- What Is Witch Hazel?
- Top 10 Uses and Health Benefits
- How to Safely Use (Dosage and Preparations)
- Precautions and Side Effects
Today, we have hundreds of different beauty products available to us — acne washes, toners, scrubs, etc. — but what did people use thousands of years ago before commercial chemicals existed to help heal their skin? When it comes to natural skin care, one time-honored medicinal plant is witch hazel, which American Indians relied on for fighting swelling, sores and infections.
There may be no plant more beneficial to your skin, as research showcases the many advantages witch hazel provides.
What is witch hazel good for?
Thanks to its astringent properties, it’s one of the most effective natural acne treatments known to man — and it’s even been shown to help protect against skin cancer. Other benefits include naturally reducing blisters, insect bites, poison ivy, inflammation, hemorrhoids, toothaches and much more.
So if you’re looking for cleaner, healthier skin with the help from a natural product, look no further than witch hazel.
What Is Witch Hazel?
The witch hazel plant (which has the species name Hamamelis virginiana) is a type of plant native to North America and a member of the Hamamelidaceae plant family. Sometimes also called winterbloom, the bark and leaves of the witch hazel plant are used to make a skin-healing astringent.
Does witch hazel kill germs?
Yes, this multi-purpose product has many uses, including killing bacteria that can live within skin’s pores. The most popular use is for skin care, since its strong antioxidant and astringent properties can keep acne, wrinkles and more at bay. It can also help stop cellular damage that can lead to skin cancer, while preventing signs of aging and speeding up healing.
When it comes to the products that you apply directly to your skin, you always want to treat the surface of your body how you would the inside: Avoid as many chemicals and toxins as possible. Witch hazel offers benefits over other beauty products because it’s completely natural and free of environmental pollutants, irritating ingredients, fake fragrances and other contaminants.
How Witch Hazel Works
How can witch hazel do so much? High levels of healing active ingredients reduce inflammation, cellular damage and swelling, while also soothing wounds.
- The bark, twigs and leaves of the plant are used to extract active constituents called polyphenols and tannins. They’re then added to either alcohol or water to make a concentrated product called witch hazel water, Hamamelis water or distilled witch hazel extract.
- Tannins are responsible for making witch hazel extract a natural astringent, since they remove excess oil from skin. This is the reason why witch hazel is one of the most popular natural acne treatments worldwide and is used in dozens of over-the-counter treatment gels, washes and lotions. Studies also show that tannins from witch hazel can be used to make plant-based antivirals, such as to fight the flu and other illnesses.
- In addition to tannins, witch hazel is high in compounds called “gallate esters,” which include proanthocyanidins that have antiviral effects, hydrolyzable tannins (galloylated sugars) and methyl gallate.
- Witch hazel extract is considered to be polyphenolic and has been shown to help inhibit cell proliferation in cancerous human cells. Studies show that it is capable of stopping mutated cell cycles and inducing apoptosis (death of dangerous cells).
Because witch hazel is a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, it’s effective as a “free radical scavenger.” This means it helps protect against DNA damage and tumor growth. Oxidative stress and free radical damage build up over time from exposure to things like UV light, pollution, a poor diet, stress and so on. Plants like witch hazel that are high in polyphenols are the same kind used to create anti-aging nutritional supplements that slow down disease development by protecting cells.
Top 10 Uses and Health Benefits
Witch hazel has been used for centuries to naturally help treat and prevent:
- skin sores
- redness and swelling
- ingrown hairs
- psoriasis or eczema
- oily skin
- excess sweating
- varicose veins
- cracked or blistered skin
- insect bites
- poison ivy
- irritated scalp
- sunburn and melanoma
- razor burn
- mucous membrane inflammation
- allergic reactions
Recent studies even show that the tannins found in witch hazel may exert a protective action against colon cancer cells.
The skin is our largest and most vulnerable organ, so it could use all the support it can get. Skin is our natural barrier to the outside world and provides us with protection against UV radiation, chemicals in our food supply, bacteria and other germs, and environmental pollutants.
All of the “stress” that our bodies deal with every day, both internally and externally, show up on our skin in the form of aging, puffiness, infections, inflammation and sensitivities. That’s why we rely on eating and using natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatories to help curb inflamed and diseased cells.
Herbal plant therapies for skin disorders have been used for thousands of years, and today many traditional herbs are being reintroduced, studied extensively and experiencing a resurgence in popularity since many chemical treatments don’t always work or have harsh side effects.
As the authors of the book “Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects” point out, more and more people are turning to the use of herbs for the following reasons: the side effects of chemical drugs, wanting to return to nature, being a part of the green revolution, and wanting to use more organic and safe products.
1. Reduces Acne
What does witch hazel do for acne?
As a natural home remedy for acne, applying witch hazel to acne-prone skin can help slow down bacteria growth and decrease inflammation, redness, oiliness and bleeding.
Can you clean your face with witch hazel?
Yes, since it’s a natural cleanser, it’s capable of reducing bacteria growth on the skin and speeds up the time needed to heal infections or scabs.
Another benefit for sensitive skin is that it reduces the look of pores (although no product can actually shrink pores) and helps stop excess oil production, sweating, and development of blackheads or whiteheads, which can contribute to breakouts and tempt you to pick at your skin. You can skip irritating acne products and turn to witch hazel to lower the severity of blemishes forming under the skin and prevent blackheads caused by dried sebum buildup in pores.
How long does witch hazel take to clear acne?
It depends on how severe someone’s acne is. It may take effect in just several days or take several weeks.
Does witch hazel get rid of acne scars?
It can help, due to its anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Applying some can help stop swelling and redness if you already picked at your acne. It can also curb signs of past irritations and deal with skin infections that may result from picking.