You may have read the headline above and thought, Wait. Hasn’t witch hazel been around, like, forever? Yes. Yes, it has. But it’s experienced a resurgence in recent months, with a number of skincare brands launching new witch hazel-based products.
Up until this point, a witch hazel product was basically just witch hazel, the clear, fragrant liquid derived from the North American Hamamelis virginiana plant that’s most commonly used as toners for those with acne-prone or oily skin. The new formulations are much more sophisticated and versatile.
The plant has always had anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, so witch hazel has a wealth of potential benefits for the skin beyond tamping down oiliness and preventing and treating acne. It can also diminish redness, soothe folliculitis, and even heal pesky bug bites.
Mainstay brands reinvent themselves
The mere mention of witch hazel, for many people, may conjure flashbacks of painfully dry skin. Historically, it was used as an astringent that helped shrink pores and draw oil from the skin. But it was also drawing water out of the skin.
A number of brands – including mainstays Thayers, which launched its witch hazel toner in 1847, and Dickinson’s, which launched its in 1866 – have reworked their formulas to resolve the drying issue. Last summer, Thayers released a Hydrating Milky Toner that combines witch hazel with snow mushroom and hyaluronic acid. They claim it hydrates for 48 hours and strengthens the skin’s moisture barrier.
Meanwhile, Dickinson’s released a line of new products that combine its witch hazel with specific ingredients in toner-serum hybrids that are intended to target certain skin issues. The Brightening Toner + Serum, for example, includes grapefruit and vitamin C.
This is witch hazel?!
With the renewed interest, some brands are rethinking witch hazel altogether – by making it the featured ingredient of new haircare products. One uses it as gentle form of sebum control for the scalp. Similarly, another pairs it with lemon extract to absorb excess oil.
There’s even a bath oil whose star ingredient is witch hazel, which, its maker says, is there to “balance and regulate the skin’s oil content.”
For anyone who found themselves left with red, flaky skin after splashing their face with witch hazel back in the day, it’s probably hard to believe we’re talking about the same thing. And, in fact, we’re not. It may have taken centuries to arrive here, but we’ve finally arrived at a time where the skincare industry appreciates that witch hazel can be a little much for a lot of people, despite its obvious benefits.
The one thing all of these new formulations have in common? Soothing ingredients that are designed to offset that harshness.