Wondering why witch hazel is so wonderful? Why, we’ll tell you!
I was first introduced to the wonders of witch hazel as a pre-teen. Embattled with a stubborn galaxy of hormonal blemishes that danced across my face, I begged my mother to buy me the good stuff, the kind of astringent and cleanser marketed to teens that promises clear, perfect skin. The defcon 5 stuff. Instead, I was presented with something much different: a bottle of witch hazel. What was this? This was not the Stridex or Sea Breeze emblazoned across magazine pages that promised to
burn my problems away fix my skin, this was a bottle of something foreign procured from our local natural foods store, how on earth could this help my sad, red face? Still, never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I skeptically applied witch hazel to cotton ball and cotton ball to face. Two things happened: 1. It didn’t sting or burn the way alcohol-laden astringents did and 2. The witch hazel actually worked. Over time, the redness and blemishes that plagued my face took their leave, and witch hazel found a dedicated spot in our medicine cabinet. I was convinced.
But witch hazel isn’t just gold for treating redness and blemishes on sad pre-teens, this natural anti-inflammatory compound can be used to treat a host of conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, mild cuts and scrapes, spider and varicose veins, poison ivy, burns… the list could quite literally go on forever. Today I’m delving into all the wonderful benefits of witch hazel and sharing an easy DIY to create your own anti-blemish post-workout spray. Read on to learn more, and be sure to let me know how YOU use witch hazel in the comments!
What is it? Derived from the leaves and bark of the witch-hazel plant, a shrub with three species native to North America and one native to Japan, witch hazel has been used medicinally for centuries, first by Native Americans and then adapted by Puritan settlers. Most commonly found as a hydrosol (an herbal distillation), witch hazel has been shown to effectively treat skin conditions and minor wounds thanks to it’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
What are the benefits? As with many good-for-you-naturally things, it shouldn’t come as a shock that it’s the antioxidants precent in witch hazel that make it such a wonder, the two main being tannins and flavonoids. Tannins are what protect the plant and it’s cellular structure when it is still in the ground. When applied to our skin, the tannins present in witch hazel act similarly, protecting our cells from damage and helping healthy cells regenerate, clearing our pores and healing wounds faster. It’s thought that witch hazels anti-bacterial properties can be credited to our pore’s tightening response to tannins. Flavonoids are a separate class of antioxidant present in the witch-hazel plant and work to shield the living plant from harmful UV rays. Along with working similarly to tannins to neutralize free radicals, when applied to our skin, the flavonoids present in witch hazel protect the tiny blood vessels that run just below our skin, improving circulation, reducing inflammation, and helping us to heal.
How do I use it? A better question would be, how don’t you use it? Witch hazel is beneficial for almost all skin maladies, from bruises to burns to scrapes to dandruff. When choosing a witch hazel, be sure to choose a 100% organic, alcohol-free option for the purest and most effective results. If you do bring home a bottle containing alcohol, bear in mind it will be more drying.
To use witch hazel…
As a facial toner, apply to a cotton ball and swipe over a clean face or add to a spray bottle to use as a mist.
To soothe minor cuts and abrasions, wash the wound, then dab witch hazel over the affected area.
To treat a sunburn, mist witch hazel over clean skin.
To treat puffy eyes, soak cotton balls in witch hazel and pop them in the freezer for a few minutes. Remove from the freezer and place beneath your eyes for a few minutes.
On acne-prone skin, dab witch hazel on problem areas using a Q-tip.
As a post-workout spray, read on for the DIY…
Post-Workout Witch Hazel Spray
2 parts organic 100% witch hazel
1 part distilled water
2-5 drops essential oil (try peppermint, eucalyptus, bergamot, lavender, or a combination)
Combine witch hazel, water, and essential oils in the spray bottle and shake to combine.
To use: Shake before using. After your post-workout shower, spray areas prone to breakouts liberally (back, chest, etc.) and allow to dry. This can also be used in the same way to stave off breakouts if you’re unable to shower after the gym, as well as on the scalp to freshen hair. If you find it too drying, reduce the amount of witch hazel and add more water. As a bonus, this spray can also be used as a natural yoga mat spray. After your practice, simply spray down your mat and use a clean towel to wipe it off, the anti-bacterial properties in the witch hazel will kill bacteria.
+ How do you use witch hazel? Please share!
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