Witch Hazel Is the OG Skincare Ingredient You Need To Add To Your Regimen


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Along with the plethora of skincare products on the market these days, there's an endless flux of skincare ingredients going viral on a daily basis. And while social media is wonderful for connecting with people, we'd be remiss not to mention the amount of misinformation that comes along with these trends.

We've seen it many times. People hyped up hyaluronic acid only to tear it down the next day. Then, many praised retinol for its effective anti-aging and anti-acne results, only for others to say it destroyed their skin. (FYI: with retinol, there will always be an adaptation period as your skin acclimates to the active ingredient — it's all about starting slow and steady, then working your way up). In recent months, we've seen the same attention being given to witch hazel, an OG skincare ingredient known for calming irritation, reducing acne, and more.

Knowledge is power, so, we tapped two board-certified dermatologists to break down everything there is to know about witch hazel so you can make the best, most well-informed decisions next time you find yourself shopping the skincare aisle. From what it is to its potential side effects, their answers, below.

What is witch hazel?

"Witch Hazel, also known as hamamelis virginiana, is a type of flowering shrub that can be incorporated into a skincare routine given its multiple skin benefits — including that it can help balance oil production," explains Marissa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

In witch hazel-infused skincare products, Manhattan-based board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, says that the twigs and bark are used. "[They] contain therapeutic constituents that when extracted and distilled create the clear, fragrant, natural astringent that has been known for generations as a natural skin care solution," she furthers.

What are the benefits of using witch hazel on your skin?

Dr. Garshick explains that since witch hazel has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial benefits, it can help to reduce irritation and inflammation, balance skin’s pH, control overall oil production, and improve the appearance of pores. 

Specifically, Dr. Engelman says that witch hazel can be used to treat anything from mosquito bites and first aid to razor bumps and minimizing redness.

What are the potential side effects of using witch hazel on your skin?

Since witch hazel absorbs, it's gotten a bad rep for being excessively drying. However, it all boils to a product's formula and nothing to do with the ingredients themselves. "It is important to look for formulations that are alcohol-free to minimize the potential for dryness or irritation," says Dr. Garshick. "Furthermore, some witch hazel products may also incorporate other ingredients such as glycerin and aloe vera."

What's the best way to use witch hazel skincare?

Witch hazel is very popular in toners, but it can be incorporated into other types of products, too. Dr. Garshick saysit can be put into different product formulations, including cleansers, toners, facial mists, gels, creams or lotions, wipes or pads, depending on the desired effect. "For people with combination/normal skin, it can be beneficial to apply toner to clean skin using a cotton round twice daily — morning and night," she adds.

How to find the right witch hazel skincare product for you

Witch hazel is one of those ingredients that can benefit all skin types. But according to Dr. Engleman, you should always check to make sure the product's not diluted.

With that in mind, though, people with certain skin types should lean toward specific formulations. For example, Dr. Engelman says that people with dry or sensitive skin should opt for alcohol-free products, like the Humphrey's Alcohol-Free Toners, to prevent over-drying the skin. Additionally, Dr. Garshick says to look for additional skincare ingredients in the formulas if you're looking for something in particular. For example, if you're looking to hydrate the skin, the Thayer's Alcohol-Free Facial Toner with Rose Petal also incorporates moisturizing glycerin and aloe vera.

From non-toxic makeup and skincare to sustainability practices, Clean Slate is an exploration of all things in the green beauty space. Find out what's really in your products — and what's being left out.

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