Witch Hazel: Old School Natural Skin Healer?
If you suffered from teenage acne or have bought drugstore brand skincare while growing up, you would know of witch hazel. Native Americans began using its extract in healing medicinal recipes and by the mid 19th century, witch hazel was a staple in most people’s cabinets. It is cheap, effective and available in most local pharmacies. These days, witch hazel is slowly making its comeback as an important ingredient in premium skincare bottles.
Witch hazel, a flowering plant commonly found in North America, is produced by boiling the the leaves, bark and twigs of the shrub. The extract is extremely high in therapeutic tannins that reduces inflammation of the skin, combats free radicals as a powerful antioxidant and is found in any astringent for its amazing ability to tighten, dry and harden tissue.
The good thing about this old-school powerhouse herb is that it is 100% natural, abundant and cheap. When it comes to skincare, here are at least 6 uses for witch hazel.
1. Treats Acne
Don’t waste money on expensive toners made with harsh chemicals. Witch hazel is a potent skin astringent with impressive anti-inflammatory effects thanks to its high concentration of tannins. When used as a skin toner in moderation, witch hazel effectively tightens pores without over-drying the skin whilst protecting the skin’s layers from bacteria and reducing inflammation. It is gentle in drying out pimples and removing excess sebum from surface skin layer. Pimple size will reduce, inflammation will lessen and pores will be visibly smaller in size as well.
Useful Tip: Very often commercially-made witch hazel is preserved with up to 30% of alcohol which makes it very drying for the skin. Look for witch hazel that is alcohol-free or formulated with natural ingredients like rose water or aloe vera water to make it more soothing.
2. Loosens Blackheads
Let’s get this straight: Blackheads ain’t pores filled with dirt. Blackheads are merely whiteheads (oil clogged pores) that have oxidized when exposed to air. When you see a blackhead, it is caused by an over-production of oil and said to be the first stage of acne. Witch hazel helps to loosen blackheads with its powerful ability to breakdown and remove excess oil from skin. Give yourself two weeks of diligent use and you should start to see your blackheads disappearing and pores getting tighter.
3. Reduces Puffy Eyes
If you have just had a good cry or lack of sleep, don’t worry because witch hazel is amazing in reducing puffiness and tightening the eye area back to normal. As an astringent, it not only draws tissues together but also constricts blood vessels. This allows the skin around your eyes to shrink its puffiness and brighten up. Soak a cotton pad with witch hazel and let it sit on your closed eyelids for 1-2 minutes. Lift it wet cotton pad up, give a few seconds, let the area around your eye dry and then soak the eye area again. Do this repeatedly for a few times.
4. Fades Bruises & Varicose Veins
Witch hazel’s ability to constrict blood vessels and restrict blood flow makes it a great natural solution for bruises and varicose veins. It can reduce swelling and inflammation, fade underlying discoloration and heal bruising. Soak a cotton pad with witch hazel and apply it onto the bruised site. If treating varicose veins, soak a cloth towel with witch hazel and lay over area where varicose veins are visible. Meanwhile, try to prop up the area of treatment on an alleviated platform to decrease the blood pressure in the swollen veins.
Useful Tip: Works best on new bruise.
5. Eases Sunburn
Healing damaged skin is one of witch hazel’s specialty and sun burnt skin is damaged skin. The natural compounds of witch hazel extract helps to effectively quell skin inflammation from sunburn. It helps to draw out the heat and soothe the skin.
Useful Tip: Again, works best on fresh sun-burnt skin.
6. Treats Eczema and Psoriasis
Witch hazel is apparently a must-have for anyone suffering eczema and psoriasis because of its anti-inflammatory benefits. It stops itching, redness, painful burning and even scarring from such skin conditions. Choose between liquid form and cream form witch hazel for your purpose of application. For example, liquid form witch hazel helps with “weeping” or oozing of eczema while cream form witch hazel can relieve itching.