Witch hazel as aftershave

Close-up of witch hazel plant

So you've come here to find out if you should use witch hazel as aftershave. As much as you'd like to get a simple, cut-and-dry, yes or no answer and as much as I'd like to give you one, I simply can't.  Why not, you ask?  Well, because the answer really depends on several factors.

What is witch hazel?

Any of the five species of the genus Hamamelis (family Hamamelidaceae), which are all small trees and shrubs with their natural habitats in eastern North America and eastern Asia, are referred to as "witch hazel." 

Some are cultivated for their bright yellow blooms with four twisted, narrow petals that resemble ribbons, which bloom in the early spring or on mild winter days. 

Witch hazels have deciduous, oblong, toothed leaves that are heavily veined and produce little clusters of four-petalled blooms close to the branches.  Their leaves, twigs, and bark are used to make the fragrant liniment that is probably better known by the name "Witch Hazel" than the plant itself.

Witch Hazel acts as an astringent

An astringent is a substance that chemically shrinks or contracts tissues while also drying off fluids

According to how they work, astringents are typically divided into three categories:

  1. Those that reduce blood flow by constricting the body's small blood capillaries.
  2. Those that remove water from the tissue (examples include adrenaline and cocaine), 
  3. Those that cause the superficial tissue layers to congeal into a crust (e.g., metallic astringents, such as calamine or alum). 

Astringents are commonly used in medicine to stop bleeding and dry up excess secretions (in this context, they are frequently referred to as styptics).  

Alum is a common styptic that is used to stop the bleeding of shaving cuts.

Why is Witch Hazel Considered an astringent?

Because it contains tannins.

Ok…but what are tannins?

Tannins are plant chemicals called polyphenols. The presence of tannins produces numerous effects in nature. 

They give wine and unripe fruits their astringent flavor and give flowers and autumn leaves their beautiful colors. Tea is among the most abundant sources of tannins. You're familiar with the bitter flavor and dry mouth-feel that tea imparts. This is owing to the high tannin concentrations in tea leaves.

How does witch hazel benefit skin?

Similar to the dry, puckering sensation that a sour fruit or bitter tea can create in your mouth, application of an astringent to the skin can make it feel and appear dry and tighter.


  1. Reduces excess oil. Witch hazel is frequently used as a treatment for oily skin because of its astringent qualities, which draw out extra oil. 

  2. Decreases inflammation.  The tannins in witch hazel have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics. Witch hazel can be used topically to treat sunburns, reduce skin redness, and soothe the skin.

  3. Eases itching and irritation. Witch hazel can soothe itchy skin conditions such as diaper rash, hemorrhoids, eczema, psoriasis, and minor skin irritations from bug bites. Witch hazel can also be used to relieve itching and irritation on the scalp.

  4. Treats acne. Pimples are caused by sebaceous glands that are blocked by excess oil and become infected, resulting in inflammation.  As we’ve already mentioned, witch hazel can address each of these issues.

Witch hazel as aftershave?

Witch hazel does provide benefits to newly shaved skin:

  1. Antiseptic properties can help prevent infection

  2. It can reduce redness and inflammation from razor burn

There are, however, some drawbacks that limit witch hazel’s performance as an aftershave: 

  1. If you are prone to dry skin, you should be aware that most witch hazel products contain around 14% alcohol which can cause further dryness

  2. Skin recovers faster with adequate moisture

  3. Witch hazel does not help to hydrate the skin

Our Verdict:

If you want to experience the benefits of witch hazel as aftershave without the drawbacks, your best bet is to use it in combination with a moisturizer or to use an aftershave that is formulated with witch hazel as one of its ingredients.  

Both our aftershave splash and aftershave balm contain witch hazel, along with additional natural ingredients that work together to soothe your skin and promote quick recovery.  For the most refreshing experience, try one of our aftershave splashes.  If you need a more soothing product, then our aftershave balm is the right choice for you.

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