Witch Hazel has a reputation as the solution to a wide variety of skin problems. It is said to help reduce acne and oily skin, and to soothe sunburn or puffy eyes. But how effective is it really for our skin? Is Witch Hazel good for your face? 

What Is Witch Hazel?

The witch hazel plant is a flowering shrub that grows wild throughout most of North America and Asia. The bark, twigs, and leaves are used to create a clear liquid that’s sold as witch hazel.  The plant itself is also used in topical ointments, but the clear-like liquid is far more common for skin care. 

Witch Hazel is a source of many different antioxidants, many of which are actually beneficial to our skin; however, one is a group of chemicals known as tannins. Tannins, when applied to our skin, have a constricting and drying effect. Yes, that may sound great in the short term, but the long term is where things turn ugly. 

Depending on which part of the Witch Hazel plant is used and exact alcohol proof,  it naturally contains about 8-12% tannins. Almost all types of witch hazel are distilled using denatured alcohol (ethanol), with the final extract containing about 14% to 15% alcohol. We all know that applying alcohol to our skin is the worst thing you can do because it generates free-radical damage and destroys our skins natural barrier that resides on the surface.

Risks Of Using Witch Hazel On Your Face

As mentioned above, witch hazel can cause and exacerbate all sorts of issues on our faces. It will dehydrate our skin, and will encourage every skin disorder you can think of such as inflammation, acne, and clogged pores. 

Many people use witch hazel to “dry up” acne, however acne isn’t meant to be dried out; this is what makes acne worse. Acne needs hydration, and witch hazel won’t help with that. 

It also will not help reduce wrinkles, sorry to burst that bubble.

What Can I Use Witch Hazel For?

Witch hazel has no place on our faces unless it’s for a first aid situation. Keeping a bottle of witch hazel in the cabinets for occasional use can be beneficial. Research has shown that it can help with…

  • Insect bites
  • Minor scrapes
  • Poison Oak and Poison Ivy

The Bottom Line

Just because it’s trendy or good for the short-term doesn’t make it good for the long-term. These narratives for witch hazel are misleading and you want to avoid them as best as you can.  Even if the witch hazel is organic and grown without pesticides… and even if it is an alcohol-free version, steer clear.  These are just hooks that are overselling their value beyond their right place.

Witch hazel has its place in our first aid cabinets, but it’s not the skin care solution we need.