Witch hazel

What does it do?
Acts as an antioxidant
Reduces inflammation
Temporarily dries and tightens skin

What’s it used for
Oily, acne-prone skin
To soothe inflamed skin, such as insect bites

Potential drawbacks
May be drying and irritating
May cause allergic contact dermatitis

Evidence rating

Witch hazel is well known as a treatment for acne, and also as a remedy for insect bites. It’s been used in skincare for centuries, but there actually haven’t been many scientific studies supporting its use. 

What is witch hazel, and what does it do?

Witch hazel is an extract from the plant Hamamelis virginiana. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so protects the skin from environmental damage and reduces inflammation. It contains tannins, which can produce a temporary drying and constricting or astringent effect.

What’s it used for?

Because of it’s drying and skin-tightening properties, witch hazel is often found in products for those with oily, acne-prone skin and enlarged pores. It’s also popular for soothing inflamed skin and insect bites, as it reduces inflammation.

What are the drawbacks?

Witch hazel can be quite drying and irritating, and a potential cause of allergic contact dermatitis. In addition, alcohol is often used in the preparation of witch hazel products, which can dry the skin and damage the skin barrier. Evidence supporting its use in skincare is limited.

Granlund H. Contact allergy to witch hazel. Contact Dermatitis. 1994 Sep;31(3):195. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.1994.tb01972.x. PMID: 7821023.


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Spotlight on Skin was created by award-winning Melbourne-based dermatologist, Dr Julia Rhodes.

Julia knows first-hand how overwhelming the skincare world can be, and that’s with over 10 years of experience practicing dermatology. Given that even she gets overwhelmed, she appreciates how hard it can be for those of you without a scientific background to make sense of all the information available, and choose products that are right for your skin…