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Witch hazel lotion is basically any sort of lotion that contains oils or extracts from the witch hazel plant. There are a couple of different ways this lotion can be presented. Sometimes, the oil is simply added to an existing lotion, as is often the case with homemade concoctions. Commercial blends usually balance the oils with creams or emollients to maximize absorption, and these are often used to treat specific skin conditions. Witch hazel is a natural astringent and can help reduce oil pools and pore build-up. At the same time, it can be drying, so combining the oil with the moisturizing properties of a lotion can be the best solution, particularly for sensitive areas like the face. People with serious rashes or breakout problems sometimes also consider lotions that combine the healing effects of witch hazel with other pharmaceutical medications, particularly topical steroids and anti-inflammatories. Witch hazel is usually considered a natural remedy, but simply being natural doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s entirely safe. Allergic reactions have been reported, for instance, and excessive use can cause skin irritation.
How It’s Made
In nearly all cases, witch hazel lotion is used as a holistic remedy for the skin. The lotion is made from extracting oils from both the leaves and bark of the witch hazel plant, which can be any of several varieties of small shrub in the Hamamelidaceae family. Alcohol is usually then added to it and the lotion goes through a distilling process. This process produces witch hazel extract, which has a number of cosmetic and medical applications. Tannin acid is the main ingredient in most lotions, and is a natural product of the witch hazel oils.
Use as an Astringent
One of the core characteristics of witch hazel generally is that is an astringent, and as such it often helps to reduce skin irritation when applied topically. Astringents tighten the skin and ease any skin eruptions. Witch hazel in particular is often good at shrinking tissues and membranes in the skin that has been damaged by things like sun exposure, environmental irritants, or skin conditions like acne. People who suffer from acne often find that their the condition is worsened by oily skin and larger pores, and regular application of a mild astringent like witch hazel can be beneficial.
While regular astringent use can remove excess oils and tighten up pores, it can also dry up healthy and needed oils. Combining the astringent with a lotion has the added benefit of not leaving the skin overly dry. Only the problematic oils are removed, but the outer surface can still stay moist and supple. Insect bites, severe sunburns, and heat rash are other skin conditions that can be eased with hazel lotion. It can also be used as a simple cleanser for the skin. Make-up and cold creams can be removed with it and, although it is a deep cleanser, it is generally gentle enough to be used every day.
Other types of skin conditions, including hemorrhoids, also can produce swollen and inflamed skin. Hemorrhoids can be a result of straining during bowel movements, which can cause the veins in the anus to rupture; many women also experience these just after childbirth. Hemorrhoids can be very painful and they can become so swollen that constipation can also occur. Witch hazel lotion can be applied to the affected area, bringing relief as well as a reduction in swelling to ease symptoms.
Risks and Common Precautions
There have been a number of reported allergic reactions to witch hazel, and irritations like skin dermatitis and rashes of varying degrees can result, too. These side effects can make skin conditions worse, so when they happen the use of the lotion should be discontinued. If witch hazel lotion is ingested, it can cause nausea, vomiting, and vertigo and it should never be taken internally. Expecting or nursing mothers are generally advised to avoid this lotion because it is unclear if it can harm the fetus or negatively affect the breast milk. Most preparations have been deemed safe to be used as a diaper rash ointment, however.