Lately, a lot of people have been mentioning Witch Hazel to me. They are using it after they wash their face, or at night, or to treat razor burn, … and usually follow up with “So, is it good for you?”
Let’s shed some light on this natural remedy:
A longtime staple of the beauty industry, witch hazel has gone in and out of favor over the years and is now hailed again as the hot “new” ingredient of 2019.
The witch hazel plants are flowering shrubs native to North America. Plant extracts can be used as an ointment; leaves, bark and twigs and can be processed into a liquid, commonly known as Witch Hazel.
Witch Hazel is anti-inflammatory, soothing and rich in anti-oxidants. Check, check, check for what we want in skincare.
One main group of antioxidants in Witch Hazel are tannins. Tannins have a drying and constricting effect: they make the protein in the skin come together. That’s why Witch Hazel is also known as an astringent. This can be beneficial remove excess oil from oily skin or to combat the appearance of enlarged pores. The astringent properties can also help prevent razor burn or ingrown hairs. The antimicrobial properties of the tannins can reduce bacteria growth on the skin, therefore help clear acne.
These tannins are not beneficial for dry or sensitive skin. Used over an extended period of time, Witch Hazel will dry any skin type. If the witch hazel is distilled using alcohol, this has a further drying effect.
Stripping skin consistently of its natural, protective and nourishing oils can actually compromise the skin barrier. That is the outermost layer of the skin consisting of cells and lipids (fats). The skin barrier is vital in maintaining proper skin function and health: the maintenance of water content and balance, prevention and responses to invasion by microbial organisms and antigens, reduction of the effects of ultraviolet (UV) light exposure and mitigation of the effects of oxidative stresses from free radicals such as pollution, smoke and sun exposure – which all contribute to premature aging.
Witch Hazel’s calming properties can soothe redness and stinging from sunburns. It’s anti-inflammatory characteristics calm irritation from caused by insect bites, stings, sunburn, poison ivy, and even hemorrhoids.
The takeaway? Witch Hazel can be beneficial as an occasional toner for oily skin (a few drops drizzled on a cotton ball) or remedy for specific concerns such as sunburn. If you want to add Witch Hazel to your skincare regimen, look for carefully formulated, alcohol free products with Witch Hazel as part of an ingredient blend.
Prolonged use of Witch Hazel by itself can lead to irritations, adverse reaction and even compromise the skin barrier leading to a more irritated, sensitive and compromised skin.