Everyone is losing it over this old-school beauty ingredient

Is this your 2019 skin care staple?

Beauty Crew Beauty Writer / February 06 2019

Guys, remember witch hazel? Of course you do. You probably still have a bottle of the stuff sitting in your bathroom cabinet from when you were a teen. Well, according to a new Pinterest report, people are back on board with witch hazel in a BIG way (we called it last year – no biggie).

This old-school favourite is regaining popularity as a go-to solution for clear skin, with global searches for the ingredient having recently shot up by a whopping 305 per cent.

So, should we all run out and buy some witch hazel, stat?

We asked cosmetic chemist and founder of Hop & Cotton, Ee Ting Ng, and founder of Paula’s Choice skin care, Paula Bergoun for their thoughts on this throwback ingredient to find out if it’s actually good for skin. 

What exactly is witch hazel?

Haven’t heard of it before? It may sound like sorcery, but witch hazel actually comes from a plant. “Witch hazel is the extract from the leaves [and] bark of the witch hazel plant, Hammamelis virginiana – a flowering shrub found throughout North America and much of Asia,” says Bergoun.

The plant extract itself is commonly used in liquid form (mostly in toners), although it can also be found in topical ointments. It contains a heap of antioxidants and is known for its ability to ease inflammation and soothe the skin.

Is witch hazel good for skin?

One of the main components in witch hazel is tannins, an ingredient that works to minimise the appearance of enlarged pores, as well as reduce oily skin (tannins have a drying effect).

“Tannins are strong astringents, thus witch hazel is useful for reducing excess oil,” says Ng. “It is also mildly antibacterial and helps with coagulation, which makes it useful to stop bleeding, especially for superficial wounds such as razor cuts.”

According to Ng, it can also protect skin against breakout-causing bacteria. “It helps by reducing unwanted bacterial growth directly with its antibacterial nature, and indirectly with its astringency (i.e. reducing oil levels), thus reducing the likelihood of acne formation.” 

However, you may want to be careful using it long-term. Bergoun says these benefits are only temporary and the irritants contained in witch hazel can actually wreak havoc on your skin. “Acne is an inflammatory condition and although witch hazel contains anti-inflammatory components, it also delivers irritants that can make acne worse (even if you see some initial improvement in redness) with long-term use,” says Bergoun. 

“Daily use of witch hazel is simply too drying and irritating for skin, not to mention most witch hazel products are very simple formulations; skin needs a robust blend of great ingredients to look and feel its best,” says Bergoun.

If you’re looking to clear breakouts, both Ng and Bergoun suggest using alternative ingredients for best results. “[Witch hazel’s] extent in combating acne pales in comparison to bona fide anti-blemish ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide,” says Ng.

If you’re battling breakouts, check out everything you need to know about the latest non-invasive acne treatment.

Do you use witch hazel in your skin care routine? Has it helped your skin? Let us know in the comment section below.

Main image credit: @sarasampaio

Erin Docherty is a Beauty Writer for BEAUTYcrew, Beauty Editor for Women's Health magazine and a Grooming Writer for Men's Health magazine. She has a keen interest in cosmeceutical skin care and is currently working on minimising her 9-step skin care routine – because ain’t nobody got time for that. When she’s not writing about the latest beauty news, or applying copious amounts of serum, you can find her spending all her money in Sephora.