Witch Hazel Toner

I have sensitive skin.  Or maybe over-the-counter products just aren’t for me.  That is a shame, because I like the idea of ‘convenient’.  On the other hand, at least I know I’m not putting questionable ingredients onto my body:

  • things like parabens, which can have estrogenic effects on the body
  • things like alcohols, which dry out my skin
  • things like BHA and BHT – preservatives, which may be carcinogenic

So, I suppose it’s a blessing in disguise.  Recently, I was ‘blessed’ with a bout of extremely dry, flakey skin.  I’ve had it under control for the last little while, but with a sudden drop in temperatures, the skin on my face just freaked out and became red and irritated.

Enter Witch Hazel Toner.  Beauty experts swear by it.  The herbal community love it.  People with oily skin use it.  Individuals with eczema benefit from it.

What?  What is this sorcery?

It’s suitable for people with dry, eczema-prone skin and oily skin?  They must be crazy.

But I was reading about its healing properties in Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Steven Foster and James Duke and I thought I had nothing to lose if I tried it.  Especially because they really focused on how it reduces inflammation, dryness, dermatitis, itchiness, helps burns etc – basically all the symptoms of my eczema-prone skin and less so on how it benefits oily-skin.

Unfortunately, they also said that witch hazel preparations lose some of their medicinal qualities when they’re exposed to light – and conventional products are often in clear containers.  Secondly, the distillation process also reduces its healing qualities – which most of the over-the-counter products are – because that increases shelf-life and its a pretty clear colour (mine is a brownish, tea-colour).

So DIY it was.

And, effective it was!  Otherwise, I wouldn’t be sharing it with you!

So the first day of use, my skin was inflamed from the cold weather and applying the toner stung.  While that worried me a bit,  I also knew that my skin was having a major flare up, so most everything made it sting.  Plus, the stinging went away fairly quickly.  If it hadn’t, you’d be sure that I’d wash it off immediately.

The next morning, the redness was gone.  There was still a bit of flakiness, but it was greatly reduced.  And the thing that really convinced me: my skin actually felt supple on touch and it actually felt like my skin was retaining some water.

Simply magic!

Makes about 30 ml (due to evaporation)
  • 2 Tablespoons dried witch hazel leaves
  • 120 ml distilled water
  • Lavender Essential Oil
  • Amber glass bottle (or plastic, if you need to store some in the freezer).
  • In a pot, toss in witch hazel leaves.
  • Cover with distilled water.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to lowest setting and allow it to heat for 20 minutes.  Some evaporation is expected and I usually end up with about 30 ml, which lasts me about 2 weeks.
  • Remove from stovetop and allow the liquid to cool.
  • Strain leaves and transfer to storage container.
  • Add 5 drops of lavender essential oil to cooled liquid.
  • It’s recommended to store liquid in the fridge when not in use.
To use:
  • After washing face, apply witch hazel toner to face and allow to dry slightly.
  • Top with something that’ll seal it in – like a moisturizer or facial oil.
  • Apply morning and evening before bed.
  • Commercial witch hazel is usually clear in colour because it goes through a distillation process.  Since this recipe is prepared more like a tea, it will be brown.
  • Unfortunately, the DIY version doesn’t last as long as commercial preparations (especially because I don’t add alcohol), so it’s important to at least use distilled water and lavender essential oil to increase shelf-life.  Storing it in the fridge helps and if I make a bigger batch, I’ll pour most of it into a plastic bottle and store it in the freezer.  Lastly, you may consider something like a pump bottle, where you’re touching the stored liquid every time you use it – so it doesn’t expose the liquid to environmental contaminates.
  • If the smell changes, it’s time to use a new batch.
  • ***I reused a clear glass rollerball bottle that holds 32 ml of liquid – not perfect (because light can enter), but most of it is covered by the original label – and I don’t have to use a cotton pad to apply it.  Even though I started out with 120 ml liquid, a lot of it evaporates.
  • You can adjust the amount of witch hazel leaves/water – depending on how potent you want it.

Image from Pixabay.com

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