- Witch hazel is a natural plant extract that can treat the inflammation and oiliness associated with acne
- Witch hazel is available in its pure form or formulated within toners
- Toners can hydrate and moisturize dry acne-prone skin
- Witch hazel can irritate those with dry or sensitive skin
Witch hazel, or Hamamelis virginiana, is a plant that grows wild on the east coast of the United States. It’s a natural remedy that can help repair skin and fight bacteria. This extract also works to tighten skin, and remove oil and dirt from pores. People can use witch hazel for acne to effectively fight inflammation and dry acne pustules.
Witch hazel is a traditional medicinal plant that has been used by Native Americans for hundreds of years to treat poison ivy, and cuts and bruises. Today it is commonly used to treat a multitude of skin issues, including itchiness, irritation and pain; it can also regulate oil production. It is available over the counter (OTC) in a distilled liquid, cream and ointment formulations.
Does Witch Hazel for Acne Work?
Witch hazel, in its pure form, has properties to effectively improve acne symptoms. It is a natural astringent that helps dry up excess sebum (oil) on the skin – a common characteristic of acne-prone skin.
Witch hazel can help relieve mild to moderate signs of acne, as studies have found it to be effective against inflammation.
These anti-inflammatory properties may be effective in reducing the symptoms of inflammatory acne. For noninflammatory acne, it could possibly offer benefits through its astringent qualities, by drying up whiteheads and blackheads, a type of blemish often associated with this type of acne.
Tannins found in witch hazel play an important role in tightening pores and reducing the presence of oils. Two specifically, hamamelitannin and gallic acid, target inflammation to effectively relieve the irritated and inflamed skin associated with outbreaks.
Witch hazel toners, another topical treatment, has a multitude of skin benefits and can help soothe the symptoms of acne in the following ways:
- Alleviating inflammation associated with acne breakouts
- Drying out acne blemishes and tightening the skin
- Removing impurities, makeup and oil from the skin’s surface to clear pores
- Calming irritated, red skin
That being said, there are negative side effects reported based heavily on anecdotal experiences – in addition to conflicting reports.
Some people maintain that witch hazel can effectively relieve dry skin; others report a worsening of dry skin symptoms to include redness, irritation and tightness.
Dry skin can cause the skin to respond by overproducing oil – an action that clog pores and exacerbate acne. As all skin reacts differently, it’s best to try witch hazel for a short amount of time to determine how your skin reacts and to monitor your acne.
How To Use Witch Hazel for Acne
To treat acne, you may opt for either witch hazel, available in its pure form at your pharmacy or a toner that contains witch hazel.
When to use witch hazel
Begin by using witch hazel once every two to three days. If your skin tends to be oily, it would be appropriate to increase daily use over time.
You can apply witch hazel either during your morning or evening skin care routine.
Using witch hazel toners for acne
Witch hazel toner is an effective treatment for the inflammation associated with acne. Astringent toners with a high tannin concentration can particularly benefit people whose skin is oily and prone to acne breakouts.
It’s simple to incorporate witch hazel toner into your daily skin care regimen.
- Cleanse your face with a gentle face wash and rinse with warm water
- Lightly moisten a cotton ball or pad with witch hazel toner
- Starting from the middle of your face, swipe the cotton ball over your skin, moving outward and upward
- Apply your moisturizer of choice
- Continue your usual skin care routine
Who Can Use It?
Witch hazel is best for people with oily, acne-prone skin. Its astringent and pore-tightening properties help fight the inflammation and overproduction of oil associated with acne. It can also help clear clogged pores – a primary cause of acne breakouts.
While it is effective for both inflammatory and noninflammatory acne, it is most effective for inflammatory acne as it addresses the inflammation associated with cysts and pustules.
For those with dry or sensitive skin, witch hazel can cause excessive dryness, and is best avoided.
Oily skin can also be vulnerable to overdryness if used too often; use with moderation.
Witch Hazel Side Effects
Witch hazel is considered safe, however it may trigger an allergic reaction in some people. Always patch test a new product before full application.
If you experience skin irritation, you may be applying witch hazel too often. Reduce or discontinue use if your skin shows signs of redness or irritation.
Witch hazel toners that contain alcohol could dry out sensitive or already-dry skin. If you’re concerned about irritating your sensitive skin, opt instead for an alcohol-free toner.
Can witch hazel make acne worse?
Yes, it can. If skin is overly dry, one side effect is that you may experience an increase in blemishes due to your sebaceous glands overproducing oil in compensation. Acne can also worsen if witch hazel is not appropriate for your skin and causes further skin irritation.
If you want to treat your acne naturally, but for whatever reason, witch hazel is not right for you, there are effective alternatives available.
Aloe vera is an effective, plant-derived acne treatment that addresses both breakouts and scars. It’s antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial.
Aloe is generally considered safe for use on all skin types and is not likely to cause side effects. It’s available OTC as a gel, cream, juice and cleanser.
Alpha hydroxy acids
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic acid are commonly used to treat inflammatory acne. Glycolic acid is available OTC in lower concentrations and is considered safe for most people to use. Higher concentrations are available in prescription form.
AHAs have exfoliating properties to help clear acne blemishes and help the skin retain moisture. They also encourage healthy cell turnover and can minimize the appearance of acne scars.
Benzoyl peroxide is a widely-used, popular acne treatment. It’s available both OTC and in prescription form.
Benzoyl peroxide helps to cleanse and open the pores, and is an antimicrobial that effectively fights bacteria. It is available in a number of formulations, including creams, gels, toners, moisturizers and cleansers. You may use it as a spot treatment or all-over treatment.
Beta hydroxy acids
Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) such as salicylic acid are widely used to treat noninflammatory acne. Salicylic acid is commonly used to address blackheads, as it can penetrate the skin’s surface.
Salicylic acid is drying, so if you have dry or sensitive skin, it may not be an optimal treatment for you.
Vitamin A is an antioxidant that can treat acne in multiple ways. It may be taken orally as a dietary supplement or a prescription medication. Topical vitamin A, also called retinol, is a highly effective acne treatment.
Prescription-strength oral vitamin A is a controversial treatment with a high incidence of severe side effects. The safest way to use prescription vitamin A is to only use it for a short time.
Overall, the safest way to use vitamin A is in topical formulations as oral supplementation requires high doses of A, which may cause harmful side effects.
Zinc is a mineral that is effective against mild-to-moderate acne due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It can also regulate sebum production and cell turnover. It’s available in both topical and nutritional supplement form, and works best for mild-to-moderate acne.
Witch hazel for acne is a naturally anti-inflammatory astringent that offers benefits to those with mild to moderate acne. It is generally considered safe, although some formulations containing alcohol could irritate or dry the skin.
Witch hazel can be used on its own or found within skin care products such as toners. While it can’t cure acne on its own, it can dry up oil and shrink blemishes in addition to relieving symptoms such as inflammation, redness and irritation.
Witch hazel is easy to incorporate into your skin care routine. Side effects aren’t likely, but if you experience increased irritation or signs of an allergic reaction, stop use and contact your dermatologist.
If witch hazel isn’t right for your skin, other natural alternatives are available, including aloe vera, AHAs, BHAs, benzoyl peroxide, vitamin A, vitamin E and zinc.
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