The Benefits of Witch Hazel Are Nothing Short of Magic

The consumption of superfood chlorophyll is said to protect skin health with its antioxidant properties. Drinking clove oil in your water is said to treat a myriad of skin issues with its stimulating and antimicrobial qualities. Activated charcoal can boost skin and body health, among other things. But topically, what will deliver flushed, glowing, and flawless skin? Hard to say in one ingredient, but we're willing to believe that the holy grail may be within reach.

By virtue of its name, we've deemed that witch hazel maintains a complex series of magical powers. And if what the experts say about this elixir are true, we'll gladly go in search of the cauldron-mixing sorcerer at the end of the rainbow any day. Substantiated backing shows that witch hazel's calming, soothing effects work on a broad array of skin types. New York dermatologist Dr. Arash Akhavan, for instance, praises its effectiveness, touting it as a terrific at-home acne solution. Further to the point, Dr. Akhavan says that when witch hazel was used on a patient, it "worked wonders for both her whiteheads and blackheads, leading to clearer skin with no prescription." For people looking for an all-natural skincare regimen, witch hazel is a great way to treat unwanted blackheads and whiteheads. Found in some of the most notable products on the market, like Thayers Witch Hazel Alcohol-Free Toner ($7) — and perhaps some lesser known — we've been able to determine that its benefits are nothing short of magic.

In our quest to cultivate healthy, nourished, and radiant skin, we subjected ourselves to countless trial-and-error experiments. Bathroom shelves are full of once-used products that deliver so-so results and inevitably do not lend to flawless-looking skin. But all along we should have been looking for one ingredient: witch hazel. Perhaps we've overlooked its countless benefits because it is commonly used in things like hemorrhoid cream (the old adage about using this treatment under the eyes to decrease puffiness should not go untested, by the way) or employed to help new mothers recover postdelivery. But these uses are also our most insightful clues into the multitude of benefits this one ingredient has to offer.

Acting as a natural astringent, witch hazel boasts impressive antioxidant qualities that simultaneously soothe skin, control redness, and, bonus, speed up the time it takes for skin to heal. Its most notable claim may be its ability to remove excess oil from the skin, but we also love it for its antiaging properties. It may be worth noting that, though easy to be blinded by its magical complexities, the professionals advise heeding its excessive use with caution.

New York's Dr. Amanda Doyle of Russak Dermatology Clinic has this to say: "Witch hazel has been used for many years. It may possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidative benefits and has been used to treat minor skin injuries, diaper dermatitis, and low-grade inflammatory skin conditions such as acne and breakouts. While it is generally well-tolerated, some patients may experience a contact dermatitis from use, so make sure to do a test spot before you apply generously!"

Any small pitfalls aside, we're entranced by this natural antidote, and we love it in all its many beauty forms (try this Aveda Botanical Kinetics Skin Toning Agent ($23), this Purifying Tea Tree and Witch Hazel Mud Mask from Que Bella ($2), or this Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel De-Puffing Eye Gel ($13) to see what we mean). And even though we would have traveled to the ends of the earth to procure its many mystical wonders, we're feeling pretty lucky that no search for the end of the rainbow is necessary.

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