If you struggle with acne, you know the long battle of finding the best treatment that really works for your skin. Whether it’s salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or retinol, the list of topicals is pretty extensive. And lately, witch hazel has been creating buzz for its possible anti-acne benefits. So, is it a legit acne solution? We asked a dermatologist if it’s the product you should try next.
What is witch hazel?
“Witch hazel is the common name for a shrub, and it’s also the name of the plant extract that’s distilled from the leaves, bark, and twigs of the plant,” says Rajani Katta, MD, dermatologist and author of Glow: The Dermatologist’s Guide to a Whole Foods Younger Skin Diet.
Although witch hazel has been trending lately, it certainly isn’t new — it’s long been used as a natural skin remedy. Witch hazel is often used in skin care products because it’s an astringent.
“That means it helps to ‘tighten up’ cells in the body,” says Dr. Katta. “This may help temporarily reduce the appearance of large pores, while the alcohol in the product can help dry up the skin.”
Does witch hazel work for all skin types?
Witch hazel is definitely not for everybody. “The most common type of witch hazel skin care product on drugstore shelves is formulated with a significant percentage of alcohol,” says Dr. Katta. Translation: It can really dry your skin out.
“While witch hazel the plant has anti-inflammatory properties, skin care products that contain witch hazel in alcohol can be irritating,” Dr. Katta says. “For patients with acne and sensitive skin, you have to be really careful. Any skin care product that contains alcohol can be irritating and may increase redness in those with sensitive skin.”
Plus, it’s also been known to sometimes cause allergic reactions. “Although witch hazel is derived from a plant, it does contain components that have been known to cause allergic skin reactions in some people,” Dr. Katta says. “One of these components is a natural fragrance chemical called eugenol.”
Should I use witch hazel to treat adult acne?
Though witch hazel can help with inflammation, it may not actually be treating your acne. “It’s really important to know the specific formulation,” Dr. Katta says. “While witch hazel extract has astringent properties and may have some anti-inflammatory properties, the product formulation makes a huge difference in terms of how your skin reacts to it.” And unfortunately, its anti-inflammatory effects are short-term.
“I don’t recommend witch hazel toners as a general treatment for acne, but if you need a quick astringent, it would work fine for most people,” says Dr. Katta. “As a toner, you can apply it with a cotton ball and gently wipe your face once or twice a day.”
So, if you’re looking for a quick-fix for inflammation, witch hazel is the perfect pick. However, you probably should skip it as an acne treatment.