5 Reasons to Use Witch Hazel in Your Skin Care Regime

witch hazel benefits for skin care

Witch hazel skin benefits are impressive, even to a dermatologist. I recommend that you consider adding Hamamelis virginiana, better known as witch hazel, to your skin care routine. 

Witch hazel has a number of proven benefits for your skin.

witch hazel seborrheic dermatitis

There are also several more benefits that have been observed throughout history, but have not been subjected to rigorous scientific study. Many homes contain a bottle of witch hazel in the bathroom cupboard along with all the medicines and first aid kit - and for good reason. Witch hazel is helpful and handy to have around.

What can witch hazel potentially do for your skin?

The answer to that question is complicated. The reason it's complicated is that that the distilled witch hazel sold in drug stores may not contain the correct amount of the most potent medicinal ingredients of Hamamelis virginiana, such as the tannins (see below). That said, witch hazel bark has been shown to have the following benefits when applied to the skin:
  1. witch hazel for seborrheic dermatitis
    It acts as a topical antioxidant much like green tea. It contains polyphenolic compounds that may protect skin from sunburn and photoaging. Of course, you still need sunscreen.
  2. It offers an anti-inflammatory benefit after sunburn, meaning it can soothe sunburn pain and redness.
  3. It can help soothe irritated skin. It has been shown to soothe redness and lower the loss of your body's natural moisture when applied to irritated skin.
  4. It has some weak effectiveness against some of the common germs such as Staph, Candida, and viruses like the herpes virus and influenza.
  5. People have used it for years as a non-irritating skin toner to help remove skin oils. In my opinion, it beats alcohol for that job on sensitive skin.

Witch hazel has also been touted as helping heal bruises and treating varicose veins and hemorrhoids. I don’t think there is any real evidence for these claims though. Just the application of something that's cooling to the skin will constrict blood vessels.

I also could not find any good evidence for resolution of bruising with the use of witch hazel, though the anti-inflammatory effect theoretically may help with pain and swelling from a bruise.

The bottom line about witch hazel benefits for skin:

Witch hazel is virtually harmless, so it makes a good home remedy to experiment with on skin inflammations like bug bites, acne redness, sunburn, irritated skin, seborrheic dermatitis etc. I also think it makes an excellent facial skin toner.

best witch hazel for seborrheic dermatitis and rosacea

I created a deeply hydrating and healing facial toner made from organic witch hazel. My Naturally Hydrating Pore Minimizing toner combines organic witch hazel with organic rose hydrosol, glycerin and hyaluronic acid. My rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis prone complexion is soothed by this unique toner. My sensitive skin patients and customers love it as much as I do. 

I have sensitive skin with rosacea that also happens to be oily in the Tzone, and dry elsewhere. The naturally hydrating pore minimizing facial toner is the best toning product I have ever used! It does not sting, it's very gentle, non-drying, and yet still does the job I want. I am so happy to have found it. ECM 7/20

witch hazel benefits for skin

I personally love witch hazel and use it in my practice. It means that it's OK in my opinion to experiment with it, of course within good common sense.

  • We use witch hazel as a facial toner in our aesthetician treatments.
  • I use it myself to calm my seborrhea and rosacea in my Naturally Hydrating Toner that my sensitive skin loves.
  • I used it as a teen too for my acne-prone skin.
  • We also use it in our laser suite to remove skin-numbing medicine before procedures.

Witch hazel is a time-honored skin care product with so many uses. 

Click here to try my Naturally Hydrating Pore Minimizing Witch Hazel Toner ideal for sensitive skin suffering from conditions such as rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis.


Juliane Reuter, Ute Wölfle, Hans Christian Korting, Christoph Schempp Which plant for which skin disease? Part 2: Dermatophytes, chronic venous insufficiency, photoprotection, actinic keratoses, vitiligo, hair loss, cosmetic indications. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2010 Nov;8(11):866-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1610-0387.2010.07472.x.

H Masaki , T Atsumi, H Sakurai, Protective activity of hamamelitannin on cell damage induced by superoxide anion radicals in murine dermal fibroblasts. Biol Pharm Bull. 1995 Jan;18(1):59-63. 

B J Hughes-Formella 1, A Filbry, J Gassmueller, F Rippke.  Anti-inflammatory efficacy of topical preparations with 10% hamamelis distillate in a UV erythema test., Skin Pharmacol Appl Skin Physiol. 2002 Mar-Apr;15(2):125-32. 

Hughes-Formella BJ1, Filbry A, Gassmueller J, Rippke F. Anti-inflammatory effect of hamamelis lotion in a UVB erythema test., Dermatology. 1998;196(3):316-22. 

A Deters, A Dauer, E Schnetz, M Fartasch, A Hensel, High molecular compounds (polysaccharides and proanthocyanidins) from Hamamelis virginiana bark: influence on human skin keratinocyte proliferation and differentiation and influence on irritated skin. J. Phytochemistry. 2001 Nov;58(6):949-58. 

H P Hörmann, H C Korting, Evidence for the efficacy and safety of topical herbal drugs in dermatology: Part I: Anti-inflammatory agents.  Phytomedicine. 1994 Sep;1(2):161-71. doi: 10.1016/S0944-7113(11)80036-X. 

M Gloor, J Reichling, B Wasik, H E Holzgang. Antiseptic effect of a topical dermatological formulation that contains Hamamelis distillate and urea.  Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2002 Jun;9(3):153-9.

C. A.J. Erdelmeier , J. Cinatl  Jr. , H. Rabenau , H. W. Doerr , A. Biber , E. Koch,  Antiviral and antiphlogistic activities of Hamamelis virginiana bark.  HE. Planta Med. 1996 Jun;62(3):241-5.

Theisen LL1, Erdelmeier CA2, Spoden GA3, Boukhallouk F3, Sausy A1, Florin L3, Muller CP1.Tannins from Hamamelis virginiana bark extract: characterization and improvement of the antiviral efficacy against influenza A virus and human papillomavirus.  PLoS One. 2014 Jan 31;9(1):e88062. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088062. eCollection 2014.


 A note about extrapolating scientific and folk medicine results for witch hazel to modern commercial preparations:

Traditionally, witch hazel was used by Native Americans after it was prepared in a decoction. A decoction is the boiling of something, like the bark of the witch hazel plant, to extract many of the components, including the tannins (with all the good antioxidants), the essential oils, and the saponins (soap-like fraction).

Commercially produced witch hazel is distilled, which is different. Scientific studies are mostly done on concentrated fractions of the witch hazel components. This means that you can't exactly equate the results. That said, witch hazel is harmless and time honored in American households.