Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: Witch Hazel, A Natural Skincare Solution

 Witch hazel is a natural astringent produced from the leaves and bark of the North American Witch Hazel Shrub.   When applied topically, astringents contract body tissues which diminish mucus or blood, effectively treating minor wounds, abrasions, and skin irritations, such as dry or itchy skin. It is one of the few natural remedies on the market to have obtained U.S. FDA approval for sale specifically for medicinal use.  Today, the applications of witch hazel go beyond medicinal uses to facial care, where a mild but effective astringent is sought after by those looking for natural approach to their regimen. 

Often found in cleansers or toners, witch hazel is particularly beneficial for oily and combination skin types, and acne prone skin.  When used in its astringent form, it is also effective for those with sensitive skin due to its hypoallergenic properties and lack of harsh chemicals.   When used regularly, it:

•    Controls oil production, as well as removes excess oil and sebum
•    Reduces skin blemishes
•    Cleanses and conditions skin without over-drying
•    Moisturizes, reducing water loss from skin to maintain skin softness and elasticity
•    Constricts skin, diminishing the appearance of pores
•    Soothes inflammation, reducing redness

You can either buy skincare products containing witch hazel, or you can use it in its astringent form—commercial witch hazel extracts contain about 14% alcohol—as an inexpensive, natural alternative for toner.  It is available in most, if not all, drugstores, sold in 16oz bottles for about $4-$6 in their pharmacy/health section.  Witch hazel in its astringent form is:

•    100% natural
•    Contains no artificial fragrances or dyes
•    Oil-free
•    Not tested on animals

After cleansing your face, simply pour a generous amount on a cotton ball or cotton pad and smooth it gently over your skin.  Witch hazel can also be used throughout the day as needed to cleanse and refresh your skin.   I recommend Dickinson's Witch Hazel All Natural Astringent.

However, it is important to note that while witch hazel is considered a mild astringent, people with dry and/or sensitive skin may find that alcohol-based witch hazel can still be too harsh for their skin.  If you have dry and/or sensitive skin, you can still reap the benefits from this herbal treatment—witch hazel is also available in non-alcoholic form, such as Thayers Alcohol-Free Original Witch Hazel Toner

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