While stronger actives like salicylic acid and retinol tend to get all the glory when it comes to treating acne, witch hazel is a bit of an unsung hero. “Incorporating witch hazel into your routine can help to reduce redness, swelling, and inflammation,” dermatologist Dendy Engelman tells Elite Daily of its many benefits. Extracted from witch hazel plants, the liquid is also known for its astringent properties and ability to help remove excess oil. The best witch hazel products tend to be toners, but unlike the toners of the early ‘00s (if you know, you know), the ones that you’ll actually want to use on your skin are alcohol-free. Dr. Engelman explains that opting for an alcohol-free formula will reduce your chance of experiencing any dryness or irritation. Additionally, she says that “Witch hazel products that feature moisturizing and hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and aloe vera help to avoid and counter dryness that could occur.”
Dr. Dendy Engelman, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon practicing with Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City. She specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology and is a highly sought-after expert both on-air and in print.
How To Use Witch Hazel Safely
How you apply your witch hazel (and how often you apply it) depends on both your personal preference and your skin type. “Working a toner with witch hazel in it into your morning and/or nighttime routine is a way to incorporate this ingredient,” she says, noting that this is especially beneficial for oily and acne-prone skin types. If you are mainly turning to witch hazel to treat acne, you might also want to look for a witch hazel toner (or pre-soaked toning pads) that contains a low concentration of salicylic acid, too.
“Those with drier skin types should avoid daily use of products with witch hazel,” cautions Dr. Engelman, who adds that just a few times a week will help to reduce redness and tighten pores without leaving your skin dry and flaky. No matter how often you use the ingredient, Dr. Engelman recommends following up your witch hazel product of choice with a moisturizer, and opting for a richer formula if you have dry skin.
Shop The Best Witch Hazel Products
In a hurry? Here are the best witch hazel products:
- Best Moisturizing Witch Hazel Toner: Humphreys Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel Toner
- Best Witch Hazel Pads For Acne-Prone Skin: Thayers Blemish Clearing 2% Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Pads
- Best Witch Hazel Mist: Murad Hydrating Toner
- Best Toner/Serum Hybrid With Witch Hazel: Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Toner + Serum
- Best Witch Hazel Product For Your Scalp: Pacifica Scalp Love Rosemary Mint Serum
1. The Expert’s Pick: Best Moisturizing Witch Hazel Toner
For an option that’s suitable for most skin types, Dr. Engelman recommends Humphreys Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel Toner. “It contains hydrating and moisturizing ingredients designed to reduce skin irritation [and] minimize large pores,” she says. The rose option (pictured here) combines witch hazel with hyaluronic acid, rose flower water, vitamin E, and aloe leaf juice to deliver multiple benefits to your skin. But if rose isn’t your thing, you can also choose from cucumber, grapefruit, and aloe options (the latter of which is entirely fragrance-free).
Available Scents: 7 Other Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Rose Flower Water, Vitamin E, Aloe Leaf Juice Size: 8 oz. Synthetic Fragrance-Free: Yes
Relevant Review: “I decided to try this after a recommendation from a friend. After the first use i noticed a noticeable change in my skin. I have a very oily nose and my pores are usually always clogged. But this help get out the oil and dirt. My face was 50x smoother. Highly recommend.”
2. Best Witch Hazel Pads For Acne-Prone Skin
Thayers saturates its Blemish Clearing Acne Treatment Pads with witch hazel and 2% salicylic acid, so it’s an ideal choice for acne-prone skin. As witch hazel helps to remove excess oil, salicylic acid works deeper in the pores to break down the dead skin cells and sebum that cause acne when they get trapped. Tea Tree oil, another ingredient in here, is also thought to be beneficial for oily and acne-prone skin types, and the toning pads include glycerin and aloe leaf extract for a subtle hit of moisture. Because the pads are stronger than your average toner, start by using these once every other day and gradually increase the frequency as tolerated/needed.
