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ways to use witch hazel

Uses for Witch Hazel Extract for Skin Health (Plus Recipes)

Learn about the powerful herbal properties and benefits of witch hazel for skin care. Plus discover ways to use witch hazel extract with recipes you can make at home!

what is witch hazel

What Is Witch Hazel?

Witch hazel is a medicinal plant with a long history of use. This flowering plant is in the family Hamamelidaceae, with three species in North America and one each in both Japan and China. Also sometimes called winterbloom in North America, these deciduous shrubs can grow up to 40 feet tall. Though heights of 10 to 25 feet are most common. 

This amazing plant blooms at the same time as the fruit from the previous year matures. The species Hamamelis virginiana blooms from September to November, while the other two species,  Hamamelis vernalis and Hamamelis japonica) bloom from January until March. The stunning yellow to orange flowers make these shrubs ideal for ornamental gardens.

How Do You Make Witch Hazel Extract?

Witch hazel extract is made from the bark, leaves and twigs of this flowering shrub. The leaves of the plant contain beneficial amounts of the polyphenols known as tannins and flavonoids. They also produce up to 0.5% essential oil. The bark on the other hand, also contains tannins, with the tannin content being higher in the bark than the leaves.

To make witch hazel extract, a combination of the leaves, bark and steams go through the  steam-distillation process, much like how rose water is made. During this process, a clear, colorless liquid containing 13–15% ethanol is produced. This extract has an odorous fragrance, similar to that of essential oil. Certain components found in the essential oil, however, such as carvacrol and eugenol, may be present in the final solution.

Witch hazel extract, also known as witch hazel water, is sold over-the-counter in the United States for external use. When applied to skin it can help soothe minor skin irritations.

Why is Witch Hazel Extract Popular?

Witch hazel has a long history of use in North America.  It has in fact been used for centuries as a home remedy to soothe everything from swelling and sores to infections and natural skin care. The Native Americans originally used both the leaves and bark from witch hazel as a natural folk remedy. Since then, we’ve discovered that witch hazel contains tannins making it useful in both traditional medicine and herbalism.

The tannins found in witch hazel are what make it an astringent and an effective anti-acne treatment. Not only can witch hazel help fight acne breakouts, but it also helps reduce inflammation, draw skin together — which is why it’s such a great facial toner — and slow bleeding.

Where to Buy Witch Hazel

Choosing the right brand of witch hazel however is just as important as choosing the right essential oils. Not all witch hazel is created equal. Some varieties of witch hazel have additional ingredients you may not want for every application. While others sting or burn when applied. Because of this, I use Mountain Rose Herbs Witch Hazel Extract.

Mountain Rose Herbs witch hazel extract is double distilled — making a big difference in the final product. Most commercial witch hazel brands that have only been distilled once. This results in a high alcohol content due to the ethanol produced during steam distillation. Mountain Rose Herbs, on the other hand, double distills their witch hazel extract. As a result, it only contains 14% alcohol with 86% organic witch hazel. This makes the witch hazel from Mountain Rose Herbs more potent and soothing on skin. Additionally, it neither stings nor smells like alcohol like other brands often do.

witch hazel skin benefits

Skin Benefits of Witch Hazel

When steam distilled to create an extract, witch hazel can be applied to skin for its natural skin benefits. Its unique properties make it ideal for the following skin conditions:

  • Naturally occurring compounds such as gallic acid and tannins, in addition to the antioxidants present, help to relieve skin inflammation and neutralize free radicals.
  • It’s safe to use on sensitive skin and therefore is also ideal to use for common skin irritation. Studies show that it reduces the reddening of skin caused by injury or irritation, a condition known as erythema.
  • The tannins found in witch hazel can protect against skin damage. They act as a skin barrier to prevent substances that cause inflammation from entering your skin’s cells.
  • Witch hazel exhibits anti-viral properties that may help prevent or hasten healing of cold sores.

ways to use witch hazel

Common Ways to Use Witch Hazel Extract

With a long history of medicinal use throughout the world, it’s no wonder witch hazel has since become a staple in today’s households. There are many uses for witch hazel for health and skin care in your home.

Applied topically, witch hazel extract soothes and promotes healing of skin. As such, it  is able to help remedy a variety of skin issues. Some common ways to use witch hazel extract are as follows:

  • To calm and sooth itching.
  • It helps with inflammation and swelling.
  • As a remedy for insect bites to relieve symptoms.
  • To treat minor bruises.
  • Apply to varicose veins.
  • For minor wounds and infections to promote healing.
  • To soothe and calm the discomfort hemorrhoids, including itching, redness, pain and swelling.
  • As a treatment for acne breakouts or as a facial astringent.
  • To shrink pores that may lead to acne causing bacteria.
  • To calm and soothe diaper rash.
  • It is applied to stretch marks.
  • Witch hazel helps with razor burn.
  • To soothe minor burns and provide sunburn relief.
  • As a remedy for dandruff or dry scalp.
  • To relieve scalp sensitivity.
  • To clean out pet’s ears.
  • It can be used to make natural deodorant or a deodorizing spray to eliminate pet odors.
  • Use it as a carrier oil for essential oils.
  • Witch hazel works well as a natural surface cleaner.
  • Use it to clean jewelry.

