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Witch hazel is one of the oldest beauty ingredients out there, and despite all the innovation and technological advancements in beauty, it’s still hugely popular. The botanical extract hails from flowering plants in the family Hamamelidaceae, also commonly known as the witch hazel family or winter bloom. A known astringent, it’s thought to refine the skin, minimize oil production, reduce the appearance of blemishes and kill certain bacteria. It’s these properties that have seen it traditionally used in toners, but nowadays it’s in everything from face mist to scalp treatments.
So if you’re looking for something to clarify and tone your skin (without stripping) witch hazel might be the ingredient you’re searching for. You can shop some of our favorite products that hero the ingredient right here.
Keep reading for the best witch hazel products.
Best Overall: Mario Badescu Witch Hazel & Rose Water Toner
Mario Badescu is iconic as far as beauty brands go (we see you, drying lotion). Personally, we’re big fans of this toner. Formulated with witch hazel, rose water, rose oil, and black rose, it’s clarifying but not drying—a rarity with toners these days.
Try pressing it into the skin after cleansing, or sweeping it across the complexion with a reusable cotton round.
Best Drugstore: Dickinson's Enhanced Witch Hazel Hydrating Toner with Rosewater
It would be a travesty to write a witch hazel story and not include Dickinson’s. This toner is the OG in its category, but the traditional formula was recently tweaked to omit drying alcohol and include hyaluronic acid, making it much less irritating. It’s cheap and cheerful and makes for a great skin-softening treatment before serums and moisturizers.
Best Classic: THAYERS Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera Toner
Another classic beauty buy, this toner from Thayers is simple but effective. It contains non-distilled witch hazel extract, meaning more tannins (the plant’s astringent compounds) are present, so it’s great for clarifying and reducing shine. It also comes in a variety of fragrances, including lavender, cucumber, rose petal, and the original unscented iteration.
Best Nose Strips: Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips
Pore strips are wildly addictive. While you shouldn’t use them religiously, a once-in-a-while deep clean is a great way to reduce blackheads and refine the skin’s appearance. These strips from Biore contain witch hazel to reduce shine, while the sticky strip itself lifts out sebum, dead skin, and dirt. To avoid damaging your skin, soften the pores with a hot towel first, and go slow when you’re removing the strip.
Best for Normal to Combination Skin: Belif Witch Hazel Herbal Extract Toner
Fun fact: witch hazel doesn’t have to be for oily and acne-prone skin types only. The Belif Herbal Extract Toner is a prime example. While it contains witch hazel to refine and clarify the skin, there’s also jasmine, calendula, and oat to soothe and counteract the symptoms of dehydration. Try sweeping it on to clean skin after cleansing and before serums.
Best for Oily Skin: Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner
If you’re shiny to the point of no return, you might find relief in this toner from Ole Henriksen. It’s a potent mix of salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acids, plus neem seed oil and witch hazel to decongest, exfoliate, reduce shine, and the incidence of breakouts. It’s heavy-duty stuff, so only use if you have a thicker, greasy complexion that responds well to active ingredients. But on that note, it doesn’t have that same tightening/drying feeling most astringent toners do - this is much more comfortable.
Best Cleanser: Aesop In Two Minds Facial Cleanser
The lightweight gel cleanser is a godsend after a warm, humid day because it is so damn refreshing. It’s full of clarifying ingredients such as salicylic acid, witch hazel, and sage leaf to gently exfoliate and reduce the incidence of oil overproduction, and leaves the complexion feeling clean but not stripped. Plus, it’s got that signature Aesop herby/delicious scent. We’ll take ten, thank you.
Best for Brightening: Fenty Skin Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum
Who knew Rihanna was out here using witch hazel in her Fenty Skin line, namely the Fat Water serum toner hybrid. This thick water-based product is really effective when it comes to evening out the skin, thanks to ingredients like niacinamide, Barbados cherry, and cactus flower. It’s also really plumping, so try tapping it into damp skin after you cleanse for extra bounce.
Best Mist: Dermalogica Clear Start Micro Pore Mist
We’re yet to meet a face mist we don’t like, and this rings true for this innovative one from Dermalogica. It’s part of the brand’s Clear Start ranging, so it’s a nice add-on step for normal to oily skin types. Aside from witch hazel, it’s also got niacinamide, green tea, and cucumber to reduce the look of pores and give the skin a temporary matte appearance. While we love it on bare skin between product steps, it’s a lovely setting mist too.
Best Serum: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting & Refining Serum
Behind the superhero BHAs and AHAs, this serum also contains witch hazel (Dr. Dennis Gross knows best). Together, they work to clarify the skin, reducing the look of acne marks and sunspots, all whilst preventing further congestion. It’s really lightweight, so you won’t feel it on your face, either.
Best Hair Product: Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment
Witch hazel shouldn’t be reserved just for your skin. Because it’s clarifying by nature, it actually works really well for oily, irritated scalps as well. Take this Treatment Serum from Briogeo: a deeply cleansing blend of witch hazel, charcoal, peppermint, and tea tree, it works to remove build-up, reduce flakes and balance oil production, resulting in softer, fuller, more healthy hair.
Witch hazel comes in so many forms suited to different skin types and individual concerns. While it’s important to keep this in mind when choosing a product, there’s still some standouts team Byrdie loves out of the above edit. First up is the Mario Badescu Witch Hazel & Rose Water Toner because you get that clean and clarified skin feeling without the associated tightness. Not to mention, we love the Fenty Skin Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum because it utilizes the power of niacinamide, barbados cherry, and witch hazel to brighten, refine and plump the skin.
What to Look For When Buying a Witch Hazel Product
Witch hazel is a botanically-derived extract that’s thought to have skin-soothing, oil-controlling, and antioxidant properties. It’s not as popular as it once was, and the science behind it isn’t concrete, but there’s no denying it’s a popular ingredient, and one many give credit to when it comes to balancing and refining their complexion.
According to facialist and esthetician Melanie Grant, witch hazel can be great on a spot to dry it out, but it can be sensitizing if you go overboard. Instead, she suggests using it alongside other nourishing ingredients, or simply when your complexion is feeling overly shiny or congested.
If you’re looking to integrate it into your routine, take Grant’s advice and look at the ingredients witch hazel is paired with. Hyaluronic acid, cucumber, aloe, or rosewater will balance oily skin, whereas AHAs and BHAs will brighten and decongest. Niacinamide is great for skin clarity, too.
How It's Applied
It depends on the form! Traditional toners are best applied either directly onto the skin (press it in with your fingers) or swept across the complexion via a reusable cotton pad. If it comes in serum or is found in your cleanser, use it as directed.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Because we’re skincare obsessed, of course! No, but really, Emily Algar prides herself on her research, and always checks in with skin experts to fact-check and veto product recommendations. Plus, she's gone out of our way to round up an edit of witch hazel-based skincare products that suit a range of skin types and concerns, so you’re sure to find your perfect match.