For example, witch hazel extract acts as an astringent, meaning that it cleanses your skin and tightens your pores. Witch hazel has also been used for hundreds of years to soothe irritated skin and help heal minor wounds. However, witch hazel isn't for everyone and may not work well for certain skin types. Here are four ways that witch hazel is good for skin, and how to tell if it's right for you.
"Witch hazel has anti-inflammatory properties and may help soothe the skin," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital. Witch hazel's anti-inflammatory properties make it an effective remedy for skin irritation, like from skin conditions such as hemorrhoids, diaper rash, and eczema. That's why many skin products like ointments and lotions include witch hazel as a key ingredient.
How to use it: When treating an injury or irritation, it's best to apply witch hazel extract with a clean cotton pad to avoid getting bacteria on your damaged skin. You can put witch hazel lotion or cream on by hand, as long as you aren't touching an open wound.
As you age the collagen in your skin breaks down. As a result, the skin loses elasticity and starts to sag. This sagging makes your pores look larger, giving your skin a less smooth appearance. Though nothing can permanently shrink your pores, using witch hazel can make them look smaller.
That's because witch hazel is an astringent, which means that it temporarily causes your skin and your pores to contract, Zeichner says, which "gives a temporary tightening feeling to the skin." This is because witch hazel contains tannins, which are chemicals that compress the proteins in your skin.
How to use it: When using witch hazel to tighten pores, it's best to put it on your skin after washing your face and before applying any products like makeup. You can find witch hazel astringents like Thayer's Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel Facial Toner at most pharmacies.
3. Removes excess oil and helps reduce acne
Many people naturally have oily skin, but a build up of too much oil can lead to a shiny appearance, clogged pores, and acne. "Witch hazel can effectively remove excess oil from the skin, which is why it is useful in those who have acne," Zeichner says. While there are no formal studies on witch hazel as a treatment for acne, "we know that people with acne tend to make more oil than other people, and that oil contributes to breakouts when it gets trapped in the pores," Zeichner says. Washing your face with soap can help remove surface oil, but because witch hazel is an astringent, it can get into your pores and clean more deeply.
How to use it: To clean out oil-ridden pores, it's best to apply witch hazel after washing your face. Use a cotton pad to avoid getting oil from your fingers on your face. It's also important to moisturize your skin after using witch hazel, as overly dried out skin can cause your body to produce even more oil.
4.Helps with razor bumps
Razor burn or razor bumps can develop when there is too much friction between your skin and a razor, or when your hair curls inward and grows back into your skin. In both cases, your skin becomes irritated and inflamed, leading to swollen red bumps that can be painful. Witch hazel can be used after shaving to "remove residue left on the skin, calm inflammation, and minimize the risk of developing razor bumps," Zeichner says. Razor bumps arise when your skin becomes irritated and inflamed, so the soothing effect of the tannins in witch hazel helps keep them from developing. But be careful to pick out a witch hazel product with no ethyl alcohol, as this can dry out and further irritate damaged skin.
How to use it: To prevent razor bumps, apply witch hazel extract or lotion to your skin immediately after shaving to calm any irritation.
Risks of witch hazel
While witch hazel can help manage some skin conditions, it may not be ideal for people with dry or sensitive skin as it may enhance dryness or cause irritation. "In the event that the face.develops significant dryness, redness, or irritation, hold off," Zeichner says, warning that this type of irritation can lead to a disruption of your skin barrier. Your skin barrier is essential to keep out harmful microbes like bacteria and seal in moisture to keep your skin hydrated. If your skin becomes irritated from using witch hazel, you can use a simple moisturizer with few ingredients to restore your skin's hydration, Zeichner says. Moisturizers without alcohol or fragrances work best, such as Eucerin or Cerave. "If you have normal skin, you can use witch hazel daily," Zeichner says, but "be cautious if you are sensitive, and I would avoid it altogether if you have conditions like eczema or rosacea." To test if witch hazel is right for you, try applying it to a small section of your arm and see how your skin reacts before using it on a sensitive area like your face.
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