Witch Hazel for your skin: everything you need to know

Witch hazel is a classic skincare ingredient


by Nathan Katnoria |

These days it seems like there’s a new buzzworthy skincare ingredient trending on TikTok every week. Snail mucin, anyone? However, sometimes you just can’t beat the classics like witch hazel for your skin.

Witch hazel is a popular skincare ingredient which has been around for decades but has recently seen a resurgence in popularity as organic and plant-based skincare has taken off.

But if it’s been a while since you used witch hazel or you’ve never tried it before, you might be wondering how to use it and exactly what the benefits are. Luckily, we’ve enlisted the expertise of Faye Purcell, Product Development & Skincare Chemist at Q&A, to fill us in on everything you need to know about using witch hazel in your skincare routine.

What is witch hazel and what is it made of?

As Faye explains, “Witch hazel is a natural ingredient from the bark and leaves of the witch hazel plant.” The plant, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, is usually grown in North America and Asia.

The witch hazel plant has been used in skincare for decades ©Getty

What's the best way to incorporate witch hazel into your skincare routine?

Witch hazel is most commonly used in toners or spot treatments targeting oily skin. Faye recommends slowly introducing these products into your routine to avoid irritation. She says, “Begin by using it 1-2 times per week. As your skin builds tolerance, I'd recommend using it every other night. Reduce your usage if you notice your skin is becoming increasingly dry or sensitive.”

Is toner good for your skin?

Faye explains that toners were traditionally popular with those with oily skin types as they helped to rebalance the complexion and remove excess oil, but now it’s easy to find a toner for all skin types. She says, “Toners replenish your skin by prepping it for the rest of the products in your regime.

“My favourite benefit of toners is that they can help your other products to perform better – take hyaluronic acid as an example, which has peak performance when applied to damp skin. Remember, toners don't replace your cleanser!”


What are the benefits of using witch hazel?

Witch hazel, like many other plant-derived substances, is a source of several antioxidants which can benefit the skin. Faye explains that tannins, a group of antioxidants found in witch hazel, have an oil-controlling and anti-inflammatory effect when applied to the skin.

She says this has three main benefits:

  • Minimising the appearance of pores

  • Reducing oil

  • De-puffing skin

However, while there are many benefits of using witch hazel on your skin, Faye warns that overuse can lead to dryness and irritation due its naturally high alcohol levels. This leads us on to…

Does witch hazel have alcohol in it?

“Almost all witch hazel extracts are distilled using denatured alcohol (ethanol), with the extract containing about 14% to 15% alcohol. Using excess alcohol on your skin can lead to skin barrier damage, especially if your skin is already irritated,” says Faye.

However, this isn’t the case for all witch hazel products, so Faye recommends those that state they are “not distilled” or “alcohol-free”. She also advises against using pure witch hazel on your skin, instead look for a product which includes it as an ingredient to ensure you’re applying a suitable amount.

Is witch hazel good for all skin types?

Due to its anti-inflammatory and rebalancing properties, Faye suggests witch hazel is more suitable for those with oily, blemish-prone skin. If your skin is dry, sensitive or stressed, she recommends other oil-controlling and anti-inflammatory ingredients, like niacinamide and zinc PCA.

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