Homemade Witch Hazel Toner

Extract witch hazel’s naturally astringent properties to use in a refreshing facial toner.

| Fall 2017

  • Witch hazel's yellow and sometimes orange blossoms bloom September through November.
    Photo by Getty Images/azndc
  • You can make your own skincare products from witch hazel bark.
    Photo by Getty Images

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is one of my favorite local shrubs. I can’t decide whether I like it most for its unique leaves or its spectacular flowers. The yellow flowers bloom from September through November, most startlingly after the leaves have dropped in fall. Yellow explosions of floral fireworks set off against the bare, dark gray of the smooth bark. In North America, witch hazel is native all along the East Coast and as far west as the panhandle of Oklahoma.

Witch hazel is one of the plants that non-native people in the United States learned about from the Native Americans, who used the plant for wounds and tumors, among other ailments. Both the bark and the leaves are highly astringent, though the bark is most often used. Harvest witch hazel bark in early spring or late fall. Take care to never strip a circle around the tree’s circumference because that can kill the tree.

Witch hazel is known to be helpful externally for bruising, sores, and swelling, and it’s just the thing in a liniment for varicose veins or hemorrhoids. When I gave birth at home, I made myself a tincture of witch hazel to take internally in the event of heavy bleeding.

You can find witch hazel in all types of astringent products in drugstores and supermarkets — the downside is that you’ll have to accept all the adulterants that come with it. If you make it yourself, you’ll always know exactly what’s in your own supply.



Store-Bought Witch Hazel

The best witch hazel toners are made by steam-distilling witch hazel bark. Many commercial toners contain simple alcohols, such as ethyl alcohol, which they rely upon to act as the astringent, instead of on the tannins from properly distilled witch hazel bark. Simple alcohols (as opposed to the pure grain alcohol in the recipe to the left) can dry out the skin’s protective barrier and can damage skin in the long run. If you don’t make your own toner, look for simple alcohol-free products made from steam-distilled bark.

One of our favorite brands for high-quality, store-bought witch hazel is Thayers.

herbalgem
11/13/2017 6:11:25 PM

Living in the Eastern ADirondacks, we have Witchhazel trees everywhere. I make my own toner/astringent much more simply: I gather enough hazel twigs to 1/2 fill a crock pot. I cut them into 1-2” pieces and cover with pure spring water. I crockpot this on low for a day. The house will smell of witch hazel! And you will have a wonderful supply for the year. It is lovely mixed with essential oils and sprayed on the face to set makeup or just to refresh!


herbalgem
11/13/2017 6:11:18 PM

Living in the Eastern ADirondacks, we have Witchhazel trees everywhere. I make my own toner/astringent much more simply: I gather enough hazel twigs to 1/2 fill a crock pot. I cut them into 1-2” pieces and cover with pure spring water. I crockpot this on low for a day. The house will smell of witch hazel! And you will have a wonderful supply for the year. It is lovely mixed with essential oils and sprayed on the face to set makeup or just to refresh!







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