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You might have heard of witch hazel for its skin benefits, but have you ever heard about using witch hazel on hair?
It’s becoming more and more common in hair care products, and there may be good cause. This common skin care ingredient can offer plenty of benefits for your locks too.
Read on to find out what witch hazel can and can’t do when it comes to hair care.
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Witch hazel comes with a lengthy resume of benefits and history.
The extract comes from the leaves and bark of the Hamamelis virginiana plant native to North America and Japan. It has a long history of being used by Indigenous peoples of North America for small wound treatment and inflammatory skin issues.
Interestingly, witch hazel is one of few botanicals approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Witch hazel is gaining recognition in hair care for its oil-reducing capabilities.
According to board certified dermatologist and aesthetic expert Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, FAAD, witch hazel is a powerful soothing agent.
“Witch hazel is a natural astringent often used to soothe irritated and red skin, which is exactly what it would do for your scalp,” says Mariwalla.
For hair growth
There’s not much research on using witch hazel for hair growth. However, many people have shared anecdotally about witch hazel’s ability to prevent hair loss.
Witch hazel could potentially prevent hair loss by soothing the irritation within the hair follicles that inhibits hair growth.
Still, more research is needed to determine whether witch hazel is an effective hair-growth treatment.
For hair lightening
When it comes to whether witch hazel can lighten hair, the answer is likely no. There’s no research to back this claim, and there aren’t any compounds within witch hazel that would contribute to hair lightening.
However, your hair could look lighter if it becomes very dry due to over-using witch hazel. This is something to keep in mind, especially if you already have fairly dry hair.
For hair removal
Witch hazel isn’t used for hair removal, but it’s commonly used after hair removal treatment.
Witch hazel is applied to the skin after hair removal to reduce redness and swelling while also cooling and restoring the natural pH balance of the skin.
As an astringent, witch hazel tightens the skin, which speeds up post-treatment healing.
Witch hazel offers plenty of benefits for the scalp, including:
- reducing oiliness
- reducing flaking
- calming inflammation
There’s a reason why witch hazel toners are commonly used for oily and acne-prone skin. The anti-inflammatory and sebum-controlling properties, as well as the astringent nature of witch hazel, decrease oil on the skin, including the scalp.
Dandruff may be a result of scalp irritation, but sometimes flakiness occurs due to oiliness and product buildup. Witch hazel may help knock out both issues as a natural cleanser and anti-inflammatory.
Inflammation can appear in several ways, like:
There’s plenty of scientific evidence that witch hazel helps with irritation and inflammation.
Witch hazel can also relieve itchiness as well as control flakiness and oily buildup. This makes it a great cleansing option, especially for styles like braids or twists.
“Dry scalp often leads to unwanted flaky dandruff and irritation, which makes witch hazel the perfect solution due to its natural soothing properties,” says Mariwalla. “Witch hazel also benefits greasy hair since it is known to absorb excess oil, resulting in full, shiny hair.”
However, additional research is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of witch hazel in the treatment of these conditions.
Can it help scalp fungus?
When it comes to scalp fungus, there’s not a lot of research to suggest that witch hazel is an effective treatment.
However, there are many ways to prevent scalp fungus, which is usually in the form of a yeast infection, including keeping your scalp clean and dry. Using witch hazel in your hair care routine can help keep your scalp clean, which may help prevent fungus.
When choosing a product, make sure you’re choosing alcohol-free witch hazel. Alcohol can dry out your scalp.
When applying witch hazel directly to your scalp, you can do so using a dropper, spray bottle, or saturated cotton pad. Whichever method you choose, follow the steps below:
- Drop, spray, or dab witch hazel on the hairline and part.
- Leave the witch hazel on for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Shampoo hair as normal.
If you have a sensitive scalp, you can dilute the witch hazel with water. Gently pat it into your hairline and part and let it soak in. No shampooing is necessary. Do this no more than one to two times a week.
You can also opt for products containing witch hazel.
Yes to Tea Tree Pre-Shampoo Scalp Scrub is a gentle sugar scrub that provides relief for a dry, itchy scalp before shampooing.
The Grandpa Soap Co. Witch Hazel Shampoo is a great option for removing product buildup from your hair and follicles, and the astringent effect can help reduce frizziness.
OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Scalp + Teatree Mint Shampoo is an invigorating shampoo made with tea tree and peppermint oils combined with witch hazel. OGX also offers a Refreshing Scalp + Teatree Mint Scalp Treatment made with witch hazel.
There are plenty of recipes you can make yourself using witch hazel. These can become a part of your regular hair care routine.
DIY witch hazel scalp spray
A combination of essential oils, hempseed oil, and witch hazel can create a lovely hair tonic to deeply moisturize the hair and scalp and increase elasticity, volume, and shine.
- 3 tbsp. alcohol-free witch hazel
- 1 tsp. hempseed oil or oil of your choice
- 10 drops each of scalp-safe essential oils, like lavender or peppermint
- 4 oz. glass spray bottle
- distilled water
- Add the witch hazel and hempseed oil to your spray bottle
- Fill the bottle the rest of the way with distilled water, leaving an inch or so at the top.
- Add essential oils.
- Shake gently to mix.
While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before using essential oils. Be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
Easy witch hazel shampoo un-recipe
To use witch hazel on your hair, you don’t actually have to make anything. Just use your favorite shampoo and add a few drops of alcohol-free witch hazel.
- Add a few drops of alcohol-free witch hazel into the amount of shampoo you normally use.
- Mix well.
- Massage the scalp like normal.
- Rinse and condition as usual.
It’s better to mix the witch hazel into your shampoo rather than your conditioner, as shampoo is used more on the scalp.
DIY witch hazel shampoo recipe
If you want a full DIY recipe for witch hazel shampoo, this is a great option.
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 tbsp. jojoba oil
- 2 tbsp. aloe vera gel
- 1/2 cup liquid Castile soap, like Dr. Bronner’s
- 1 tbsp. Thayers Coconut Water Witch Hazel Facial Toner
- 10 drops scalp-safe essential oil, like lavender (optional)
- Mix all ingredients until well blended in a bowl.
- Pour into a container with a lid.
- To use, simply shampoo your hair as normal.
According to Mariwalla, witch hazel is a relatively safe, natural ingredient. It can sometimes cause drying, which means it’s best to do a patch test before applying it to your scalp.
It’s also a good idea to consult your dermatologist to ensure witch hazel is right for you.
There’s plenty of evidence confirming that witch hazel is a good addition to your hair care routine, especially for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Still, more research is needed to confirm its full spectrum of benefits.
Given that witch hazel is generally safe to use, there’s likely no harm in trying it out to see if it works for you. Don’t forget to do a patch test first and, if concerned, consult your dermatologist.
Ashley Hubbard is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, focusing on sustainability, travel, veganism, mental health, social justice, and more. Passionate about animal rights, sustainable travel, and social impact, she seeks out ethical experiences whether at home or on the road. Visit her website.