Witch hazel is a flowering shrub found in North America and Japan. Its leaves, bark and twigs contain tannins which have medicinal qualities. When distilled into a liquid, witch hazel is a common over-the-counter pain reliever found in many medicine cabinets. You may have used witch hazel to help with minor cuts, but the natural remedy has many other applications. Find out how you can use this $3 drugstore staple in new ways.
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, witch hazel is effective in soothing many skin irritations, such as hemorrhoids, diaper rash, and eczema. Preparation H cites it as a key ingredient in many of its products because it “can help cool, soothe, and provide temporary relief from the burning, itching, and discomfort of hemorrhoids.” (It is also recommended and effective to facilitate perineal discomfort after birth.) You can apply witch hazel directly using a clean cotton ball.
Witch hazel is a hemostatic grass, which means it can shorten blood clotting time. Applying alcohol-free witch hazel directly to minor wounds can help reduce bleeding. Because it promotes clotting and reduces swelling, it may also help reduce discoloration of bruises.
Witch hazel is a natural astringent, meaning it “tips up tissue and constricts blood vessels,” according to WebMD. When applied directly to your skin, it causes your pores to contract, giving a “feeling of temporary skin tightening.”
Witch hazel is effective in removing excess oil that can build up and clog pores, causing breakouts. (The soap cleans away surface oil, but the astringency of witch hazel can penetrate deeper into the skin, drawing oil out of pores.) Its tannins have natural antibacterial properties, further protecting the skin against blemishes. It is advisable to use witch hazel that has not been distilled with alcohol, as this can over-dry the skin.
A study published in the Journal of the German Society of Dermatology revealed that witch hazel plant extracts “contain antioxidant polyphenolic compounds that may protect the skin from sunburn and photoaging when administered topically or systemically. Research has shown that topical application of witch hazel to sunburned skin has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects. According Health linemixing witch hazel with aloe vera gel or peppermint oil enhances its cooling effect.
Relieves razor burn
When we shave, the outer layer of our skin is disturbed by our razor, resulting in cracks and bumps that can burn, sting and itch. As Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital, Told Initiated, witch hazel can be used after shaving to “remove residue left on the skin, calm inflammation and minimize the risk of developing razor bumps”.
Most of our research has advised using witch hazel as a short-term solution, not a long-term solution for persistent skin irritations.