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5 Benefits of Witch Hazel

Are you looking for a natural product to spice up your skincare routine with? You don’t have to look far: witch hazel, a plant native to North America and parts of Asia, boasts a long list of both cosmetic and medicinal properties.

Traditionally used in folk and alternative medicine practices, witch hazel has long been revered as a remedy for sensitive, irritated, and damaged skin. And beyond the medicinal perks, this powerful plant also offers up a host of cosmetic benefits, which is why we’ve seen a recent uptick of natural witch hazel toners on the market. You can find those pretty much anywhere you’d buy conventional skin products, including online and at grocery and drugstores. You can also find pure witch hazel extract, which is best to apply directly onto cuts, burns, and other areas of the skin that might be sensitive or damaged. Just be sure to read the labels carefully when picking out a witch hazel product. Some contain alcohol and synthetic fragrances, which actually dry out and irritate the skin.

Photo by Sharon Shreet

Whether your skin’s in need of a quick pick-me-up or you’re looking for a natural addition to your first aid kit, here are five good reasons to let witch hazel come to the rescue:

1. It relieves skin inflammation and irritation.

Witch hazel contains tannins — natural compounds that act as an astringent, shrinking body tissue — making it an excellent natural remedy for puffy eyes, rashes, and sunburns. It can also be used to treat a dry and irritated scalp, which can ward off pesky dandruff, and suppress erythema, the reddening of the skin due to irritation or inflammation. It’s important to note that witch hazel isn’t effective against serious skin concerns like eczema, but it will do the trick for most minor irritations.

2. It can soothe a sore throat.

Again, thanks to its astringent properties, witch hazel can decrease the painful inflammation that causes a sore throat. Gargling a mixture of witch hazel and hot water can act as some relief, but be careful not to accidentally swallow it in excess. The tannins in witch hazel can cause an upset stomach.

Photo by Thayer's

3. It fights acne and excess oil on the face.

Because witch hazel causes tissue to contract, it will tighten your pores when applied to your face. Not only can smaller pores lead to a more even skin texture, but they can also help fight off acne, as they minimize entryways for pimple-causing bacteria. What’s more, witch hazel soaks up any excess oil on your skin, allowing for a smooth and radiant complexion — without the unwanted shine.

4. It can ward off signs of aging.

As if it couldn’t get any better, witch hazel also is full of antioxidants, which counteract cell damage and ultimately battle premature signs of aging.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

5. It can help heal minor cuts and bug bites.

Thanks to its antibacterial superpowers, witch hazel can also be applied to minor wounds to cleanse them. It also helps reduce the inflammation associated with bug bites, so it’s definitely a good idea to bring a bottle of witch hazel extract along on your next outdoor adventure!

Have you ever tried witch hazel for medicinal or cosmetic use? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Cecilia Seiter
Cecilia is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She writes largely about sustainability, especially as it applies to beauty, wellness, and the future of technology. She is a graduate of the journalism department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and is based in Los Angeles, CA.

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