If you're trying to make your beauty regimen "greener" and more sustainable, one common strategy is to replace commercial skin toners and cleansers with natural products. Often this is witch hazel, a natural botanical that's widely used as a base for those very same commercial cleansers. Pure witch hazel or "witch hazel water" is made by infusing and steam distilling the twigs and bark of this native shrub, producing a liquid with many household purposes beyond simply tightening your skin. Check out this list of 10 uses for witch hazel that will change the way you clean your home and care for your skin!
Tackle Pet Stains
It's an unfortunate truth that where there are pets, there will be occasional "accidents." When those happen, witch hazel can help. Start by blotting up as much liquid as possible, using paper towels or absorbent rags. Then mist the area heavily with a spray bottle filled with witch hazel water, which will keep the stain from setting and disinfect and deodorize the spot. That's important, because any lingering odors will encourage your puss or pup to use the spot again for the same purpose. Once you've done that, give the area a final scrub with an enzyme-based cleaner to finish the job.
Soothe Razor Burn
A razor blade is only perfect the first time you use it, and after that, the smoothness of your shave will decline every time until you replace the blade. Often, it's the post-shave redness of your long-suffering skin that tells you it's time for a new blade. When those moments occur, men fall back on aftershave and women on moisturizers, but witch hazel can be a better alternative. Its gentle astringency cools the burn, soothing the abraded skin and reducing the appearance of prickly, itchy red spots.
Clean Your Jewelry
Keeping your jewelry at its best and sparkliest requires periodic cleaning to remove any tarnish and buildup of dirt and natural oils on pieces that get worn regularly. A lot of cleansers are abrasive, which erodes the jewelry's finish over time, or use harsh chemicals to strip away the tarnish. Witch hazel is just as effective at cleaning your jewelry, but without the fumes and long-term damage. Just soak your pieces in witch hazel for 20 to 30 minutes, then scrub them briefly with a soft brush and buff them dry.
Treat Itchy Pooches
Even dogs who get treated regularly for fleas will occasionally suffer from persistent itches, and if left to their own devices, they may scratch or lick the spot until it's raw. Rather than letting them go until it's an issue (because the "Cone of Shame" is no fun for anyone) treat those itches with witch hazel. Mist it onto the affected area from a spray bottle, or apply it with a dampened cloth if you use the spray bottle for discipline. You'll need to cover the area until it dries to keep Fido from licking it off and potentially ingesting enough to cause illness. As with humans, witch hazel's astringency will take the itch away and also speed the healing of any raw spots caused by licking or scratching.
Witch hazel's astringency and antibacterial properties make it an excellent topical treatment for minor scrapes, cuts and abrasions. First rinse away any dirt or debris with running water, because cleaning comes before disinfecting. Then moisten a cotton swab or gauze pad with witch hazel and apply it gently to the cut or scrape. The witch hazel will kill any bacteria before they have a chance to infect the wound, and its astringency will help shrink blood vessels and slow any bleeding, swelling or bruising.
Ease Diaper Rash
Aside from adult or pet skin, witch hazel provides gentle, soothing relief for babies and toddlers. When the little one in your household is smitten with diaper rash, prickly heat or itchy rashes from allergic reactions, break out the witch hazel. Moisten a soft cloth or cotton ball with the liquid, then use it to gently swab the affected area. It will bring soothing relief almost immediately, bringing a smile back to the face of your fretful and peevish youngster.
Clean Fido's Ears
Another common irritation for many dogs is a buildup in their ears, which can be maddeningly itchy and occasionally create a funky smell as well. If your pup is constantly digging at her ears, relief is as close as your bottle of witch hazel. Pour some onto a cotton ball or soft cloth, and use it to gently swab out the pooch's ears. Keep going, changing cloths or balls as needed, until you've gotten off all the malodorous grime. The amount of struggle this requires will vary from dog to dog, but once your pup makes the connection between ear-swabbing and relief, it'll get easier.
Remove Hair Dye From Your Skin
Getting your hair dyed professionally is costly, but doing your own at home is a messy business. You'll definitely want to wear the oldest clothes you can find and protect them with a towel or apron, but even if your clothes escape staining there's a good chance you'll have dye on your skin. It naturally finds its way to the back of your neck, and may also linger around the hairline, your ears and — especially if your gloves were the thin disposable kind — your hands. To get the dye out, moisten a soft cloth or cotton ball with witch hazel and gently rub the affected area. You might need to do this a few times to completely remove the dye.
Stop Cold Sores in Their Tracks
If you're prone to cold sores during cold and flu season, witch hazel definitely needs to be in your medicine cabinet. At the first sign of a cold sore coming on, moisten a cotton swab or a piece of tissue with witch hazel and apply it to the affected area. If you catch it early enough, witch hazel's antibacterial and astringent properties may prevent the cold sore from fully erupting. Even if you're past that point, it should reduce the sore's size and speed healing.
Treat Scars and Stretch Marks
Toning and tightening the skin is one of witch hazel's core uses, but did you know it can also help reduce the visibility of scars and stretch marks? Witch hazel's cleansing properties and astringency will help bleach and shrink both stretch marks and scar tissue over time, if you apply it regularly. Moisten a soft cloth or cotton ball with full-strength witch hazel and gently rub the affected area. If you make this a part of your daily routine, you'll see your stretch marks and scars gradually begin to fade.
Keep Your Hair Beautiful
Shampooing too frequently can leave your hair dry and damaged, but not shampooing can leave your scalp and hair oily, or allow dandruff to build up. For a quick cleaning between shampoos, dilute one part witch hazel with nine parts water and use swabs or a cloth to massage and clean the oily areas of your scalp and roots. Massaging your scalp with full-strength witch hazel before shampooing will strip away oil and dandruff, making your shampoo more effective. A small amount of witch hazel added directly to your shampoo can also help make frizzy, unkempt hair easier to manage.