8 Easy Ways to Use Witch Hazel for Skin

Close-up of witch hazel shrub blooming yellow flowers

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Linguistically, the "witch" in "witch hazel" hails from the Middle English word "wynch," meaning "flexible." Indeed, the branches of the witch hazel tree were known for being malleable enough to be shaped into bows before the time of colonization—but today, witch hazel's namesake flexibility manifests mostly in its many uses as a household cleaner, natural disinfectant, aromatherapeutic scent, and skin aid. 

The beauty industry loves to include the versatile ingredient in toners, serums, moisturizers, cleansers, bath products, deodorants, and more. And unlike other astringents, it removes excess oil and grime without dehydrating skin. Plus, witch hazel is much gentler on both you and the planet than its chemical counterpart, rubbing alcohol.

Here are 8 ways to use witch hazel for skin.

What Is Witch Hazel?

Witch hazel is a non-alcoholic astringent that comes from the leaves and bark of a shrub that shares its name (also called winterbloom and Hamamelis). The deciduous flowering bush is indigenous to the U.S. and can still be found in many damp woods throughout North America.

Choosing Sustainable Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is often distilled with alcohol in commercial beauty products. Make sure you're purchasing 100% pure, USDA-certified organic witch hazel—preferably sourced locally and responsibly. Categorized as a Class 1 substance (i.e., the safest to consume) in the American Herbal Products Association's "Botanical Safety Handbook," it is considered fine for most people to apply directly onto skin.

As with any new topical ingredient, though, you should perform a patch test on your hand to find out whether witch hazel causes irritation before applying it to your face.

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Use It as a Toner

Close-up of person pouring toner onto a cotton pad

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Witch hazel is more commonly featured in toners and astringents than any other beauty category. That's because the botanical extract itself is a natural astringent, meaning it has the power to eliminate oil, dirt, and makeup while also shrinking and constricting your body tissue, leading to tightened pores. 

Most commercial astringents include alcohol, even sometimes when they also feature witch hazel. But alcohol is a volatile organic compound that creates ground-level ozone. So, make sure you're using pure witch hazel. Apply it to your face with a reusable cotton round after cleansing and before applying moisturizer or oil. 

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Cleanse Oily Skin

Person washing face with cloth in the mirror

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Witch hazel's ability to cut through grease makes it great as a gentle cleanser for especially oily skin.

The botanical extract contains antioxidant-rich tannins that deep clean and refine pores without stripping the skin entirely of its beneficial moisture barrier. Other astringents, such as rubbing alcohol, have the opposite effect.

Start by using it just once a day, either like a micellar water (soak a reusable cotton round with it and gently wipe your face) or by including it in a soap-free cleanser recipe. Try, for instance, mixing half a cup of witch hazel with a quarter-cup of rose water and two tablespoons of vegetable glycerin or aloe vera gel. Trust that it will get the job done even without the foaming qualities of traditional cleansers.

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Reduce Under-Eye Puffiness

Smiling person wearing beauty patches under their eyes

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The same tannins that help clean also combat inflammation. After a restless night, apply a soaked cloth to the swollen bags under your eyes and let it sit for five minutes. You can leave the solution on your skin or wipe it away if you find that it's causing dryness. 


Make sure to keep your eyes closed when applying witch hazel; otherwise, you could experience burning and irritation.

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Soothe Insect Bites

Close-up of mosquito on a person's hand

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Witch hazel works the same way on bug bites as it does on puffy eyes: It constricts the blood vessels that cause inflammation.

The European Medicines Agency, a decentralized body of the European Union, recognizes witch hazel as a remedy for swelling, skin redness, and itchiness—basically, the trifecta of insect bite side effects. The antimicrobial activity can also help prevent the bite from becoming infected.

Apply witch hazel, either pure or diluted with water, directly to bug bites using a reusable cotton pad.

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Relieve Razor Burn

Two blue spray bottles on textured surface with dried lavender

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Razor burn is essentially a rash that occurs after shaving. It's often remedied with the over-the-counter steroid hydrocortisone, a synthetic version of naturally occurring cortisol. Standard hydrocortisone creams contain a plethora of alcohols, sulfates, and preservatives. This all-natural floral spray is much less harsh and perhaps just as soothing.


  • 1 tablespoon fractionated coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers
  • 2 tablespoons dried calendula flowers
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon pure witch hazel
  • 6 drops lavender essential oil
  • 6 drops tea tree oil


  1. Infuse dried flowers in boiling water for 30 minutes, then allow to cool completely.
  2. Remove the dried flowers either with a slotted spoon or by straining the liquid into a separate bowl. Avoid the annoyance of picking out tiny pieces by using a tea infuser instead.
  3. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
  4. Transfer to sterilized spray bottles and use within six months.
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Make a Natural Spot Treatment

Chopped aloe plant surrounding glass bottle of clear liquid

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Make your own DIY spot treatment by whisking together a tablespoon of pure aloe vera gel, a teaspoon of witch hazel, 10 drops of tea tree oil, and five drops each of frankincense and lavender essential oil.

Apply this mixture only to blemishes—do not rub it all over your face—up to three times per day.

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Use It as Deodorant

Glass bottle of oil beside orange wedges

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Studies have shown witch hazel to effectively inhibit bacterial growth. Bacteria being the main culprit of armpit odor, the extract might actually curb the stink. It won't keep you dry, per se—antiperspirants typically contain aluminum—but this all-natural DIY deodorant spray could at least keep you smelling fresh when you do sweat.

For a basic deodorant, mix a quarter-cup of witch hazel with two tablespoons of distilled white vinegar. The scent of witch hazel has been described as woody, similar to root beer or sarsaparilla, so if you desire something a little more fruity or floral, feel free to add in a few drops of sweet orange or lavender oil. 

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Massage It Into Your Scalp

Person with wet hair massaging scalp in shower

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The scalp is nothing more than a particularly hairy patch of skin and should thus be treated with the same level of care.

Perhaps you experience dandruff or dryness of the scalp—but even if you don't, massaging a bit of witch hazel into that skin will pump it with nutritious antioxidants that keep hair healthy. The astringent is naturally soothing and can also be used as a sort of dry shampoo thanks to its oil-dissolving properties.

The Environmental Working Group has identified witch hazel in a handful of commercial hair products, including serums and conditioners.

View Article Sources
  1. "Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel)." Environmental Working Group.

  2. Shenefelt, Philip D. "Chapter 18: Herbal Treatment for Dermatologic Disorders." Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, 2nd edition, 2011.

  3. "Technical Overview of Volatile Organic Compounds." United States Environmental Protection Agency.

  4. Abbas, Talib F., et al. "Antibacterial Activity and Medical Properties of Witch Hazel Hamamelis virginiana." Annals of Tropical Medicine & Public Health, vol. 23, no. 11, 2020., doi:10.36295/ASRO.2020.231146

  5. BenSaad, Lamees A., et al. "Anti-Inflammatory Potential of Ellagic Acid, Gallic Acid and Punicalagin A&B Isolated from Punica granatum." BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, vol. 17, 2017., doi:10.1186/s12906-017-1555-0

  6. "Assessment Report on Hamamelis Virginiana L., Cortex; Hamamelis Virginiana L., Folium; Hamamelis Virginiana L., Folium et Cortex aut Ramunculus Destillatum." European Medicines Agency Committee on Herbal Medicine Products, 2009.

  7. "Is Deodorant Harmful for Your Health?" Penn Medicine, 2019.