Other Key Ingredients: Salicylic Acid, Aloe Leaf Extract, Tea Tree Leaf Oil, Glycerin Size: 60 pads Synthetic Fragrance-Free: Yes
Relevant Review: “As someone who struggles with acne, I’ve tried a lot of different products, and these pads have been a game-changer. […] The combination of salicylic acid and witch hazel is also very effective — it helps to unclog pores and reduce inflammation, which has made a noticeable difference in the appearance of my skin. I also appreciate the gentle formula of these pads. They don’t dry out my skin or cause irritation, which is a common problem with acne products. They’re also easy to use — just one swipe across your face and you’re done.”
3. Best Witch Hazel Mist
Another option that works for both oily and drier skin types, Murad’s Hydrating Toner lets you mist those witch hazel benefits directly onto your skin. Designed to balance your skin’s pH while removing excess oil, the toner contains ingredients like grape seed extract and glycerin to lock in moisture. Even though witch hazel can help reduce redness and inflammation, Murad added peach fruit extract, cucumber fruit extract, and chamomile extract into the mix to further soothe and soften your skin.
Other Key Ingredients: Peach Fruit Extract, Chamomile Flower Extract, Vitamin E, Grape Seed Extract, Glycerin, Cucumber Fruit Extract Size: 6 oz. Synthetic Fragrance-Free: No
Relevant Review: “I have used this refreshing toner for over five years. It is perfect in the morning to freshen the skin, followed by your favorite serum and then moisturizer. It is also perfect in the evening, to cleanse after the day and moisturize before bed.”
4. A Toner-Serum Hybrid With Witch Hazel
If you have acne-prone skin and you’re not keen on adding any extra steps to your routine, swap your usual serum for a two-in-one product like this Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Toner + Serum. It’s a gel-like formula that cleans out pores, helps to control and remove excess oil, and tightens pores with salicylic acid and witch hazel. To help minimize any redness and irritation, you’ll find a combination of zinc PCA, centella asiatica, and niacinamide in here, while hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin add some moisture back to your skin.
Other Key Ingredients: Salicylic Acid, Zinc PCA, Centella Asiatica Leaf Extract, Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid, Rose Fruit Oil, Tea Tree Leaf Oil, Allantoin, Glycerin Size: 4.3 oz. Synthetic Fragrance-Free: Yes
Relevant Review: “This has done wonders for me. I have adult acne. I also have oily skin. […] This toner is more like a gel than a liquid toner. The texture was a little surprising until I used it. I don’t think I could ever use another toner again. It doesn’t burn, doesn’t smell, and leaves your skin refreshed, clean, and soft. My acne basically disappeared in two days.”
5. A Clarifying Scalp Serum With Witch Hazel
Because witch hazel can reduce irritation, it’s also thought to help combat scalp inflammation and dandruff (though the research is admittedly limited). Pacifica’s Scalp Love Rosemary Mint Serum is a pre-shampoo treatment (it can also be used as an overnight treatment) that combines witch hazel with other plant-based ingredients (like rosemary leaf, sage, and thyme extracts) to loosen buildup on the scalp. To restore moisture to your scalp and hair, the serum is also infused with panthenol, aloe leaf juice, hyaluronic acid, and licorice root extract.
Other Key Ingredients: Panthenol, Rosemary Leaf Extract, Vitamin C, Aloe Leaf Juice, Hyaluronic Acid Size: 2 oz. Synthetic Fragrance-Free: No
Relevant Review: “Wow am I so thankful for this product! after recently starting accutane, I was suffering from MAJOR itchy, dry scalp - to the point it was debilitating and nothing seemed to work. I don’t know what made me try this product but I am so glad I did! Since using this serum, my hair and scalp are so much healthier! Nearly instantly calms the itchiness and flakiness, without leaving any residue behind?! I’m shocked. Very refreshing feeling, minimal scent, and a super cute bottle.”
Dr. Dendy Engelman, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon practicing with Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City.