Is Witch Hazel Good or Bad for Skin?



Witch hazel is another name for the plant Hamamelis Virginiana that produces an extract that has many medicinal uses including skincare.

Witch hazel acts as an astringent, meaning it can cleanse and tighten our pores.  Witch hazel has been used for hundreds of years to soothe and heal irritated skin.

However, witch hazel isn’t for everyone and can make some skin types very sensitive – so here’s how to tell if it’s right for our skin.

Anti-inflammatory

This makes it an effective remedy for skin irritation and why so many skin products include witch hazel as a key ingredient.

When treating a skin irritation, it’s best to apply witch hazel with a clean cotton pad to avoid getting bacteria on our damaged skin.  

Reduce enlarged pores

As we age the collagen in our skin breaks down and as a result, the skin loses its elasticity.   Loss of elasticity means our skin starts to sag.  It’s this sagging that makes our pores look larger, giving our skin a less smooth appearance.   Remember nothing can permanently shrink our pores – but using witch hazel can make them look smaller.

This is because witch hazel is an astringent and astringents can make our skin and pores contract giving a temporary tightening feeling to the skin.  This is due to witch hazel containing tannins – which are chemicals that compress the proteins in our skin.

When using witch hazel to tighten pores, apply it after cleansing your face and before applying moisturisers.  

Try:  Thayer’s Alcohol-free Witch Hazel Facial Toner 

Remove excess oil

Those of us with oily skin, clogged pores and acne can use witch hazel to effectively remove excess oil from the skin.    Those acne skin sufferers have more oil and that oil contributes to breakouts when it’s trapped in the pores.   

Again, apply witch hazel using a cotton pad to avoid getting oil or bacteria from your fingers on your face.   Do not forget to moisturise after using witch hazel as overly dried skin can cause the skin to fight back and produce even more oil.

Helps with razor bumps

Razor burn or razor bumps can develop when there is too much friction between our skin and a razor or when our hair curls inward which we call an ingrown hair.  Our skin becomes irritated and inflamed which leads to painful swollen red bumps.

Witch hazel can be used after shaving to calm inflammation and minimize the risk of developing razor bumps.

This is another time when we have to be careful to choose a witch hazel product that is alcohol free as this can dry out and further irritate damaged skin.

To prevent razor bumps, apply witch hazel to your skin immediately after shaving to calm skin down.

The Bad Stuff about Witch Hazel 

While witch hazel can help some skin conditions – but this is in the minority.  It will not be ideal for people with normal, dry or sensitive skin as it will damage the protective barrier.

When our face develops significant dryness, redness or irritation, this is a warning that our skin cannot use witch hazel.  Our skin barrier is essential to healthy skin.  It keeps out harmful bacteria and helps to seal in moisture to keep our skin hydrated.

If your skin becomes irritated from using witch hazel, use a good emollient moisturiser to restore your skin’s hydration.  

I do believe that if you have normal skin, you cannot use witch hazel daily.  I would avoid it altogether especially if you suffer from eczema or rosacea.  

To test if witch hazel is right for you, try applying it to a small section of your arm and see how your skin reacts before using it on a sensitive area like your face.