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18th of November 2018

Women



This Natural Beauty Ingredient Helps Fight Acne

Astringent has received quite the bad rap, and in many cases, rightfully so. Many astringent toners of the '90s contained high levels of ethanol (alcohol) that was dangerously harsh on skin. Nowadays, we have more options when it comes to toners as well as natural plant-based options, like witch hazel. Witch hazel, a natural toning ingredient, rode the clean beauty wave and is now popular again in the beauty community.

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But, what exactly is witch hazel? And, does it actually work to fight acne-ridden skin? New York City-based dermatologist Robyn Gmyrek answered all our questions about the buzzy beauty ingredient.

What is witch hazel?

Witch hazel is a plant, but more specifically a shrub known as Hamamelis virginiana. The plant predominately grows in the eastern and midwestern regions of the U.S. and in southern Canada. The leaf, bark, and twigs are commonly used to make medicine. Liquid is extracted from the plant and distilled from dried leaves, bark, and twigs of witch hazel.This extract is then usually mixed with alcohol and purified water. It can also be combined with other skin-conditioning ingredients such as aloe and rosewater. Alcohol-free, water-based preparations of witch hazel as well as lotions, creams and ointments are also available.

What can witch hazel treat?

Witch hazel is believed to be helpful when taken orally for ailments like diarrhea, mucus colitis, vomiting blood, coughing up blood, tuberculosis, colds, fevers, tumors, and cancer. However, the evidence for benefit is not conclusive and it should be noted that witch hazel contains tannins, which can be irritating to the digestive tract. Some sources have even suggested they could be carcinogenic.

Witch hazel has also been applied directly to the skin for itching, pain and swelling, eye inflammation, skin injury, mucous membrane inflammation, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, bruises, insect bites, minor burns, acne, sensitive scalp, and other skin irritations.

How can witch hazel treat acne prone skin?

Witch hazel leaf extract, bark extract, and witch hazel water are used as astringents which can tighten the skin. The tannins (a class of astringent molecules) are thought to be effective when applied directly to the skin to reduce swelling, help repair broken skin, and fight bacteria.

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Can witch hazel treat any other skin issues?

It is reported to be helpful in ointment and cream formulations as an anti-inflammatory in eczema and psoriasis, but I could find no support for this in the medical literature. It is also anecdotally helpful in treating bug bites and stings, and soothing hemorrhoidal itching and irritation.

Can witch hazel cause negative effects on the skin?

Yes. If your skin is already inflamed or irritated and you are putting any topical on it you may sustain an allergic or irritant reaction due to the fact that the normal barrier function of the skin is not intact – (i.e. it has microscopic breaks which allow chemicals that are normally blocked from entering the skin to enter the skin surface.

Now that you've passed witch hazel 101, shop a few products below and give the ingredient a try for yourself.

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