surface of your skin. Once absorbed, the CBD interacts with important receptors found on nearly every type of skin cell. That includes the receptors that help regulate oil production, moisture retention, skin cell turnover, and the inflammatory responses that contribute to blemishes, breakouts, and collagen loss.12
To learn more about how your skin might benefit from our plant-powered toner, serums, moisturizers, and body care products, visit BOTA™ to read our Complete Guide to Natural Skin Care. All BOTA™ CBD skincare products are third-party tested, cruelty-free, vegan-friendly, and US Hemp Authority certified.
1. US Forest Service. L Stritch. (2021) American Witchhazel (Hamamelis Virginiana L).
2. Thayers. (2021) So What’s the Deal with Witch Hazel – Is It Good or Bad for Skin?
3. Prevention. K Brady. (2019 March 08) How to Use Witch Hazel to Get Rid of Acne Fast, According to Dermatologists.
4. Skin Care Geeks. D Wells. (2021-2022) Is Witch Hazel Good for Dry Skin?
5. American Botanical Council. G Engels, J Brinckmann. (2017) Witch Hazel Hamamelis Virginiana Family: Hamamelidaceae.
6. Healthline. K Cherney. (2019 January 22) Is Using Witch Hazel as a Facial Toner a Good Idea?
7. Academia. T Abbas et al. (2020 July) Antibacterial Activity and Medical Properties of Witch Hazel Hamamelis Virginiana.
8. A Few Shortcuts. (2013 March 24) 10 Wonderful Uses for Witch Hazel.
9. Zwivel. (2018 July 05) Witch Hazel Toner: A Skin Care Wonder – When Used Correctly.
10. WikiHow. L Martin. (2021 April 06) How to Apply Witch Hazel to Your Face.
11. Thayers. (2021) The Truth About Witch Hazel.
12. Molecules. (2019 March) Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic Potential of the “C(ut)annabinoid” System.