After a couple of years of hits and misses, I have finally settled on a skincare regimen that works for me. I figured that for my skin ‘less is more’, which is why I subscribe to the simple — yet highly effective —  CTM routine on a day-to-day basis. 

Pampering my skin to a sheet mask twice a week, eating healthy and working towards a happy mind with yoga, my skin is finally how I always wanted it to be. Not picture-perfect (it’s not supposed to be), but healthy, unproblematic and a constant glow that radiates from within. My skin is also very well-behaved, which means that if I want to try a new product or ingredient, it doesn’t act out #FeelingBlessed. The latest product I decided to incorporate into my skincare routine was witch hazel, and boy was that such a good call!

I have combination skin, with acne marks left behind from an on-again, off-again adult acne episode in my early 20s. Even though my skin has cleared up, I live in constant fear that it will come back. To make sure it doesn’t, I rely on an ingredient-based approach to my skincare, making sure I take proper care of it. 

This is where my obsession with witch hazel comes in. This century-old ingredient has been used in many ways — from treating skin infections to being used as an insect repellent — witch hazel might just be the most well-known skincare secret that failed to come under your radar. Some of its many claims include:

  • Mattifying oily skin
  • Tighten pores
  • Treat minor wounds
  • Soothe bug bites
  • Treat acne
  • Fade stretch marks
  • Calm razor burns
  • Double up as a makeup remover
  • Fade acne scars

using witch hazel extract as a toner

As seen above, there are a couple of different ways witch hazel can help your skin. But I got it for just one purpose —  to use it as a toner post-cleansing. I personally love to follow a lot of K-beauty commandments, one of which says that you should apply toner on your face within 10 seconds of cleansing, to trap all that moisture in instantly. This is why I placed a bottle of Lakme Absolute Pore Fix Toner in my bathroom cabinet so that I never miss spritzing it in the shower. Infused with the witch hazel extracts and free of alcohol, this toner soon became a non-negotiable part of my skincare routine. And once my skin got familiar with the ingredient, I started incorporating it in my skincare routine in a few different ways.

using witch hazel extract as a toner

Just a couple of spritz added to my clay masks gave wonderful results. I use clay masks on days when my skin just can’t deal with environmental and seasonal aggressors and starts to look dull and oily. A quick 5-minute masking sesh helps reveal a brighter complexion instantly. 

Having a combination skin type makes my T-zone super oily (especially when I am PMSing). So much so that it gets irritating and if left unattended, will spew out tiny whiteheads the next day. To combat this, I simply spray my witch hazel toner on a cotton pad and place it over the oily areas on my face to get rid of all the ickiness in an instant. P. S. The  Lakme Absolute Pore Fix Toner consists of lavender and glycerine as well, which is perfect for all-round skin health.

FYI, I use cloth cleansing pads because they are much more sustainable; just chuck them in the washer and re-use any time you want. Plus, they are so soft on your skin!

using witch hazel extract as a toner

So, how exactly did witch hazel transform my skincare routine? Here are some of the reasons why I have fallen in love with it:

01. It is a refreshing post-shower ritual

What better way to end a shower than spritz your still dewy face with a refreshing toner! The mild fragrance of witch hazel combined with its cooling action brightens up my mood, as well as my skin!

02. It helped with oil control

No, I did not run around with measuring cups, checking if sky skin was producing less oil. But, after a week or so of using the witch hazel toner, I noticed a significant drop in oily patches around my nose area, my indented chin and especially the nose. After all, witch hazel packs a punch of astringent properties too. Although it is difficult to say that it tightened my pores, but I have significantly reduced reaching out for my pore strips to clean my nose and forehead area. 

03. It helped with period breakouts

This might be the one I am most excited about… I do suffer from period acne and it usually shows up as tiny bumps on my jawline and under the chin. A dab of witch hazel — while I am PMSing — did help with the breakouts. 

04. It reduced monsoon itchiness

Much like everybody else, I spent my quarantine months working from home during monsoons. The lack of sun, and my skin’s general tendency to be itchy around the nose, resulted in constant annoyance. I noticed this aspect improve too, especially when I used the toner to mattify it on super slimy days! 

I am not sure how helpful witch hazel would have been if I used it back in my acne days, but I am pretty sure it would have helped! But other than that, I haven’t really noticed any changes in acne marks. But, TBH, I didn’t expect it to ‘fix’ anything on my skin anyway. I was looking for an alternative for alcohol-based toners that worked equally well and found that in witch hazel. Bottom line is, I like it as a replacement for harsh, alcohol-based toners that used to dry out my skin.