Witch Hazel for Acne: Does it Work? How to Use It

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Have you heard about the amazing properties of witch hazel for acne? Well, you’ve heard right! And if you haven’t heard the good news yet, this all-natural topical astringent that has the power to fight off the bacteria in your acne, soothe any inflammation you are experiencing and encourage the healing of your skin.

If you’re looking for a natural way to fight off your acne for good then witch hazel is a great option to consider. We’ve rounded up a little more information on both acne and witch hazel so you can understand what they both are and how you can use witch hazel to your restore your skin to all of it’s pre-acne glory.

What is acne?

Acne (acne vulgaris) is the most common skin condition in the world. Every 3 in 4 people will experience it at some point in their lives. It’s most likely that acne will appear during puberty, while hormones are running rampant through the body.

In particular, the male hormone, testosterone, is responsible for the production of oil in the skin. During puberty, an increased presence of testosterone can lead to excess oil (sebum) being produced. This sebum can then mix with dirt and hair in pores and hair follicles to create acne.

Depending on the severity of your acne, you can have very few spots or alot. Here’s the kinds of acne spots you can experience:

  • Blackheads – Hair follicle that’s becomes clogged with dead cells and oil, turns black as it meets the air and oxidises.
  • Whiteheads – Small bumps covered with skin, will appear white as they are pores clogged with oil, bacteria and dead cells.
  • Pimples – Inflamed spots filled with pus, can be painful and can scar if popped.
  • Blind pimples – Painful, swollen bumps under the skin that contain pus but cannot be popped.

And here are the types of acne severities and their characteristics:

  • Mild – Non-inflammatory acne that is generally just referred to as pimples. Will only be a few spots that appear infrequently and will disappear on their own quickly and without leaving a mark.
  • Moderate – Acne characterized by a few different types of spots that are quite inflamed and filled with pus (thick yellow or white liquid signifying infection – a mix of dead blood cells and bacteria).
  • Severe – Abundance of all different kinds of acne spots, extremely inflamed and generally will need to be treated with prescription medications. Can and will cause scarring, affect pigmentation of the skin and is very painful.
  • Cystic – Characterized by many large, swollen blind pimples that are deep under the surface of the skin. Very painful and filled with pus, if one erupts it will spread the infection. Must be treated with prescription acne medication, often topical and oral medication will need to be used in conjunction.

Acne, although primarily produced from an over stimulation of sebum on the skin because of testosterone, can be exacerbated by many other factors. If you’re stressed, overweight, have a poor diet and/or don’t get enough exercise you will be more prone to acne. Some medications will also make it worse along with pregnancy and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

It’s important to consult a doctor before you begin any kind of acne treatment. They may be able to identify behaviours in your everyday life that are encouraging your acne. The doctor will also be able to diagnose your severity of acne and discuss your options with you in regard to treatment.

What is witch hazel?

When it comes to skincare, there may be no other plant that will help you more than witch hazel. It’s been used throughout the ages as a natural skin care miracle worker.

It originates from North America and comes from a shrub scientifically named Hamamelis virginiana. The bark of this plant along with its leaves are needed to create an astringent that was used by American Indians to relieve swelling and infections of the skin mainly, but it has many, many other uses.

Witch hazel has antioxidants, is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and contains tannins which remove excess oil from your skin without drying it out – which makes witch hazel a powerhouse when it comes to curing all issues skin-related. But it doesn’t stop there, witch hazel can also be used in medications that deal with insect bites, teething, hemorrhoids, sensitive scalps (as this medical publication suggests) and minor pain relief, to name a few.

Some of the most popular uses for the skin include:

  • Natural cleanser and toner for the face
  • Fading bruises and blemishes quicker than normal
  • Prolonged use can actually prevent further blemishes (acne)
  • Astringent to assist with shrinking pores and drying up excess oil on the skin
  • Reducing dark circles and inflammation around the eyes
  • Provide relief from sunburn
  • Mild eczema can be treated with creams containing witch hazel

Can witch hazel help with acne?

The short answer is yes, definitely. But we know you’re here for the long answer so we’ve broken down the most important qualities that witch hazel possesses for fighting off acne and clearing up your skin.

It’s an astringent

What’s an astringent? Well, it’s a chemical found inside witch hazel that will clean your pores out and shrink them so that there’s less chance of bacteria getting into them and creating more acne. It’s going to deal with your current acne and work to prevent future acne. It also dries up excess oil on the skin, which is the main cause of acne.

It contains lots of tannins

Tannins are a naturally occuring substance that have mild antioxidant properties, help balance the skin’s pH levels and have anti-inflammatory properties. This medical publication suggests the high content of tannins in witch hazel is why it is such a great astringent.

It contains antioxidants

Witch hazel has strong antioxidant levels which will reduce the amount of free radicals in the skin which means less cell damage, inflammation, wrinkles and pimples.

