You may have heard about the benefits of witch hazel, a natural extract, for skin and acne. But what can witch hazel really do for your skin? And is it effective?
Witch hazel has been proven to treat acne prone skin in three main ways:
It clears away excess oil on the skin
It removes overgrowths of bacteria
It has anti-inflammatory properties
While witch hazel has many uses, it cannot replace a complete skin care routine. That is to say that while witch hazel is unlikely to get rid of your acne alone, it can be combined with other effective ingredients to give you clear skin.
Witch hazel has been used for generations to treat many pains and ailments, so let's look at modern, medically reviewed studies to see if it still holds up, because some home remedies work, and some definitely do not.
What Is Witch Hazel?
The witch hazel plant is a flowering shrub with the botanical name Hamamelis virginiana, and it's found mainly in North America and Asia. Its bark, twigs, and leaves are processed into a clear liquid, which is then sold on its own or incorporated into other products.
Witch hazel, originally native to North America, was used in Native American medicine for everything from sore muscles and dysentery to bug bites and rashes, and today is it widely advertised as a possible solution for acne.
According to the most recent studies, witch hazel can be effective in treating acne. This is because it aids with three of acne's main causes: oily skin, an excess of acne-causing bacteria growth, and inflammation.
Witch Hazel’s Ability To Remove Excess Oil
Witch hazel is an astringent and antiseptic which means it can reduce skin pore size by tightening skin cells together and also clear out excess oil from pores.
However, be sure to double-check that ingredients list. Some astringents contain alcohol, making them items you definitely want to avoid.
Even if you have oily skin, alcohol can dry out the skin too much, causing irritation that can lead to inflammation. Since inflammation is one of the main causes of all acne, it’s always best to avoid it when possible. If you want to try witch hazel, we strongly recommend using it in an alcohol-free toner or astringent. One safe product with alcohol-free witch hazel is our Clearing Tonic.
Witch Hazel Might Reduce Bacteria
There’s some evidence that witch hazel can reduce bacteria commonly found on the skin, but relatively ineffectively. This is especially when compared to benzoyl peroxide, or even other natural ingredients, like tea tree oil.
If you primarily have pimples or cysts, you can try witch hazel on pimples, but, as we mentioned above, make sure also to use an acne treatment with other, complementary ingredients that effectively fight P. acnes.For example, the Exposed Body Wash utilizes witch hazel as well as salicylic acid and pro-vitamin B5 to fight acne.
Witch Hazel Is an Anti-Inflammatory Agent
There are many different theories on how witch hazel affects inflammation for acne. One is that its astringent properties restrict excess blood flow associated with inflammation.
However, it is also possible that those same properties can dry out and irritate the skin, leading to increased inflammation. Treating acne with witch hazel could be more effective when your skincare regimen also includes a moisturizer, as the Exposed Expanded Kit does.
Another proposed reason witch hazel could be an anti-inflammatory is because of its antioxidant properties. In an interview with Prevention, board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City said:
“Witch hazel... contains compounds called tannins that have both antioxidant and astringent properties to fight acne.”
An antioxidant is a good skincare ingredient because antioxidants decrease inflammation by combating molecules called free radicals and boosting your immune system.
A certain number of free radicals is completely normal and encourages the process of oxidation, which can help fight pathogens and infection. However, when free radicals and antioxidants are out of balance, the body can go into damaging oxidative stress. This often leads to widespread inflammation, which could increase acne.
All these factors make with hazel a useful ingredient in treating inflammation in the skin.
Our Trust in Witch Hazel
At Exposed, we believe the key to fighting acne is combining natural ingredients like witch hazel with scientific ingredients for a full skincare system, like the Exposed Skincare Basic Kit. We feature witch hazel in products like Exposed Skincare’s Clearing Tonic or Body Wash along with other, proven acne-fighting ingredients.
Both the Clearing Tonic and Body Wash also contain salicylic acid, a mild astringent that has proven especially effective with blackheads and whiteheads. This combines forces with witch hazel to truly get at the root of your acne, guaranteed.