Witch Hazel Benefits

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Witch hazel is a product that can be used on the skin to help relieve a variety of skin issues. Witch hazel can come in a bottle on its own in liquid form. Or, witch hazel can be an ingredient in cosmetic or skincare products, such as shampoos, toners, and ointments.

When applied to the skin, the anti-inflammatory properties of witch hazel can help treat acne, minor skin irritation, and hemorrhoids. 

The product is made using the stem, bark, or leaves of the witch hazel plant—a plant that is native to North America. Witch hazel has been used for skin benefits for a long time, with Native Americans having been documented using the plant’s extracts. Today, witch hazel is still used to help with certain skin inflammations and irritations.

Witch Hazel Benefits


Because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, witch hazel has been used to treat, soothe, and protect against a wide range of conditions.

Can Help Clear and Prevent Acne

When applied to the skin, witch hazel can help clear up acne and prevent new acne from forming.  

This is in part because witch hazel acts as a natural astringent (something that causes soft tissue to tighten) by tightening pores. 

Witch hazel can also remove extra sebum from the skin. Sebum is the oily, waxy substance that helps prevent skin from drying out but if your body produces too much of it, the oil can clog pores and cause acne.  

Because of these factors, many acne cosmetic products, including moisturizers and toners, include witch hazel.

For one small study, people aged 12 to 34 with mild to moderate acne used a skin toner with witch hazel as its main ingredient twice a day. After two weeks, the study participants experienced significant improvements in their acne. In weeks four and six, the improvement continued. 

Not only did the participants' acne improve with the use of the witch hazel toner, but so did their overall skin appearance. The participants had less redness and inflammation after using the toner. 

Witch hazel’s anti-inflammatory properties are another reason why the ingredient might help manage acne, which is an inflammatory condition.

Could Help Soothe Skin

When applied topically, witch hazel’s anti-inflammatory substances can have a cooling effect on sensitive or irritated skin.

Witch hazel can be used to provide relief for minor skin irritation from:

Can Help Protect Skin From Air Pollution

Because of its pore-minimizing benefits, witch hazel may offer skin protection against pollutants. By applying witch hazel at the start of the day, you can help prepare your face for the pollutants to which it will be exposed throughout the day.

When pollutants attach to the skin, they can weaken the skin barrier. A weaker skin barrier means you are more likely to have UV damage, dryness, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation (darker patches of skin from UV exposure).

Air pollution has also been linked to flares in acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

Following a daily skincare routine that includes a witch oil-containing product might protect against such pollutants. Because of this, witch hazel extract is an ingredient that many manufacturers include in their anti-pollution skincare products.    

Could Help Treat Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in your anus and lower rectum that can cause itching, pain, discomfort, and rectal bleeding. Witch hazel is a popular product for treating hemorrhoids. 

For relief, the witch hazel product must come in contact with the hemorrhoids. For example, applying anti-inflammatory creams and ointments that contain witch hazel can offer itching and irritation relief. 

Witch hazel wipes and pads can act as an astringent in the rectal area, providing temporary relief to hemorrhoid symptoms like itching and burning.

Another way to treat hemorrhoids is by soaking in a warm bath. While more research is needed to say for certain, you can add an anti-inflammatory product, such as witch hazel, to the water to potentially help further. 

May Be Helpful for Those With Sensitive Scalps

Witch hazel’s anti-inflammatory effects have led people to use the product for a number of scalp conditions. 

One study showed that a witch hazel shampoo and tonic can help provide relief to sensitive scalps, including what is medically known as a red scalp. Red scalp is a condition of continued redness of the scalp that isn’t caused by a dermatologic condition. The redness may or may not cause itching and burning.

Witch hazel shampoo and tonic can also be useful in preventing or soothing scalp irritation that may come from long-term use of ethanolic topical minoxidil solutions in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern baldness).

Witch Hazel, Psoriasis, and Eczema 

Witch hazel has been commonly used as a home remedy for inflammatory conditions of the skin, such as psoriasis and eczema. However, the exact effect witch hazel can have in such conditions is still unknown.

Preliminary research into the potential effects witch hazel can have on eczema, though, appears promising. One study found that witch hazel extract might be able to help with the itching and skin barrier damage that comes with eczema.

How to Use Witch Hazel

Witch hazel can be used safely by most people on the face, scalp, and other parts of the body. Here is general guidance for how to apply witch hazel. Make sure to read the product’s label for specific directions.

  • For Your Face: Put the solution on a cotton ball or cleansing pad and gently wipe your skin.
  • For Your Body: Apply witch hazel directly to the sunburn, bug bite, scrape, or cut. Apply it as often as necessary.
  • For Hemorrhoids: Witch hazel products for treating hemorrhoids come in different forms. How it’s used can depend on which product you are using. For example, if you are using a hazel witch pad, pat the affected area and then throw away the pad. If you are using a wipe, you will gently wipe, pat, or blot the affected area.
  • For Your Scalp: Massage the shampoo into your hair and rinse it out.

Risks

Witch hazel is a natural remedy that is generally safe for cosmetic and other topical uses. If any reaction occurs in the area where you applied the product, wash the area with soap and water.

Because it is an astringent, witch hazel can be drying. If you are using more than one topical acne treatment, you are more likely to experience irritation and drying. If this occurs, use only one topical acne medication at a time.

While it won’t lead to serious injury, witch hazel can cause inflammation or be painful if it gets into your eye. If witch hazel happens to get into your eyes, you should rinse your eyes with water. 

Some literature mentions that witch hazel is used in herbal teas or ingested orally as a natural treatment for different health conditions. However, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration requires that all astringent products, including witch hazel, have the warning label, “For external use only.”

A Quick Review

Witch hazel is derived from the witch hazel plant. When used in a water-based solution or as an ingredient in skincare products, witch hazel can help soothe minor skin problems, such as acne, bug bites, and hemorrhoids. Witch hazel can also reduce scalp redness and help protect against the damage of air pollution. Witch hazel is generally safe when used on the skin, but may not work for everyone. You can first test it out on a small area of skin, such as the inside of your arm, to see how you react to it. If any gets in your eyes, make sure to thoroughly wash it out with water. Speak with your dermatologist about how to manage any skin condition, as they can determine which products may work for you.

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