Today, we turn our focus to witch hazel, a skin care ingredient that is ubiquitous and yet rarely discussed. This wonderful and all-natural ingredient is a well-known astringent with a skin-soothing effect, which is why there are so many witch hazel toners out on the market.
Witch hazel skin benefits are many, but you need to know what you’re getting before you make a purchase, since not all witch hazel extracts are created equal. In this article, I explain what witch hazel is, and how its extract is created. I’ll list all of the best witch hazel toners and skin care products out on the market, with my reviews so you can figure out which of them is best for you.
I outline all of the witch hazel skin benefits, and how they correspond with different skin types and conditions. I also talk about witch hazel side effects, although don’t worry, there aren’t many! Lastly, I’ll make sure you know exactly how to use witch hazel in your skin care routine to achieve the best results.
Best Witch Hazel Toners & Skin Benefits: Contents
- What Is Witch Hazel?
- 17 Best Witch Hazel Toners & Other Skin Products to Try
- What Are the Witch Hazel Benefits for Skin?
- Are There Any Side Effects of Witch Hazel for Skin?
- How to Choose Witch Hazel Products for Your Skin?
- How to Use Witch Hazel in Skin Care?
Witch hazel is a shrub primarily native to North America. There are four different types of witch hazels that grow in the US and Canada, and two more that grow in East Asia, but the variety of witch hazel that is so frequently used in skin care is Hamamelis virginiana. This plant is turned into an extract that contains many tannins and flavonoids, which have an astringent effect on the skin, along with some other benefits.
It was Native Americans who first started using witch hazel concoctions as a skin remedy to treat rashes, insect bites, and other irritations. The puritans that first landed on the new continent quickly borrowed this natural remedy, along with other remedies, from the natives.
Witch hazel is normally created through a steam distillation process that creates a hydrosol, although it can also be created through an alcohol or glycerin extraction process.
During the steam distillation process, the leaves, flowers, bark or twigs are boiled in water, and then the steam is collected in a separate container. The steam cools to become witch hazel hydrosol.
The hydrosol is the superior form of witch hazel, as it is free of alcohol and it contains proanthocyanidins – tannins that help counter and mitigate allergic reactions in the skin.
Other compounds worth mentioning are quercetin, hamamelitannin, and gallic acid. They each have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and astringent properties that come together to make witch hazel fabulous for the skin.
Witch hazel toners are the most popular products using this skin care ingredient, and below we present the best on the market in addition to other witch hazel products for skin worth trying!
1. Belif Witch Hazel Herbal Extract Toner
This witch hazel toner clarifies and hydrates the skin with a blend of botanical extracts, including the start of this list, witch hazel. It helps to tighten the pores and combat redness without leaving the skin tight or dry. You can buy it from Sephora.
2. Korres Pomegranate Tonic Lotion
Witch hazel toners that also include salicylic acid are one of the best ways of keeping the pores clear and tight. This toner also includes pomegranate water, which provides some refreshing anti-oxidant protection to the skin. This mattifying toner includes a bit of alcohol, so keep that in mind if you have sensitive or easily dehydrated skin. It is available for sale at Sephora.
3. Glycolix Elite Treatment Pads 20%
This is a powerful exfoliant perfect for minimizing the pores while staving off signs of premature aging. In addition to a respectable quantity of witch hazel, it also includes 20% glycolic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C, and anti-aging coenzyme Q10. It is great for weekly use for all skin types, except those with sensitive skin. You can order it online through Dermstore.
4. Murad Clarifying Toner
This is a somewhat gentler take on witch hazel toners, with a lot of skin-soothing ingredients meant to control the redness associated with acne. The witch hazel’s skin-soothing properties are boosted by the effect of calendula extract. Despite all this, it still contains some alcohol and is certainly intended for oily and combination skin. It can be purchased from Sephora.
5. Aveda Botanical Kinetics Toning Mist
The fun thing about this witch hazel toner is that it can be misted on the face for a quick and cooling effect. It contains cooling peppermint leaf water, and is a perfect formula for those with oily and combination skin. It is sold at Nordstrom.
6. Herbivore Jasmine Green Tea Balancing Toner
This is one of the most soothing witch hazel toners on this list, because it’s completely alcohol-free and contains nothing but anti-inflammatory and soothing compounds. It eliminates redness and helps to prevent acne breakouts. If your skin is acne-prone but also easily irritated, look no further. If you’d like to try it, find it at Sephora.
7. Sanitas Skincare Brightening Peel Pads
These witch hazel skin care pads exfoliate and refine the skin to give it a glow, and render pores as tiny as possible. They feature a blend of glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acid, to break down dead skin with wipe. They are available for sale online through Dermstore.
8. Little Barn Apothecary Witch Hazel + Sage Gel Hydrator
This product is most easily compared to an anti-acne essence, as it is super lightweight and hydrating, and it gives the skin the perfect boost of soothing anti-inflammatories, including witch hazel and willow bark extract. You can buy it at Ulta.
