My first introduction to Witch Hazel was not a pleasant one… I was given a container of witch hazel pads after the many hours of pushing that led to the eventual birth of my firstborn. As I sat there on my ice pack and felt pain in places I didn’t know could feel pain, a rather stern nurse gave me a primer or what hemorrhoids were, how they could occur after birth and what to do about them…
Thankfully, I never needed those pads, but the whole experience gave me a bad opinion of witch hazel.
Fast forward a few years, and I was making the switch to cloth diapers and wanted to find a natural alternative to regular baby wipes, and in my research on baby-safe ingredients I once again stumbled upon witch hazel.
The Benefits of Witch Hazel
When I started researching it, I was shocked to learn that witch hazel isn’t just a remedy given to new moms, but a plant-based substance that has been used for centuries for its skin soothing benefits.
Witch Hazel extract is a an astringent or hydrosol that is made from the witch hazel shrub. It was used by Native American Indians for various skin problems and also has a long history of use in the beauty industry.
It is an external remedy that is well-known for its benefits to the skin. Over the years, I’ve found a variety of ways to use it for my family and it is now a staple in my home and one of my favorite skin-care ingredients. Here are my favorite uses for it:
1. Natural Skin Care
Witch Hazel is one of my favorite skin care ingredients for a reason. It is a multi-purpose remedy that can help with a wide variety of skin conditions. It is often recommended for spot treating acne, soothing dry skin or itching, and removing makeup.
I like to use it in this homemade Vitamin C facial toner, which has been great for my naturally oily skin.
2. Post Childbirth
A time when witch hazel is often recommended is post childbirth, because it makes a great postpartum healing spray for the perineum. I make a tincture of witch hazel extract and after birth herbs that I keep in a spray bottle for post-birth soothing.
It is also possible to make a homemade version of the witch hazel pads often handed out in hospitals by pouring natural witch hazel over organic cotton pads (and even adding herbs or aloe for additional soothing).
3. For Stretch Marks
I haven’t tried it personally, but a friend was able to make her stretch marks almost completely disappear by spraying witch hazel extract on them once a day for a few months.
4. Diaper Rash and Baby Wipes
Witch hazel is an ingredient in my homemade baby wipes (that can be made using cloth wipes or with a disposable option), because it is excellent for the skin. Combined with aloe, it has been very soothing on my little ones.
Witch hazel is also great for diaper rash, and I keep a small bottle and some organic cotton balls in my diaper kit as a quick remedy.
5. Varicose Veins
Another remedy I haven’t personally tried, but a midwife friend recommends, is a compresses for varicose vein relief. Women soak cloths in witch hazel to make compresses and apply to the legs to reduce the discomfort of varicose veins.
6. For the Hair (dandruff)
The same properties that make witch hazel beneficial to the skin also make it good for the hair and scalp. I’ve used it pre-shampoo to help add shine to my hair and de-frizz, but this same process can help with dandruff. I keep a spray bottle of witch hazel in the bathroom to spray on the scalp before showering and then wash out in the shower.
7. Single Ingredient Deodorant
I love my really-effective homemade deodorant, but baking soda can be irritating to some people. A magnesium based spray deodorant can be a great alternative, but for especially sensitive skin, plain witch hazel (or add a few drops of lavender essential oil) can be a great alternative. I also recommend trying an armpit detox to reduce odor and make armpits less sensitive.
8. Itch Remedy
I keep witch hazel in the first aid kit for treating all kind of itching. It can be really helpful in reducing the itch from chickenpox, eczema, poison ivy, and bug bites.
In fact, I keep a small glass bottle of witch hazel and lavender in the first aid kit, and my children will go find this and use on bug bites or skin itching if they need it. I also make an anti-itch cream using it that is great for spot treating itchy areas.
9. Bruise Spray
Just as it can sooth varicose veins, witch hazel can help reduce the appearance and pain of a bruise. I learned this first-hand when I managed to turn around into the side of a kitchen cabinet and give myself a big forehead bruise the week before a family wedding. A witch hazel compress once a day helped vanish the bruise within a few days.
10. Sunburn or Razor Burn
Apple cider vinegar is my go-to for sunburn, but witch hazel also works well… A spray bottle of it in the fridge can help cool and soothe a sunburn or razor burn.
11. In Bug Spray
Witch hazel is the base for my homemade bug spray. It is an excellent base for the dried herbs or essential oils in DIY bug spray, and is excellent for the skin on its own. Since it is also helpful for itchy skin and even poison ivy, it is a good duel-purpose remedy for camping or beach trips.
Finding Good Quality Witch Hazel
Many brands of store-bought witch hazel contain more alcohol than witch hazel and can be drying or sting sensitive skin. I always buy this brand of witch hazel, which is double-distilled and more potent than store bought brands.
Ever used witch hazel? What do you use it for?