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Is Using Witch Hazel Toner and Cleanser Good for Acne Prone Skin?

Is Using Witch Hazel Toner and Cleanser Good for Acne Prone Skin?

There are many acne home remedies that get passed down from generations to generations. One of which is witch hazel (Hammaelis virginiana), which is a shrub that is native to the United States. For decades, Native Americans have used witch hazel for skin conditions related to inflammation and irritation. Nowadays, witch hazel uses include face cleansing and toning, particularly for acne prone and oily skin. Read on to find out on how to properly use witch hazel for acne.

What is Witch Hazel and Why Is It So Popular?

Witch Hazel Can Minimize the Appearance of Pores

The most popular use for witch hazel is in the form of a toner or cleanser to restore the pH balance after face washing and further removing any impurities, like makeup and dead skin.  The main active ingredients in witch hazel are tannins, which is an astringent or a chemical that shrinks or constricts body tissues[1]. Thereby, it can help to minimize the appearance of pores and dry up oily skin.

Witch Hazel May Reduce Inflammation and Itchiness

Pharmacological studies have indicated that witch hazel has anti-inflammatory compounds, including gallic acid and tannins. For example, topical witch hazel creams are used in Europe to treatment inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema[2]. In addition, witch hazel has been approved in Germany for relief of canker sores, a mouth condition involving high amount of inflammation[3].

Is Using Witch Hazel Toner and Cleanser Good for Acne Prone Skin?

How to Use Witch Hazel:

Witch Hazel is Not Recommended for People with Rosacea and Very Dry Skin

The idea behind how witch hazel benefits acne is that it helps dry out your acne blemishes, much like other over the counter treatments. However, if your face is naturally dry, applying witch hazel toner can worsen the dryness and further irritate your skin. This will make you more prone to breakouts. Therefore, for people with very dry skin or rosacea, using topicals with witch hazel is not recommended[4].

Skip Witch Hazel Toner During Cold Weather

For the same reason above, using witch hazel in drier and colder climates may do more harm than good. Since the skin is much drier during the cold months, particularly winter, we advise to switch to a moisturizing toner or temporarily stop using witch hazel toners.

Apply an Oil Free Moisturizer After Using Witch Hazel

Witch hazel contains tannins, making it a natural astringent to reduce oil. Overproduction of facial oils can cause breakouts, but underproduction of facial oils can also cause acne. When the face is too dry, the skin cells overcompensate and make more oil or become extremely irritated. In both cases there is a higher chance of active acne becoming worse and new breakouts occurring. Hence, it is advised to keep your face hydrated with a noncomedogenic moisturizer after applying witch hazel. Doing so will help keep your face hydrated.

Look for Alcohol Free Witch Hazel Without Added Fragrances

Many toners are alcohol-based, which can be extremely harsh for the skin. Furthermore, alcohol strips the face of its natural oils leaving it dry, irritated and more prone to breakouts. Therefore, it is important to look for witch hazel toners that are alcohol free.  Similarly, fragrances can cause allergic reactions and irritation. Look for witch hazel cleansers and toners without added fragrances.

Consider Natural Alternatives to Witch Hazel Toners

Remember, just because witch hazel is a “natural” ingredient, this doesn’t mean that it’s right for everyone.  Witch hazel has anti-inflammatory properties, but certain formulations with alcohol can also dry your skin out. If you’re looking for skincare products that are both anti-inflammatory and gentle but don’t dry out your skin, check out Dermatrope Herbal Toner and Dermatrope Witch Hazel Cleanser.


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[2] Swoboda M, Meurer J. Treatment of atopic dermatitis with Hamamelis ointment. Br J Phytother 1991/2;2:128-32

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