It’s antibacterial

There’s bacteria sitting on the surface of your skin, it gets there from pollution in the air, touching your face with your hands when there’s germs on them and more. This bacteria gets into your pores and infects them, making your breakouts worse. Witch hazel is an antibacterial that will kill off the germs before they get the chance to penetrate your skin and cause damage.

It’s anti-inflammatory

If you’ve got a lot of red, angry acne that’s not calming down, witch hazel has anti-inflammatory properties that will take the redness out of your pustules which will reduce the appearance of your acne. This in turn means you’re going to stress less about it, which is another big cause of acne.

It’s a gentle cleanser

You can actually use witch hazel as your everyday cleanser. By using this natural product that’s gentle enough to be applied daily, the consistency will help to reduce and prevent your acne.

It’s all-natural

For those of you with more sensitive skin that reacts badly to the chemicals used in traditional acne products, witch hazel may offer the natural, simple option you’ve been searching for. It’s got all the right properties to be an all-round great acne cleanser and preventer so you may not even need any other products!

As with all new products, make sure to do a spot test first after you’ve been to a doctor and gotten the all clear to start using witch hazel for your acne. Dab a small amount of witch hazel onto an area with sensitive skin, like the inside of your elbow or behind the ear. If you go 24 hours without any kind of adverse reaction then you’re all good to go!

Best ways to use witch hazel for acne

If you’re thinking by this point that witch hazel might be the way to go for curing your acne, then we’ve got all the methods, recipes and options you’ll need. Experiment with all the different types of witch hazel options to see what works best for you and your skin, we’re sure you’ll be able to find a long-term solution for your mild to moderate acne.

Witch hazel is commonly found in lots of anti-acne products as it’s one of the most popular ingredients for combating acne. Most of these products you’ll be able to purchase over the counter, they include:

  • Face wash
  • Gels
  • Exfoliators
  • Lotions
  • Topical creams

When purchasing something with witch hazel in it, try to avoid any extra unnecessary chemicals, toxins or fillers as these are never be good for your skin. The best products will contain loads of natural ingredients. Ingredients like zinc, clay, tea tree oil and salicylic acid are all great combinations to look out for when purchasing a product with witch hazel for your acne.

It’s also helpful to note that witch hazel can be a bit drying as it’s an astringent, so go for a product that has some moisturizing ingredients if you’re prone to dry skin but still want to try witch hazel.

If you’re thinking of skipping the commercial products and simply going straight for the pure witch hazel then you need to know what you’re looking for.

Generally you can find a bottle of witch hazel in any pharmacy, it will either be in the first-aid section or the skin care section. Make sure it’s pure witch hazel with nothing extra added, you don’t need anything else for this to work! It will be a clear-looking liquid and set you back around $10 for a large bottle that will last for ages. On it’s own, it will work best with oilier skin as it can be a bit drying.

Once you’ve got your witch hazel, here’s a few quick, easy methods you can try:

Method 1 – For everyday use

  1. Dab some witch hazel on a cotton wool pad after washing face
  2. Wipe the cotton pad all over your skin
  3. Apply moisturizer to the skin when dry
  4. Repeat this every night to shrink pores and cleanse the skin after the day

Method 2 – For targeted use/spot prevention

  1. When you notice a bump or a bad breakout, soak a cotton wool bud with witch hazel
  2. Dab onto the affected areas liberally
  3. The witch hazel should dry out the breakouts/oncoming blemish, they should be reduced and less inflamed the next morning

Method 3 – Make a witch hazel toner with essential oils

  1. Get a spray bottle or any convenient, clean container
  2. Mix 15 ml of pure witch hazel with 5 drops of lavender oil and 2 drops of tea tree oil
  3. Shake to combine, then spray onto face or dab onto cotton wool pad
  4. Wipe all over face after washing it at night, being sure to avoid the delicate eye area
  5. Moisturize if skin feels tight when dry, however, lavender oil may moisturize skin enough so it won’t be necessary
  6. Store in a cool, dark, dry place and discard after a week of use

Feel free to play around with the essential oils, you may want to try something like peppermint oil or clary sage – but be sure to do your research and dilute correctly if necessary before using.

Precautions for using witch hazel

  • Never drink this liquid, it has been known to help with internal medical issues but it’s best not to do so without direct order from the doctor. Additionally, keep out of reach of children as with all skin care/medications.
  • If acne seems irritated or worse after use, cease use as you may be having an allergic reaction or it simply may not work well with your skin.
  • Works best with mild to moderate acne. Severe or cystic acne will need to be treated by your doctor or dermatologist.
  • Should not be used when breastfeeding or pregnant as potentially unsafe.
  • Witch hazel can be drying so if you have oilier skin this will work best for you. Those with drier skin should use witch hazel in a product with moisturizing ingredients if still wishing to try it.
Witch Hazel for Acne: Does it Work? How to Use It
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