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By Syeda Maliha, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University

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Witch hazel is an over-the-counter product with many beneficial uses! People have been using witch hazel as a natural remedy for years. While it may have many uses, witch hazel should be used carefully. Continue reading to learn more about the different uses of witch hazel and if it is right for you!

What is Witch Hazel?

Witch hazel itself is a plant that is native to the United States and Canada and can be used to make different products for various medicinal uses, like hemorrhoids, eczema, and acne. Witch hazel water (hamamelis water, distilled witch hazel extract) is distilled from dried leaves, bark, and partially dormant twigs of witch hazel. There are various products that incorporate witch hazel from wipes, deodorant, to skin care products.  

How Does Witch Hazel Work? Is Witch Hazel an Astringent?

Witch hazel extract contains tannins which is the main reason for witch hazel’s many benefits.  Witch hazel belongs to a class of medications called astringents. Astringents help remove moisture from the skin and tighten skin. Because of witch hazel’s astringent properties, it is commonly used in skin care products and as an anti-hemorrhoidal agent. Witch hazel has been used for skin to help reduce acne breakout and soothe eczema. Witch Hazel (brands Tucks®, Preparation H® pads, Preparation H® wipes) provides relief from local itching and discomfort associated with hemorrhoids and is used to dry or protect the skin around the anus. 

What are Tannins? Are There Tannins in Witch Hazel?

Tannins are a component of witch hazel that is brought out during the extraction process. They are completely natural and can be found in various foods, like pomegranates, berries, tea, coffee, and chocolate. It is responsible for witch hazel’s astringent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory properties. 

Does Witch Hazel for Hemorrhoids Work?

Yes, witch hazel can be used to relieve itching and discomfort associated with hemorrhoids. Witch hazel wipes can be used to clean the anus after a bowel movement. This is ideal to use with other hemorrhoid products such as Preparation H®, Recticare, and lidocaine 5% creams. It is important to wash hands before and after use and clean the affected area before application.

Is Witch Hazel Good for Facial Skin?

Yes, witch hazel is good for your skin and can be found in cleansers, toners, astringents, facial mists, facial wipes and more. Witch hazel can cleanse skin, tighten pores, and help remove excess oil. Witch hazel can help decrease the amount of bacteria on your skin and helps reduce acne and breakouts. Witch hazel also has an anti-inflammatory effect, so it can help reduce redness and skin irritation. Furthermore, witch hazel can help absorb oil from the skin. This can help prevent oil build up, clogged pores, and acne breakouts. 

Can I Use Witch Hazel for Eczema?

Yes, you can use witch hazel to help alleviate symptoms of eczema. Eczema is a skin condition that is characterized by itchy skin or rashes. There is no cure for eczema but it can be managed with a skin care regimen and other over-the-counter products, like antihistamines to help alleviate symptoms. Witch hazel cream or liquid are products that have been widely used as part of a skin care regimen to help control symptoms like itching. While the witch hazel cream formulation can help relieve itching, the liquid witch hazel can help with "weeping" or oozing eczema wounds. However, keep in mind, witch hazel can help alleviate symptoms of eczema only. It cannot cure eczema, overall. 

Can I Use Witch Hazel for Acne?

Yes, you can use witch hazel for acne. The anti-inflammatory and astringent properties of witch hazel can minimize acne breakouts. Witch hazel helps reduce acne and breakouts by reducing harmful bacteria on the skin. It can help reduce redness and skin irritation because it can constrict blood vessels. By absorbing oil from the skin, witch hazel prevents oil build up, clogged pores, and acne breakouts. If you are trying out witch hazel for acne the first time, make sure to test it out in a small area of skin away from your face, such as the inside of the arm to see how you may react to the medication.

Can I Use Witch Hazel for Sunburn?

Yes, you can use witch hazel to help alleviate sunburn pain. Applying witch hazel onto the affected area can reduce swelling and redness of your skin. Using witch hazel after sunburn can also help prevent UV-B rays causing damage to your skin (e.g. melanoma or other types of skin cancer). Learn more if your skin is sensitive to the sun.

What are the Side Effects of Witch Hazel?

Witch hazel is generally safe but it is possible, though rare, to experience side effects of dryness and potential irritation. It should not be used by people with dry or extremely sensitive skin. Witch hazel should not be ingested as it can cause problems like nausea, vomiting, and liver damage. 

When Should I Seek Help From My Doctor When Using Witch Hazel?

If you are using witch hazel for hemorrhoids, only use it externally. Stop using witch hazel wipes if your condition worsens, does not improve within 7 days, or if bleeding occurs. In any of these cases, please seek help from your doctor.

If you are using witch hazel for skin conditions (e.g. eczema), only use it topically. Stop using witch hazel (liquid or cream) if your condition worsens, or severe skin irritation occurs, at which point please discuss with your doctor.

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This content is for informational use only and does not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is not a substitute for and should not be relied upon for specific medical recommendations. Please talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns.