Witch hazel is one of the oldest beauty ingredients in existence and remains a household standby with multiple uses. Native to North America, the bark, twigs and leaves of the plant were used by the Indians to make medicine. It is a binding ingredient in both of my creams; I also recommend it as a astringent and toner after cleansing the skin. The brand I prefer is Thayers Witch Hazel with aloe vera and rose oil, although other people have their own favorites. According to Dr. Axe:
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. For instance, thanks to its astringent properties, witch hazel is one of the most effective natural acne treatments known to man — and it’s even been shown to protect against skin cancer! So if you’re looking for cleaner, healthier skin, look no further than witch hazel and its seemingly infinite benefits for your epidermis.
Witch hazel (which has the species name Hamamelis virginiana), a type of plant native to North America, is a member of the Hamamelidaceae plant family. Sometimes also called winterbloom, the leaves and bark from the plant are used to make a skin-healing astringent that’s capable of naturally reducing acne, blisters, insect bites, poison ivy, inflammation and much more. The most popular use for witch hazel is on the skin, since its strong antioxidant and astringent properties are perfect for killing bacteria that lives within skin’s pores, stopping cellular damage that can lead to skin cancer, preventing signs of aging, and speeding up healing. Today, you’ll find witch hazel extract added to a variety of over-the-counter beauty and medicinal products: anti-aging serums, shaving cream and aftershave, bug repellent, nail treatments, hemorrhoid products, and shampoo, just to name a few.
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. The extract can be used topically (on the surface of the skin) or taken internally just like medicine in order to help stop symptoms from diarrhea, colds, mucus colitis, vomiting, coughing, the flu and more.
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. 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, free of environmental pollutants, irritating ingredients, fake fragrances and other contaminants. (Read more.)