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The Truth About Witch Hazel

In the skincare world, Witch Hazel has been catapulted as a supreme, multifunctional ingredient, especially when it comes to toners. Although Witch Hazel has been used as an effective and healing ingredient in many skincare products for decades, recently there have been a lot of misconceptions surrounding this flowering shrub. Due to all of this conflicting information, many people are left wondering if witch hazel is bad for their skin and if it has any negative side effects when added to their skincare routine.

Today, we are playing mythbusters to separate the myths from the truth, and give insight to how Thayers Witch Hazel is not only safe, but very effective, too. Remember, not all witch hazel is created the same, and Thayers unique extraction technique allows us to create an alcohol free witch hazel that offers benefits to every skin type.

First, what is Witch Hazel?

An old botanical remedy, Witch Hazel or Hamamelis Virginiana is a flowering shrub that boasts a vibrant yellow color when it blooms in the early months of fall. It thrives in eastern areas of North America, especially in dense woodlands and near streambanks. Witch Hazel’s sacred history with Native Americans began when they discovered its healing powers by grinding the bark, leaves and flower of the plant and applying it topically. They found other ways to cultivate this shrub’s skin healing qualities through steaming, boiling and even brewing it into tea.

What is Witch Hazel used for?

A multifunctional natural healer, Witch Hazel’s antioxidant-rich profile makes it a soothing skincare solution for a variety of skin issues like acne, blemishes, dry skin, oily skin and much more. We’ve listed the top uses of Witch Hazel below:

Witch Hazel can help clear up acne and blemishes by battling excess sebum production, as well as reducing inflammation and the amount of acne causing bacteria on skin.
Witch Hazel is excellent at healing skin conditions that include symptoms of itching, redness and inflammation.
Witch Hazel speeds healing to minor wounds, scrapes, rashes and cuts.
Witch Hazel can help remedy chronic dry scalp and dandruff.

Witch Hazel and Face Toners – What’s the Relationship?

To understand why Witch Hazel continues to be the leading ingredient in many facial toning products we need to work back to what the true function of toners are.

Facial toners are an essential step in your skincare routine as they help cleanse and prep the skin so your serums and moisturizers can penetrate the epidermis properly. Toning serves to remove any leftover debris clinging to your pores from dirt, makeup and oil so your skin is a clean slate. It also corrects any pH imbalances in the skin, which is vital to the health of the acid mantle – whose job is to repel and protect skin from environmental stressors.

Witch Hazel offers multifunctional benefits that fit well in the role of toning the skin. It offers the ability to balance oil production without being harsh enough to strip the skin of its natural oils, remove impurities from the skin and balance the pH level of skin.

While many believe toning is a luxury and not necessary as part of a regular skincare routine, a good quality witch hazel toner can visibly improve the appearance of skin and protect the skin from external damage.

Now, let’s tackle the Witch Hazel myths out there by answering some of the most popular questions we are asked about it.

Is Witch Hazel Good For Oily Skin? Or Does It Strip Moisture and Natural Oils?
Yes, witch hazel is good and can provide excellent benefits to any skin type when used correctly as part of a daily routine. Witch Hazel is the hero ingredient in facial toners because it does an excellent job at removing excess sebum without being harsh enough to strip the skin of its natural oils. Witch Hazel is generally recommended for all skin types but those that suffer from oily, combination, and acne-prone skin can all benefit greatly from introducing an alcohol free witch hazel toner to their routine. The worst that can happen from using Witch Hazel is occasional dryness, so be sure to follow up with a hydrating moisturizer. However, Thayers formulas are all infused with certified organic Aloe Vera, which does a good job of keeping skin softly hydrated, and Glycerin, a humectant that draws in moisture from its environment.

Do All Witch Hazel Facial Toners Have Alcohol In Them? Should I Be Using an Alcohol Free Toner?
In the past, facial toners have gotten a bad rep for being irritating and drying out skin, but many were formulated with ethanol alcohol in them, which can be harmful to the skin and compromising for our moisture barrier. Though there are still many brands out there who use alcohol in their toners, Thayers has popularized a new wave of skin-nourishing, alcohol-free facial toners that provide additional benefits to skin besides just toning. Here at Thayers, we are proud to say that we do not use any alcohol in our witch hazel extraction process. Instead, we use a gentle maceration process, using only water, that is similar to brewing a cup of tea. The trimmings of the Witch Hazel plant are transported to a local manufacturing plant and immersed in warm water for hours. Organic Aloe Vera is also added to the witch hazel to create our unique proprietary Witch Hazel Aloe Vera blend – two halves to a wholly nourishing ingredient. The result is our best-selling Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera formula, filled with antioxidant goodness and soothing botanicals to protect and promote healthy, glowing skin. You can follow the process behind how our Witch Hazel makes it on to your shelf in our blog, “From Farm to Skin”.

