Beauty Insider Witch Hazel

Controversies about WITCH HAZEL You Need to Shrug Off

Controversies about WITCH HAZEL You Need to Shrug Off

Original Author: Fira Syafiqah

Oily or inflamed skin got you down? Have no fear, WITCH HAZEL is here! Unfortunately, this plant receives so much hate for the drying effect it makes for having tannin and alcohol in the compound but is this really true? 

Read until the end and you’ll know the truth soon!

What is Witch Hazel?

Witch hazel is a plant comes from witch hazel plant, commonly found in North America and Asia. Many use Witch Hazel as an alternative to modern medicine for issues such as skin rashes, minor bleeding, hemorrhoids and cooling agent postpartum

In the ingredient list of cosmetic product like skincare, the name of the Witch Hazel is written in accordance with International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) naming conventions, When referring to the plant from which these ingredients are derived, the standard taxonomic practice of using italics will be followed (e.g., Hamamelis virginiana).

The flowers are golden-yellow and thread-like, and grow in axillary clusters.  Hamamelis virginiana reproduces through insect pollination instead of wind pollination. The leaves fall in autumn about the same time as fruits ripen from the flowers of the previous year. The fruit are a 2-beaked, 2-celled, woody capsule each cell containing a single black seed. This plant is unusual in which it has flowers and fruit at the same time.

Benefits of Witch Hazel

Why should you act witch hazel in your skincare routine?

Witch hazel is a proven anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent. It is high in tannin, which act as astringent, tightening the skin, minimizing the pore appearance, speeding the healing process and reduce sebum production. Astringent works by constricting blood vessels or the pores under the surface of the skin. Most skincare astringents are water-based and are meant for use as a second step after cleansing to remove debris your cleanser might have missed. So, yes witch hazel is best for oily and acne-prone skin!

The main beneficial compound in this plant is tannin and flavonoid. Tannins are polyphenol that act as antioxidant which shield the plant from UV rays.  The benefits of tannins are translated to our skin when witch hazel is used as an extract, helping to reduce inflammation, heal wounds and clear pores. Tannins also prevent infection from bacteria by tightening pores.

Flavonoids work topically to neutralize free radicals and protect the tiny blood vessel that run just below the first layer of our skin, helping to reduce redness caused by irritation and acne. 

The Controversies

It is not clear on why this ingredient went into controversies. The main complaint was about tannins are generally bad and the continuous usage will cause further inflammation. Research does not substantiate this. 

Many botanicals also have high tannin in the compound formula which acts as natural astringent like green tea, rosehip oil and pomegranate but do not receive so much hate as witch hazel does. Another reason that spark this controversies could be due to historical formulation that have high alcohol and tannin levels where witch hazel has been used as medicine by First Nations People and went to Western medicine next.


Known to be high in TANNIN which is an antioxidant and astringent, vasoconstrictor which means it temporarily shrinks blood vessels. While antioxidant in general considered to be a GOOD INGREDIENT, tannins are also very sensitizing and drying.


This is a naturally occurring essential oil fragrance that is sensitizing. It is one of the ingredients listed the EU’s list of 26 most common allergens.



Most witch hazel is distilled with denatured alcohol and while a low percentage of simple alcohol within a product is not terrible to the skin, the percentage found in witch hazel is typically 12-15%, which is considered to be very high and drying or stripping to the skin. Alcohol-free version but there are still tannin and eugenol regardless of its alcohol content and can still cause issues.

The Truths

Everything is in the dosage or concentration! This matter becomes an issue because of high concentration (12-15%) of witch hazel in a toner that causes drying effect of the skin because of astringent properties of this extract. If you have dry skin, astringent is probably not much needed as it will remove more sebum from your skin, leaving you with extra dry skin. We can reduce the drying effect by using low concentration of witch hazel while still reaping benefits from this plant. While products used to dose formulas up to 50%, the average percentage of witch hazel in most formulations stands at around 5% and below only.

Some people may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions after applying witch hazel topically. Doing an initial skin patch test on a small portion of your skin can help prevent unwanted side effects and skin reactions. Witch hazel can be safely applied to your skin several times per day. 

It contains several compounds with potent anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, which may be useful in treating a variety of conditions ranging from acne and scalp sensitivity to hemorrhoids. Still, more research is needed to unearth the entire spectrum of potential benefits that this powerful plant has to offer.

How We Cater the Issue for our RSS

Use gentle version of witch hazel

The distillate from the leaves is probably the gentlest, most diluted version of any kind of witch hazel ingredient. The leaves contain lesser active components than the bark (4.77% vs 0.04% tannins) and distillates are more diluted than extracts.

It is just a “fancy-water” that resembles the properties of Witch Hazel Extract (astringent, soothing, antioxidant, antibacterial) in a very mild and gentle way. A distillate prepared from recently harvested and partially dried leaves of witch hazel.

Use low concentration of witch hazel water

Concentration matters! In RSS, witch hazel water only makes up 3.43% of the whole formulation. Lesser tannin means lesser drying effect to the skin!

Include humectant to overweigh the drying effect

Some ingredients are simply better with friends! Hence, we included the best hydrating combo Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin in one formulation to reduce the drying effect of witch hazel. Remember, acne is less about drying but more to soothe the inflammation. The hydration that this combo gives can soothe the inflammation better!

Now, you know the right amount determines how safe it is to be used on the skin. Are you starting to fall in love with witch hazel after knowing the truth?

Go get one Repairing and Soothing Facial Serum (RSS) here if you want to “experience” how does witch hazel will do wonder to your skin. HURRY UP! Make your purchase HERE.

Thank you for reading and supporting ZarZou Beauty. 

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