What is witch hazel?
Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is a shrub that has been used for centuries by Native Americans as a remedy for a variety of skin ailments.
Nowadays, you can find witch hazel in its pure form at any local drugstore. It resembles a bottle of rubbing alcohol. Even some over-the-counter creams and ointments contain it, such as those used for bug bites or haemorrhoids.
Witch hazel is proclaimed as a way to treat skin conditions that affect the face in lieu of a traditional astringent or toner.
But the ample availability of witch hazel doesn’t necessarily mean this ingredient is safe for your skin.
Whenever in doubt about using witch hazel, always check with a dermatologist first.
Benefits of witch hazel
When applied to the skin, witch hazel-based toners can ease irritation, injury, and inflammation. Some of the most common uses of witch hazel include acne, inflammatory conditions, and sunburn.
While certain types of acne (such as cysts and pustules) are inflammatory, witch hazel may possibly benefit noninflammatory acne like blackheads and whiteheads.
Witch hazel for acne treatment can act as an astringent by drying out your acne blemishes, much like other OTC treatments which are related to the active tannins present in witch hazel. These plant-based compounds in witch hazel also have antioxidant effects.
Inflammatory skin conditions
There’s also the potential that it could possibly benefit other types of inflammatory skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema. The thought here is that if the underlying inflammation is treated, then there may be fewer reactions in the form of rashes.
Witch hazel has also been effective when applied to the scalp.
Witch hazel may also help with under-eye bags. However, applying directly in the eyes should be avoided, or else you could risk burns.
Traditionally, witch hazel has been used in the treatment method for sunburns.
You can also apply it to the other types of minor skin burns. This may even be a safer method for razor burns (the irritation you might feel after shaving).
To use witch hazel for skin burns, soak a soft cloth with the solution. Then gently press onto the burn. Don’t rub it, as this can cause further irritation.
For scalp burns, witch hazel has been very helpful for both men and women which may be related to chemicals or UV-ray exposure. Witch hazel may be applied directly to your scalp in the shower, or you can mix a small amount of it with your regular shampoo.
Witch hazel is also used for the following:
- bug bites
- cuts and wounds
- diaper rash
- other burns
How to Safely Use Witch Hazel?
Most people use witch hazel safely with minimal risk of adverse side effects. Ointments and extracts can be applied directly on your skin several times per day and safely managed for the treatment of haemorrhoids after each bowel movement.
Some people may feel skin irritation or allergic reactions after applying witch hazel topically.
To prevent unwanted side effects and skin reactions, doing an initial skin patch test on a small portion is recommended.
Taking 15–20 ml of witch hazel per day is generally considered safe, ingesting more amounts may cause stomach irritation and vomiting.
Therefore, it’s best to only use it in small amounts and discuss any side effects or concerns with your health care professional.
Risks of witch hazel
While witch hazel can help manage a few skin conditions, it may not be ideal for people with dry or sensitive skin as it may increase dryness or cause irritation. If the face develops significant dryness, redness, or irritation, then this type of irritation can lead to a disturbance of your skin barrier. A skin barrier is important to keep out harmful microbes like bacteria and locks in moisture to keep your skin hydrated.
If your skin gets irritated from using witch hazel cream, you can use a simple moisturizer with a few ingredients to restore your skin's hydration levels. Moisturizers without alcohol or fragrances work the best.
If you have normal skin, you can use witch hazel on a daily basis, but be cautious if you are sensitive. To test if it is right for you, try applying it to a small part of your arm and look at how your skin reacts before using it on a sensitive area like your face.
Overall, witch hazel is proven safe for the skin. The condition is that witch hazel, like anything else applied to your skin, may not work for everyone.
If you’re trying witch hazel for the very first time, it’s recommended to test it out in a small area of skin away from your face, such as the inside of your arm. If you don’t see any redness, dryness, or rash after a couple of days, then you can try using it out on your face.
Also, witch hazel may not be advisable for certain skin conditions, like rosacea or extreme dryness. You may also want to use it with caution if you have sensitive skin.
Lastly, talk to your doctor for advice on handling any skin condition. They can determine which products are effective and safe for you.