If you’ve heard of witch hazel referred to in the skincare world, you’ve probably heard the word “astringent” mentioned. That is because witch hazel is most known for being a natural astringent, or toner, for your skin. However, in reality, there is actually so much more that witch hazel extract can do for your skin! Before we delve into the benefits and safety of this natural ingredient, we’re first going to touch on what exactly witch hazel is.
Witch hazel is the name of a plant that has some serious medicinal properties. It is native to both North America and Asia. The plant’s flowers are a vibrant yellow hue. However, witch hazel extract is not derived from these pretty flowers, but rather from the plant’s leaves and bark (tea can also be made from the plant’s leaves!). In fact, applying witch hazel extract topically to the skin or scalp, and drinking it in an herbal tea, are the two most common ways that witch hazel is consumed. To create the extract, the bark and leaves are distilled to bring out the active chemical compounds of the plant (AKA the plant’s magical properties). Now that you know what witch hazel is, it’s time to delve into the ways that it can benefit your skin!
We’ll get witch hazel extract’s claim to fame out of the way: it’s a natural astringent. That is why you’ll often see toners that contain witch hazel. Witch hazel extract is a major source of constricting compounds, and these work to make the protein inside skin cells come together. The main result is that your pores will appear smaller. It actually has a similar effect on your overall skin tone, helping to tighten and perk up the skin. Further, perhaps the second most known benefit of witch hazel extract is that it is an anti-inflammatory. Witch hazel is made up of several compounds known for their anti-inflammatory properties, including both gallic acid and tannins. It also contains antioxidants which further help prevent inflammation. Overall, if you suffer from skin inflammation and are looking for a natural product that will help calm redness and irritation, witch hazel extract may be the perfect remedy for you. This leads us to our last benefit, witch hazel extract is ideally suited to those with sensitive skin, as it is proven to be effective at treating inflamed or irritated skin. In fact, one study found that witch hazel extract was able to suppress erythema, even when only using a skincare product with a small percentage of the extract.
Witch hazel extract is generally considered safe for topical use. However, dermatologists do warn consumers to look out for witch hazel products that contain alcohol. In some cases, witch hazel extract is created by a distillation process that involves alcohol, and this can result in the extract containing alcohol which could be damaging to your skin. Generally speaking, if you’re purchasing a witch hazel skincare product, look for ones that are alcohol-free. Further, as this is a natural skincare remedy, there is not yet quite enough scientific evidence on its full effects, so with all ingredients, we recommend a patch test and a consultation with your dermatologist before carrying on with regular use.