9. Sunday Riley Martian Mattifying Melting Water-Gel Toner
This unique witch hazel skin care product starts off as a gel, and then transforms into a treatment water. This super gentle formula works for those with sensitive skin that is oily or acne-prone, to soothe their skin, mattify it, and allow acne breakouts to heal faster. In addition to witch hazel, it also contains marshmallow root and green tea extracts. It can be used both with or without a cotton pad. It is available for sale at Sephora.
10. SkinMedica Rejuvenative Toner
No matter your skin type, you cannot go wrong with this alcohol-free witch hazel toner. This is a very gentle toning formula that is rich in skin-soothing compounds, and it also contains my favorite humectant, hyaluronic acid, to keep the skin soft and hydrated. You can buy it online from Dermstore.
11. Algenist Hydrating Essence Toner
Even those with mature skin can enjoy the pore-tightening and anti-inflammatory witch hazel benefits, as long as they come in a well-crafted product. This is a toner that does the trick, while also fortifying the skin and boosting skin cell regeneration with a variety of anti-aging peptides. This is a hydrating formula that is completely alcohol-free. Find it for yourself at Sephora.
12. Skin & Co Truffle Therapy Face Toner
This is another fabulous option for all-natural witch hazel toners. In addition to witch hazel, it also contains skin-clarifying sage extract, along with other soothing and protecting botanicals. You can give this toner a try no matter your skin type. Pick it up at Ulta.
13. Arcona Raspberry Clarifying Pads
These anti-acne pads fight breakouts for those with oily skin in a few different ways. Witch hazel helps to eliminate the swelling and redness of breakouts, while salicylic acid unclogs the pores and prevent further damage. There is also a touch of anti-bacterial tea tree oil, so you know these pads mean business. They can be ordered online from Dermstore.
14. Glamglow Instamud 60 Second Pore-Refining Treatment
This is a speedy mask treatment with witch hazel that gets the skin energized. It totally clarifies and tightens the pores because it also contains kaolin and bentonite clays. It is a fabulous choice for all skin types, just don’t get scared when you notice the bubbling effect it has! It can be bought at Sephora.
15. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare All-in-One Cleanser With Toner
This cream cleanser can cleanse and tone all skin types, but it can be an especially nice way to enjoy witch hazel skin benefits if you have dry skin. It leaves the skin feeling clean yet hydrated, balanced, and with tighter pores. You can find it at Dermstore.
16. Son & Park Beauty Water
Somewhere between toner and micellar water is where this gorgeous product sits. It removes traces of makeup and helps balance the skin’s pH, without ever stripping the skin or drying it out. Quite the opposite, this formula is very hydrating, despite the respectable amount of witch hazel that helps keep the pores tightened. It is available for sale at Sephora.
17. Patyka Witch Hazel Floral Water Toning Lotion
One of the most powerful and best witch hazel toners, this beauty elixir contains 0% alcohol, but a high dose of witch hazel that tightens pores, removes blotchiness and boosts microcirculation. It perfectly tones the skin, bringing out its radiant, ultimately refined texture. You can find it for purchase online at Revolve.
• Due to the high content of tannins, witch hazel skin benefits include an ability to tighten the skin – particularly, the pores. This astringent effect makes witch hazel an excellent addition to toners for those who have large or easily clogged pores.
• Witch hazel is a wonderful anti-inflammatory agent. It helps to soothe redness, itchiness and swelling associated with skin sensitivities, as well as acne or bug bites. This is because of a blend of compounds in it including tannins, flavonoids, and gallic acid.
• Like many other botanical extracts, witch hazel also has antioxidant properties. Antioxidant ingredients are a very important part of anti-aging skin care because they help to mitigate the damage caused to the skin by factors like pollution and sun exposure (known as free radical damage).
• Traditionally, witch hazel is said to help with circulation and reduce the appearance of varicose veins and cellulite, or to speed up the healing of bruises. For these reasons and because it is such a great anti-inflammatory, it is also frequently used as a treatment for hemorrhoids. Keep in mind that such benefits are not proven, but trying witch hazel out for them does not hurt!
• Witch hazel is extremely popular as a post-shaving treatment. It soothes the irritated skin, and it helps to tighten the pores and prevent ingrown hairs.
As with any skin care ingredient, witch hazel can also cause allergies, although we have to admit that they are extremely rare. To prevent having an allergic reaction, do what I always recommend: patch test.
Apply a bit of witch hazel to your forearm or upper arm area, and just wait. If your skin doesn’t flare up in an itchy rash, then you will likely be absolutely fine using witch hazel on your face.
