If you've made the switch to organic skincare or plant-based products and you haven't revisited your old friend witch hazel yet, it might be time to. It's one of those ingredients that stands the test of time. Witch hazel had a resurgence of popularity in recent years and I'm not mad about it. But if the '90s were the last time you used witch hazel toner, you might need a little refresher on exactly what it does and how to use it. Below Ava Shamban, M.D., dermatologist and founder of AVA MD and Skin Five Clinics, reminds us of all the reasons why witch hazel always has a place in our products.
What is witch hazel made of?
As Dr. Shamban explains it, witch hazel is derived from a plant or shrub called hamamelis virginiana, and when the extract is mixed with purified water and other ingredients, like aloe or rosewater, it can be a hydrating natural toner for the skin. On its own, witch hazel can soothe itchy skin and inflammation and calm minor acne and other skin irritations. According to Dr. Shamban, when the tannins (a class of astringent molecules) in the witch hazel are applied directly to the skin, they can reduce some kinds of inflammation and swelling as well as fight bacteria.
Is toner good for skin?
Dr. Shamban says toners are great for removing makeup, excess traces of oil, sweat, debris, and some environmental elements from the skin surface—and they do so v. gently. The reason you might have heard otherwise is that there's a lot of overlap between toners and alcohol-based astringents, which are known to be drying. Not everyone needs to use an astringent—nor should they! Dr. Shamban explains that while toners are intended for most skin types, astringents are created specifically to remove excess oils from the skin and are usually better saved for someone who has an oily form of acne. Or, someone who is regularly exposed to pollution, since they're more effective at removing sticky substances on the skin. And would you look at that?! Perfect segue into the next question…
Does witch hazel have alcohol?
Witch hazel can be found in both alcohol-free and alcohol-based products. In general, Dr. Shamban says astringents or alcohol-based formulas are okay for those with acne IF (and only if!) they don't cause any irritation.
What is the best witch hazel for your face?
When choosing a witch hazel product for your skin type, pay close attention to the other ingredients in the formula. An alcohol-based formula isn't the only option for acne-prone skin; Dr. Shamban also suggests looking for a witch hazel toner containing AHAs or salicylic acid to help exfoliate. If you want more soothing effects from your witch hazel toner, she suggests looking for one that's blended into an aloe gel.
How often should you use witch hazel toner?
In general, Dr. Shamban says you can use your witch hazel toner anywhere from twice a week to every day, depending on how your skin responds. But when it comes to an alcohol-based astringent, don't overdo it. Not only can they disrupt the pH, but if you dry out your skin too much, it can lead to an overproduction of oil to compensate, which, of course, totally defeats the purpose.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.