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What is Witch Hazel Oil?

By Christine Hudson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Witch hazel oil is the extract of the witch hazel bush native to North America. It is a natural astringent and has been used for many years for various types of external and internal ailments. Native Americans originally used witch hazel to treat wounds, relieve sore muscles, and fight off infection. These practices were then taught to New England settlers and have since expanded to even more uses.

The oil has a slight ability to anesthetize the skin and some muscle tissue and also possesses anti-inflammatory properties. These properties may make it a good natural remedy for sprains, stiffness, and swelling. Commercial use began in the 1870s as an ingredient in healing salves for sores, cuts, and bruises.

In modern times, witch hazel oil is a common ingredient in many skin care items, natural healing products, and even teas. As a natural astringent, it may be used in some skin care products to fight skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. As an oil and natural moisturizer, this oil may be used to soothe cracked and dry skin. Some even choose to use it as part of a weekly hot oil regimen to fight dandruff. Witch hazel tea has been said to possibly treat everything from sore throat to diarrhea, and may even help with various respiratory ailments.

If a person chooses to avoid commercial products or simply to use witch hazel oil at home, it is usually available in small amounts for purchase. As a natural oil, it should generally be stored in a cool, dry place when it is not being used. Experts also recommend that this product not be used without first diluting it in a tea, salve, or other mixture. The oil may also be distilled from scratch by boiling the leaves and bark of the plant until the oil separates, then collecting and storing that it in an airtight container.

Most of the commonly reported side effects of witch hazel oil stem from drinking witch hazel tea. Too much in one cup may lead to nausea, constipation, and vomiting. Drinking witch hazel tea on a regular basis may lead to liver damage, fatigue, and loss of appetite. These side effects may be very serious, so healthcare providers typically recommend that the tea be used rarely. Those who are on prescribed medication may wish to speak with a medical professional before ingesting any witch hazel products.

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Discussion Comments
By anon342631 — On Jul 22, 2013

Witch hazel gives you oily, shiny skin.

By backdraft — On Feb 02, 2012

I use a little bit of witch hazel on my face every night before I go to bed. It's great because I have oily skin and the witch hazel is great at pulling the oil out of my skin.

But I am always careful to use it at night because it has this annoying habit of leaving my skin a little red for a while. If I use it at night it is gone by the time I wake up. If i use it in the morning I have to go around looking like a raspberry.

By ddljohn — On Feb 01, 2012

@anamur-- Yea, it doesn't smell too great but I think I've gotten used to the smell now so it really doesn't bother me.

One thing I have discovered is that organic versions of witch hazel oil which is sold at organic or all natural stores smell a lot better than the regular ones. So you might one to try one of those instead.

I prefer to mix witch hazel oil with water too or ylang ylang essential oil. If I'm mixing it with ylang ylang, I put 1 parts witch hazel to 2 parts ylang ylang. If I'm diluting it with water, all I do is soak a cotton ball in water and then add a drop of witch hazel on it and apply it to my face.

You could also mix tea tree oil and witch hazel. Tea tree oil is also beneficial for acne, so the two would work together. Make sure you're not allergic to any of these oils first though.

I don't know how people just use witch hazel oil on their face because it's very drying. I use it more like a toner and always follow with an oil-free moisturizer. Otherwise it over-dries my skin which will trigger more oil production.

By serenesurface — On Feb 01, 2012

@burcinc-- I've used diluted witch hazel oil to kill mites in my pets before. It worked really well and didn't harm their skin at all.

I didn't know that witch hazel oil is good for acne though. When I use it with my pets, I dilute it with water. What is your witch hazel oil diluted with?

And how do you bear the smell? I think it smells pretty bad so I wouldn't really want to put it on my face every day. Unless I made it into an essential oil blend with some other better smelling oils or something. But then it might not work as well for acne I think.

By burcinc — On Jan 31, 2012

I've been hearing about the benefits of witch hazel for acne for a while now but I never had the chance to try it until last week. The first time I heard about witch hazel was when my friend mentioned it as part of her skin regime. She always has really clear, smooth and lovely looking skin.

I did see a witch hazel toner in a store at the mall then but it was too expensive so I decided to skip it. Last week though, I found diluted witch hazel essential oil on sale at the pharmacy. I bought it and have been applying about two drops all over my face twice a day. I use it right after I cleanse my face and I'm seeing a lot of improvement with my acne.

First of all, I haven't had any new breakouts and the redness and sensitivity of my skin is gone. Witch hazel oil is also moisturizing my skin well, I haven't felt any tightness or dryness with it so far. So I'm really happy! I wish I had given it a try before.

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