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12 Benefits and Uses of Witch Hazel

February 17, 2021

This botanical extract is a beauty and wellness MVP for good reason. We rounded up dermatologist-reviewed ways to put it to work.

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A Storied Remedy With Scientific Chops

Common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is a shrub that produces ribbon-like yellow flowers in the fall. The distillate created from its bark and twigs produces everything from time-honored tonics to modern compounds that some, like the Journal of Natural Products, have said might inhibit colon cancer. Witch hazel first gained a national reputation as a cure-all after the Civil War, when it was named “Golden Treasure” by the company that would later produce Pond’s Cold Cream. As classified by the Food and Drug Administration today, “Witch Hazel USP” (which conforms to a standard set by the U.S. Pharmacopeia, a regulatory nonprofit) is an ingredient “generally recognized as safe and effective” in a wide array of over-the-counter health and first aid products. Hamamelis virginiana can be a very handy plant.

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Proceed With Caution

While witch hazel can be very handy, be aware of certain precautions you need to take in using any plant-based remedy for what ails you. “Products derived from plants, flowers and trees are not risk-free,” notes Dr. Jennifer Krejci, an assistant professor of dermatology at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. “Poison ivy is a plant, but you wouldn’t rub it on your face or scalp. A similar allergy can occur with ingredients like witch hazel.” And if you feel that a product is causing a rash, you should consult a dermatologist. So, does witch hazel deserve “Golden Treasure” status on your shelf? Consider auditioning it for one of these uses.

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Toning Oily Skin

“Witch hazel can be a soothing toner for oily skin,” says Dr. Lindsey Bordone, a dermatologist in the department of dermatology of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. “It can also help dry oily skin during the day. Bioré makes a salicylic acid toner with witch hazel which is great for oily skin. Thayers Witch Hazel Toner is another popular product that many of my patients prefer,” says Dr. Bordone.

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Tackling Odor

“Witch hazel could be an effective ingredient in a deodorant because of its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties,” Dr. Krejci says. Note the distinction between deodorants and antiperspirants here: “Deodorant reduces the unpleasant odor of sweat while antiperspirant reduces the actual sweat that comes from your sweat glands,” she explains. Witch hazel is a scent-neutralizing ingredient in Pacifica Underarm Deodorant Wipes, a vegan product that also contains coconut and pineapple.

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