Bewitched: The Benefits of Witch Hazel

We’ve all seen that bottle of witch hazel at the supermarket or drugstore, often next to the alcohol and peroxide…but have you ever wondered what it is? The name may sound harsh, but doesn’t have roots in witchcraft or the supernatural. The origin comes from the Old English word “wice” which means bendable. The branches of the witch hazel tree are known to be very flexible and bendable, and were used as “witching sticks” to search for precious stones. I don’t know if I’ll be using it to look for diamonds anytime soon, but nowadays witch hazel is used as a mild astringent, first aid disinfectant, and a soothing treatment for bug bites, eczema, and psoriasis.

            How is witch hazel derived?  The leaves and flowers are boiled in water, distilled, and alcohol is added as a preservative. Witch hazel is an astringent, which means that it works to contract body tissues to reduce inflammation, and it’s also antibacterial. This is very helpful, especially when it comes to your skin. It’s especially helpful for oily, acne prone, and combination skin, because the astringent and antibacterial properties gently clean the skin, minimize pores, and reduce the number of bacteria on the skin. I have combination and sensitive skin, and witch hazel is my staple in keeping my skin clear. Anyone with combination skin knows that it can be tricky trying to find a product that can remove oil and dirt without leaving your skin tight and dry. Over time, using witch hazel consistently results in clearer, healthier skin.

If you want to incorporate witch hazel into your beauty regimen, it makes a wonderful toner. Toners are important to any skin regimen because they:

  • Balance the skin’s pH level,
  • Remove any residual dirt left behind by your cleanser,
  • Minimizes open pores, and
  • Reduces blemishes by removing bacteria on the skin’s surface

My skin regimen consists of cleaning, toning and moisturizing my skin twice a day.  For example, I wash my face with Cetaphil soap, wipe my face with a cotton pad soaked with witch hazel, and apply a few drops of jojoba oil to my face.

The most famous brands of witch hazel are Thayers and Dickinson’s. Thayers has a variety of witch hazel products, infused with aloe vera, lavender, and rose petals, to suit your skin care needs. Dickinson’s goes for about $3-4 a bottle, while Thayers is about $6-10, but I like to use generic brands that I buy at the local supermarket or drugstore, and it costs me less than $2! Overall, witch hazel is an inexpensive and great addition to any skin care routine. Give witch hazel a try, and your skin will thank you!

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