During a recent trip to the East Coast, I had to deal with one of the most inconvenient facets of modern air travel: Liquid restrictions in carry-on bags. As a wearer of contact lenses, I need to have some liquids, no matter what–but I really try to give the TSA minimal reason to tear through my cosmetic bag. Luckily, my skin care regimen, from makeup removal to acne control to toning and basic cleansing–is contained to a single, inexpensive, awesome product. Have you discovered the joy of witch hazel yet?
Witch hazel, as you’d buy it at the drugstore or Target or wherever you buy skincare products that isn’t a makeup counter, is an astringent that’s made by distilling the leaves and bark of a non-invasive shrub that grows all over the place in North America. It’s been used medicinally for centuries in the United States and Canada, because it’s great at reducing swelling and cleaning wounds. It also minimizes bruising, and can help soothe the pain of ingrown fingernails. Basically, it’s a great medicine cabinet staple.
More recently, witch hazel’s cleansing properties have been used to treat acne. Often, cosmetics manufacturers will blend this wondrous substance with other things (like fragrances, oils, and fillers) that a.) result in a pretty expensive designer product, and b.) really don’t offer much in the way of effectiveness. Because honestly, witch hazel on its own–which you can buy for all of $3 at the drugstore–does a pretty bang-up job of removing makeup, controlling oil, and cleaning pores without drying out your skin. Just dip a cotton ball or washcloth in a little bit, and swipe it over your face. Done and done.
But if plain old witch hazel is just too simple for you (or you want to play around and make your own toner or cleanser), here are some ideas for how to use this amazing product:
- If you’ve got greasy skin, consider adding a few drops of lemon juice to your witch hazel. It’ll add additionally lustre to your skin, and keep your T-zone in check for hours.
- Didn’t get enough sleep last night? Soak a tea bag in some witch hazel, then wrap it in a cloth and press it to your skin, allowing the moisture to soak through. The tannin in the tea, as well as the hydrosol of the witch hazel will help bring down the swelling of under-eye circles.
- To get off hard-to-clean makeup, add a drop or two of extra virgin olive oil, which can help get even waterproof mascara off your lashes gently.
- For really stubborn acne, mix a few drops each of tea tree oil and lavender oil with your witch hazel. Tea tree oil is known for it’s powerful anti-acne properties, and lavender, an anti-inflammatory, will help reduce redness and swelling.
Unfortunately, witch hazel does have one major downside: On its own, it smells. Like. Death. Like, truly terrible. The smell doesn’t linger–you don’t have to worry about offending people on the bus beside you if you use it first thing in the morning–but it can be a little harsh for those who haven’t experienced it before. Consider yourself warned..and if it bothers you, consider adding a few drops of rose water or another pleasant-smelling non-oil to take the edge off.