Is Witch Hazel irritating or sensitizing to the skin?
One of the most controversial questions surrounding Witch Hazel these days is regarding its irritation effects on skin. A vast majority of Witch Hazel extract available to consumers is made via an alcohol distillation method, which, as illustrated above, differs vastly from the gentle way the Thayers Witch Hazel extract is made. This ever popular extraction process allows eugenol, a potential skin irritant and allergen found in witch hazel to exist prominently in the extract, thus giving much validity to the claim that Witch Hazel extract very well may be irritating or sensitizing. However, because eugenol is an oil-soluble compound, the water-based extraction method that Thayers uses is not effective in extracting eugenol out of the Witch Hazel botanical. A third party independent lab study of our proprietary extract shows that at 10 parts per billion, there’s no trace of eugenol within our formula.

Do tannins provide a benefit to the skin?
With so many misconceptions online surrounding tannins for skin, it can be hard to decipher the truth from the myth. For instance, many are unaware that tannins are responsible for the antioxidant-rich boost that Witch Hazel provides for your skin. These naturally occurring polyphenols within Witch Hazel help protect skin from external environmental stressors. In addition, tannins work behind the scenes to control excess sebum production by constricting the tissue of the skin.
Tannins belong to a group of compounds called polyphenols – which have abundant benefits when used on skin. Polyphenols can protect skin from premature aging, repair damage caused by the sun, and support skin clarity. These powerful antioxidants promote anti-inflammatory, anti aging, antimicrobial, anticarcinogenic and wound healing properties. Research studies on witch hazel and aloe vera have been proven to have skin soothing effects when applied topically on the skin, and are recommended for sensitive and acne prone skin.
While Tannins may potentially result in skin dryness, the Thayers Facial Toner formula contains hydrating Aloe Vera and humectant Glycerin, which counteract any dryness that may occur.

Is Witch Hazel Good For Acne and Blemishes?
Those who battle acne prone skin and frequent blemishes are always looking for products that won’t dry out or irritate their skin. With so many different skincare products out there that contain witch hazel alongside a variety of other ingredients, it can be hard to know which ingredients are helping and which aren’t.
Witch hazel is extremely helpful in battling many types of acne, both inflammatory (like cysts and pustules) as well as noninflammatory (blackheads and white heads). Thayers witch hazel astringent products help fight acne and cleanse the skin by reducing oil and bacteria without drying out the skin’s natural moisture barrier. Witch hazel astringents are great types of acne caused by an overproduction of oil or sebum. Thayers witch hazel toners provide the same benefits, and are best suited for sensitive or dry skin to help replenish moisture with our unique Aloe Vera formula.

How to Choose the Best Witch Hazel For You Skin: What Makes Thayers Witch Hazel Unique

Dermatologist Tested Witch Hazel Products
Did you know that Thayers Witch Hazel Facial Toners and Astringents are dermatologist tested? Our products undergo the RIPT testing method, which is done under the close supervision of a licensed dermatologist. Our formulas undergo testing on a cross-section of the population until they can finally be approved as dermatologist tested and safe for all skin types. Skincare products are labeled as “dermatologist tested” in an effort to help you determine what products are safe to use on even the most sensitive skin. However, with that being said – patch testing never hurts! If you are an avid skincare junkie, you already know the importance of patch testing. Introducing new products into your routine always carries the risk of irritation, so it’s always wise to proceed with caution.

Alcohol Free Witch Hazel Products
Thayers prides itself on our unique witch hazel extraction process when it comes to this botanical plant. While many leading Witch Hazel brands use denatured alcohol – one of the worst culprits for drying out skin – to distill their witch hazel, we simply let the antioxidants and nutrients of the witch hazel seep into the water, the same way you would brew a cup of hot tea. Thus, producing a tannins and antioxidant rich witch hazel that is alcohol-free and will not dry out skin.

Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera Formula
Depending on your unique skin type, some might find Witch Hazel’s oil absorbing properties to be on the stronger side. In an effort to combat this, we’ve added certified organic Aloe Vera to help counter any irritation that would occur if you just used Witch Hazel on its own. Aloe Vera’s high antioxidant and mineral rich content makes it a natural pairing with witch hazel and offers its own additional benefits as well. Mucopolysaccharides in Aloe Vera offer deep hydration while Vitamins A and C boost collagen production, leading to plump, dewy skin.

The Takeaway

Not All Witch Hazel is Created Equal! The Right Witch Hazel Can Provide Many Benefits to All Skin Types

Witch Hazel has unfortunately been the victim of some criticism fueled by internet-induced hysteria. The truth is that not all Witch Hazel is created equal – as evidenced by our proprietary Witch Hazel blend. Thayers purposefully took a new approach at skin toners to ensure that we can provide home-grown healing power to a broad range of skin types, while perfecting our formula and processes to ensure the most pure, gentle & effective product is the outcome. A good rule of thumb is to take the advice of internet gurus with a grain of salt – a lot of information they present as factual is in fact, opinion based or only half of a whole story – and you should always do your own research and consult the advice of dermatologists and licensed skin care specialists.


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