How To Use Witch Hazel For Skin: 7 Uses & Warnings, Plus Best Products
While some skin care ingredients are general crowd favorites (think hyaluronic acid and vitamin C), others spark quite the controversy. One of the most disputed: witch hazel.
This ingredient has been used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans for centuries thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties1. Witch hazel has been used in commercial skin care products for quite some time as well, with new and improved products coming out every year. While this extract is typically found in toners and astringents, there are plenty more ways to use it.
Ahead, find out exactly how to use witch hazel in skin care, along with the best products to add to your arsenal:
"Witch hazel is a natural astringent, so it is often used to remove excess sebum and temporarily decrease the appearance of pores," board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., tells mbg. This makes witch hazel toners great for those with oily or acne-prone skin.
"I would recommend applying this step post-cleansing, before any topical medications or serums, then moisturizers, SPF, and makeup," King says. And if you find using a witch hazel toner every day dries you out, you may opt for every other or every few days instead.
Although, not all witch hazel toners are created equal: Some iterations include alcohol, which is where much of the witch hazel debate in the skin care space comes from (but more on that in a bit).
Balancing oil production isn't witch hazel's only benefit. According to King, this ingredient also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Plus, "It can be soothing to the skin," King says. So if you still want to use witch hazel but tend to shy away from toners, a face wash might be a better fit.
Your scalp is your skin, after all, and witch hazel's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties are A+ for this area as well. Especially if you're prone to oily roots and scalp buildup, witch hazel is a great ingredient to keep an eye out for. This astringent can be found in a number of different clarifying shampoos—one great pick below.
Feel free to brush up on witch hazel's scalp-supporting properties here.
If you have dry and acne-prone skin, a witch hazel toner may be a bit too astringent to use on your whole face. However, you may still opt for witch hazel as a natural spot treatment. It will help to absorb excess oil and ease inflammation surrounding the breakout.
"Topical witch hazel is an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory, and because many acne lesions are inflammatory, witch hazel has been used to decrease the redness and inflammation on the skin," board-certified dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, M.D., tells mbg about how to get rid of a pimple overnight. Simply dab your witch hazel product of choice over the blemish.
In your bath
Witch hazel is a great addition to a DIY bath bomb. But instead of pouring witch hazel straight into your mix, you'll want to use a spray bottle to slowly incorporate the ingredient (otherwise the bath bomb will start to fizz!). The witch hazel will add moisture to help the bath bomb keep its shape yet dry enough that it doesn't fizz out.
Here are step-by-step instructions to make your own bath bomb, plus five spa-grade recipes.
Yoga mat cleaner
If you frequently roll out your yoga mat, you should be mindful of how often you clean it as well. Bacteria and sweat can build up on unwashed mats and cause body breakouts, as well as increase the risk for infection when open wounds hit the mat (think blisters and small cuts or scrapes).
Board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D., FAAD, touts witch hazel's antibacterial properties—which makes it ideal to include in your yoga mat cleanser. As best practice, spritz your mat after every session.
One unexpected use of witch hazel: calming insect bites. Because of witch hazel's anti-inflammatory properties, it can serve as a way to ease redness and irritation. Be sure to moisturize the area afterward to prevent injured skin from drying out, and always patch test before applying to make sure you don't face any reactions.
Should everyone use witch hazel?
"Witch hazel can be used by all skin types, though it is important to remember that not all witch hazel is created equal, so those with dry skin should opt for witch hazel products that are formulated without alcohol," Garshick notes.
Even alcohol-free formulas may irritate those with sensitive skin or allergies, so it's always best to patch test before going all-in. Further, those with dry skin should proceed with caution when using any astringent, given it can dry out skin even more.
For those using witch hazel to help balance sebum production, take note that, "witch hazel won't address the causes of acne, only the symptoms," board-certified dermatologist Rebecca Marcus, M.D., FAAD, tells mbg. So if you're experiencing breakouts, witch hazel alone likely won't clear your acne. You may need to test out some acne treatments in addition to your witch hazel step.
Witch hazel has been used in skin care for centuries for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some people deem witch hazel a hard skin care no-go, but most dermatologists do back the ingredient, especially when formulated without alcohol. Witch hazel can be a great addition for those with acne-prone skin, but it won't necessarily clear acne altogether. To learn more about how acne works, including possible causes and treatments, check out our full breakdown here.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.