New York City board-certified dermatologist Julie Russak, MD, also wants witch hazel’s reputation to extend far beyond oil-control and acne treatment and prevention. She notes the plant has always been “anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, so it can have many positive benefits on the skin, such as diminishing redness, healing bug bites, and soothing folliculitis.”
Everyone we spoke with agrees that we’re still scratching the surface of what can be done with witch hazel. Toners are just the beginning. “The more we talk about the efficacy of [witch hazel] as an ingredient, the more interested consumers are in having it in their skin care at all levels,” says Dr. Henry. “We may start seeing it in creams taking advantage of its antioxidant properties and even in hair care like anti-dandruff preparations.”
The Next Generation of Witch Hazel
With recent product innovations, witch hazel has been trending on TikTok, with the tag racking up over 69 million views. So, it seems to be working for several (million) people. Classic brands like Humphreys, Thayers, and Dickinson’s (and we mean classic — Thayers first launched its witch hazel toner back in 1847, and Dickinson’s wasn’t long after in 1866) have reinvented their original formulas to solve the drying dilemma.
Last summer, Thayers released an ultra-hydrating sister to its facial toner, called the Hydrating Milky Toner. Made with snow mushroom and hyaluronic acid, it claims to provide 48-hour hydration and strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier, making it ideal for those with sensitive or reactive skin. “Hyaluronic acid is a miracle molecule — it holds 1,000 times its weight in water, so it’s combatting the drying effect of the witch hazel,” says Dr. Henry. “Snow mushroom is similar to hyaluronic acid in that it’s a really potent humectant that helps to draw in moisture to the skin.”
Dickinson’s, meanwhile, released an entire range of new innovations that take its witch hazel (wild-harvested using the mature bark and twigs of the plants) and combines it with targeted ingredients in toner-serum hybrids for specific skin issues. The collection includes a Brightening Toner + Serum with grapefruit and vitamin C, plus a Hydrating Toner + Serum with hyaluronic acid and rose water, which Dr. Russak notes is a soothing and anti-inflammatory ingredient with a hydrating effect. “If you’re not super dry and you want a little bit of a glowing effect, rose water is great,” says Dr. Henry. Rounding out the Toner + Serum trio is a Clearing formula with eucalyptus, salicylic acid, and niacinamide, a powerhouse ingredient that Romanowski says is “used for a wide variety of [purposes] — anti-acne, skin [brightening], anti-wrinkle. It really depends on the formulation, but alongside witch hazel, it can help alleviate any irritation you might get from that ingredient.” Adds Dr. Mariwalla, a brand ambassador for Dickinson’s: “[In this formulation], niacinamide, works to shrink pore size, but also helps with hyperpigmentation and brightens the skin.”
The brand’s final new release is a micellar makeup remover that combines dirt-lifting micelles with witch hazel and aloe. The soothing succulent is also a star ingredient in Humphreys new aloe-spiked Clarifying Witch Hazel Cleansing Pads, which cleanse and condition skin in one swipe. “Aloe is very soothing, making it really great for those with irritated, inflamed skin who also want some hydration,” explains Dr. Henry. Additionally, the witch hazel pads are a convenient option for the chest or back area.