As witch hazel is naturally deodorizing, it is also effective both as a natural deodorant as well as for deodorizing tough pet odors in your home. For these applications, simply use your witch hazel extract in a spray bottle with up to 12 drops of essential oil per ounce of witch hazel as desired.

Or try out my recipe for making your own odor neutralizing spray to use on tough odors throughout your home. Made using naturally sanitizing and deodorizing witch hazel in combination with an odor neutralizing fragrance oil or essential oil, this homemade household product effectively conquers even the toughest smells.

Uses for witch hazel extract for skin health. Learn about the skin benefits of witch hazel along with common ways to use it. Plus discover ten witch hazel skin care recipes that work as natural home remedies to promote skin health. Discover more about the powerful herbal properties of this flowering shrub today with lots of DIY ideas for using this product outside of the medicine cabinet as part of your daily skin care regimen.

How to Use Witch Hazel in Skin Care Recipes

Part of the fun of using witch hazel, however, is using it as an ingredient in your own natural skin care recipes. Following are some of my favorite uses for witch hazel. This collection of witch hazel skin care recipes are perfect for your skin care or beauty regimen.

    • Witch Hazel & Shea Butter Soap Recipe: This soothing shea butter and witch hazel soap recipe contains witch hazel extract renowned for its astringent, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. So, it’s an easy way to enjoy the skin benefits of witch hazel in your daily shower.
    • Soothing Moisture Whip Recipe for Dry Skin: This skin soothing, body butter recipe is an absolute dream for dry, parched skin. Crafted using natural ingredients, this ultra luxe body moisturizer recipe has a fluffy, cloud like texture that melts instantly into skin when applied. Rich moisturizing butters, aloe vera and witch hazel extract offer hydration and that promote skin health. While a calming essential oil blend lends its aromatherapeutic properties.

Moisturizing Facial Toner Recipe with witch hazel

  • Moisturizing Facial Toner Recipe: Don’t let your skin dictate your look. Instead, conquer your skin’s unpredictability with this homemade moisturizing facial toner recipe! This DIY skin toner is made with natural ingredients including witch hazel. These ingredients help to remove excess oil and dead skin cells, while also balancing your skin’s PH levels to help prevent dryness and breakouts.
  • Rosewater Toner Recipe: Making a witch hazel and rosewater toner for your natural skin care routine is super easy! It’s also a great way to save money on your everyday beauty products. Learn how to keep your skin balanced and beautiful with this easy, all natural DIY rosewater face mist. Plus discover essential oil blends for your skin type to make a rose toner with essential oils.
  • DIY Shaving Cream: Razor burn is often a problem when it comes to shaving. However, witch hazel skin benefits means it’s an excellent choice for making homemade shaving cream. This easy recipe contains ingredients like vegetable glycerin, grapeseed oil and shea butter to hydrate skin and lock in moisture. While either witch hazel or aloe vera are also added to help care for sensitive skin.

witch hazel body moisturizer recipe for dry skin care

  • Natural Clay Cleansing Bar Recipes: These natural clay cleansing bar recipes are soap free and contain ingredients that are not only kind to skin but also help to prevent acne! These recipes are formulated with witch hazel, bentonite clay and activated charcoal for combination or acne prone skin.
  • Natural Spray Deodorant Recipe: As witch hazel is a wonderful, all natural deodorizer, it only makes sense to use it to make homemade deodorant. This DIY spray on deodorant is an effective, all natural way to fight odor causing bacteria without using synthetic ingredients or pore clogging aluminum found in most commercial options.
  • Homemade Scalp Tonic Recipe: Whether you struggle with dandruff, dry scalp, or simply build up from product use, this DIY scalp tonic is an excellent remedy! Made with natural witch hazel extract and a blend of essential oils for hair and scalp health, this homemade scalp tonic recipe is an ideal solution to relieve symptoms.
  • Peppermint Mouthwash Recipe: Learn how to make a healthy, homemade mouthwash without alcohol at home! This easy recipe is made with five simple ingredients that are easy to find. Freshen your breathe today without natural ingredients you can feel good about using!
  • Eye Makeup Remover Recipe: This natural eye makeup remover combines witch hazel with Castile soap, a carrier oil and vitamin E to safely and effectively wash off makeup without harsh ingredients.

If you enjoyed these recipes and ideas for ways to use witch hazel, be sure to check out my other wonderful, homemade skin care recipes. You can keep up with new beauty DIY’s and explore old favorites when you follow me across your favorites social media platforms. You’ll find Soap Deli News on FacebookTwitterBlog Lovin’, and Instagram as well as Pinterest. Or, subscribe to Soap Deli News via email for future updates, DIY projects and recipes.

If you make homemade soaps or other bath & body products or skin care recipes, I’d love to see them! Simply add the hashtag #soapdelishowoff to your instagram posts!


  • Lu

    April 5, 2018 at 9:06 am

    I love Witch Hazel as a toner. I use the alcohol free version so it isn’t drying.

    Great info as always, thanks.

    1. Rebecca D. Dillon

      April 5, 2018 at 10:33 am

      You’re welcome!

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