The second concern doesn’t actually apply to witch hazel itself. Many witch hazel toners and skin care formulas also contain alcohol, whether it’s due to the extraction process, or because it was added to the toner later on. While a small amount of alcohol is not an issue for those with oily skin, it can certainly dehydrate the skin if you’re not careful to moisturize afterwards.
Witch hazel is mostly used in toners and lotions, and choosing one you should take your skin type into account.
Witch Hazel Skin Benefits for Normal and Combination Skin
Those with normal and combination skin can certainly use products with witch hazel, for the pore-tightening and skin-soothing effect. If you have combination skin with larger pores on some parts of your face and smaller pores on other parts, you can even use a witch hazel toner only on the parts of your face that lean towards oily.
However, a balanced witch hazel toner that is alcohol free can easily be used all over the face even if you’re completely balanced between oiliness and dryness.
Witch Hazel Skin Benefits for Oily Skin
If your pores are on the larger side, and you also tend to get greasy or oily throughout the day, then witch hazel toners were practically created for you. Witch hazel skin benefits for those with oily skin are many, since this product is a super gentle astringent.
Witch hazel is able to tighten the pores, which appear annoyingly large when you have oily skin. Witch hazel can show up in formulas with alcohol, which will mattify your skin (just make sure to moisturize afterwards).
It also combines beautifully with salicylic acid, if you would like the extra pore-clarifying and exfoliating properties.
Witch Hazel Skin Benefits for Dry Skin
If you have dry skin, with smaller pores and little to no oil production, then you can’t grab any old witch hazel product. While witch hazel is normally recommended for oily skin, it is actually perfectly fine to use even if you lean towards dry.
If you think you could use the tightening effect or the skin-soothing effect, then definitely give it a try! Just make sure to use witch hazel skin care products that do not contain any alcohol, and are rich in hydrating ingredients like glycerin or botanical oils.
Witch Hazel Skin Benefits for Sensitive Skin
If your skin becomes red and irritated easily, then witch hazel might be the exact ingredient that your skin care routine is missing. Witch hazel’s potent skin-soothing ability is perfect for mitigating all symptoms of sensitivity, including redness, itchiness, swelling, and burning.
Its high antioxidant content means that it can improve the skin’s healing capabilities and fortify it against further irritation. Look for witch hazel products that are alcohol-free, of course, since alcohol is not great for those with sensitive skin.
It is great when combined with other skin-soothing and calming ingredients like green tea extract, calendula extract, chamomile, and humectants like glycerin or hyaluronic acid.
Witch Hazel Skin Benefits for Acne-Prone Skin
Whether it is severe breakouts you deal with or just the occasional blackhead or whitehead, witch hazel can certainly help. Witch hazel’s astringent properties mean that it can tighten the pores and prevent them becoming clogged in the first place.
More importantly, however, it is this ingredient’s skin-healing and calming properties that help acne disappear more quickly than it would on its own. The main symptoms of acne are the redness and swelling of pimples. Witch hazel quickly soothes them, minimizing the inflammation and helping the breakout heal more quickly.
Look for witch hazel in formulas that contain other acne-fighting ingredients like tea tree oil, salicylic acid, or white willow bark extract.
Witch Hazel Skin Benefits for Mature Skin
If you are concerned with staving off signs of premature aging like fine lines, wrinkles, or loss of toner, then witch hazel can indeed help. The flavonoids in witch hazel are potent antioxidants, so they can help slow down the damage caused to the skin by environmental factors like sun and pollution exposure.
There are many other potent antioxidants out there that are used more frequently in anti-aging treatments, but witch hazel could be a great choice if you find most anti-aging treatments are too heavy or oily for your skin. Additionally, witch hazel’s tightening effect can help with the loss of tone that occurs as we age, by giving the skin a slightly firmer look.
Eye creams and treatments with witch hazel can be a great choice for firming up the area around the eyes. Look for witch hazel skin care products with alcohol-free formulas that also include other anti-aging ingredients like glycolic acid, vitamin C, or hyaluronic acid.
Since witch hazel usually shows up in toners, you want to use them as you would any other toner. The same applies for using straight witch hazel hydrosol, which can be purchased from natural ingredient suppliers.
If you’re using a different product that contains witch hazel, like a mask, an exfoliator, or a cream, then simply follow the use directions on the product’s container.
• For evening time, start off by cleansing your skin thoroughly. Since witch hazel toners will balance your skin’s pH, it is okay to use a cleanser that has a pH that is higher than the 5.6 I would normally recommend sticking to. All kinds of cleansing methods are acceptable, including oil cleansing. You can skip cleansing in the mornings.
• Saturate a cotton pad with your witch hazel toner of choice, or even with just the pure witch hazel hydrosol.
• Wipe your face with the witch hazel toner, using upward motions in order to get it as close to the skin as possible.
• Some witch hazel toners can also be applied around the eyes, as long as they don’t contain any alcohol.
Photos via @hellolindasau, @gypseecreative