Ah, witch hazel — magic potion or cheap drugstore toner? The answer seems to depend on who you ask, especially when it comes to using witch hazel on psoriasis.
But just because some folks love this astringent botanical doesn’t mean it’ll cure itchiness, inflammation, or scaly skin from chronic skin conditions like psoriasis.
Does witch hazel work for psoriasis?
Research suggests that witch hazel can soothe inflammation, but there haven’t been enough studies to recommend it as a treatment for psoriasis.
Psoriasis can cause inflammation of the skin and red or purple, itchy, scaly patches.
While witch hazel can’t prevent or cure psoriasis, it’s possible that the botanical’s natural anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-oxidative characteristics could soothe redness, inflammation, and pain from psoriasis. But this simply hasn’t been proven.
The bottles of witch hazel you see sold at the store are likely a mixture of water and distilled witch hazel extract, which comes from the dried bark and leaves of the witch hazel plant (Hamameliss virginiana).
Research on witch hazel is pretty slim and dated. But those studies do suggest that the plant’s extract is:
Basically, it’s an affordable toner with the potential to help soothe, hydrate, and clean your skin. That’s why folks have used it as a remedy against oh so many ailments:
- bug bites
- small scrapes
- and yes, sometimes psoriasis
Psoriasis is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the skin — but it can also affect other organ systems like your joints (aka psoriatic arthritis or PsA).
This inflammatory response is due to an overproduction of skin cells typically where the skin is traumatized. Psoriasis also tends to flare with certain triggers, infections, medications, and stress. (Pssst: Some experts actually consider psoriasis an autoimmune disorder.)
Psoriasis usually looks like a scaly, dry rash that is red, pink, purple, gray, or brown, depending on your skin tone. A psoriasis flare can unleash more thick, scaly plaques that itch or burn.
Psoriasis is usually found on the knees, elbows, lower back, and scalp. But it can happen all over your body in areas like your:
- soles of feet
- hairline and ears
- around the eyes and lips
- genitals and groin area
- armpits and skin folds
There’s no cure for psoriasis, but there are treatments to soothe symptoms and reduce or manage the frequency and severity of flare-ups.
Full disclosure: We don’t know for sure. There’s really no research confirming witch hazel as a treatment for psoriasis.
A 2021 review evaluated studies that used witch hazel with other herbal remedies for inflammatory skin conditions. Unfortunately, the data wasn’t very helpful and the studies didn’t have enough evidence to prove any benefits.
Thing is, psoriasis also causes internal inflammation. If you have psoriasis, your immune system turns against your own skin cells when it gets triggered. As your skin goes wild trying to heal, skin cells can build up into thick, scaly rashes.
So external treatment of an internal condition won’t ever get to the root of the problem. But soothing botanicals like witch hazel or aloe vera might help calm your skin symptoms.
We do know that witch hazel has anti-inflammatory properties. So we can assume it’ll help soothe common psoriasis symptoms like:
Some other benefits of using witch hazel?
- It’s drug-free.
- It’s affordable.
- It’s accessible without a prescription.
Good question! If you have psoriasis, it’s super important to be aware of your triggers. Ease into new skin care products slowly. Use them sparingly until you know that they’re not causing a reaction.
A few more precautions:
- Check your labels. Avoid witch hazel toners or creams with alcohol, which can further dry and irritate skin.
- Use as directed. That means topically — never ingest witch hazel. This could lead to digestive distress, among other things.
- Avoid while pregnant. There just hasn’t been enough research on witch hazel to know if it could cause damage for peeps who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Most folks can use witch hazel without any problems. However, if you have sensitive skin (or hello, a flare-up?), this liquid might cause stinging or irritation.
We recommend a patch test before applying it to a large patch of skin:
- Apply witch hazel to a pea-to-quarter-sized section of skin.
- Wait 24 hours.
- No side effects? Consider this your official green light.
But some dermatologists also recommend a lengthier test on the inner forearm twice a day for 7 to 10 days.
As with any new product, watch for signs of an allergic reaction like contact dermatitis (a scaly, itchy, pink rash), hives, severe itching, or blisters.
It’s super easy to try witch hazel for psoriasis. The National Psoriasis Foundation doesn’t offer specific instructions for witch hazel, but their general guidance is to check with your doctor before trying unproven treatments.
Witch hazel typically comes as a toner, but you can also find it infused in other products:
- body balms
- body washes
Some folks who use witch hazel mix it with glycerin before applying it to their skin. Glycerin helps skin retain moisture, so the combo is intended to soothe and hydrate at the same time.
If you’re using witch hazel for scalp psoriasis, try this:
- Shampoo hair as usual.
- Gently massage witch hazel onto your damp scalp for a few minutes.
- Wait until the witch hazel has dried down or been absorbed.
- Rinse and style hair as usual.
Some folks also use shampoo that’s already infused with witch hazel.
Witch hazel isn’t your only nonprescription option for psoriasis. There are several other natural remedies known to soothe redness, itchiness, and general inflammation:
- Coal tar soap. The carbazole in coal tar soap is known to ward off inflammation at the cellular level. Shampoos with coal tar (like T/Gel), creams, and lotions are also available.
- Zinc shampoo. Classics like Head & Shoulders are infused with anti-inflammatory zinc.
- Topical keratolytics. Keratolytics like urea, lactic acid, or salicylic acid can help slowly slough off the extra skin cells.
- Good old-fashioned hydration. A gentle, moisturizing lotion will help prevent dryness, itchiness, and flaking.
- Essential oils. More research is needed to confirm the benefits, but some peeps with psoriasis find relief with bacteria-fighting lavender, cooling peppermint, and anti-inflammatory tea tree oil. (Just make sure you ALWAYS dilute essential oils with a carrier oil or lotion. And do a patch test if it’s new to you.)
- Dietary supplements. Talk with your doc about quelling flares with inflammation-fighting fish oil, turmeric, or vitamin D.
- Witch hazel is a naturally astringent, anti-inflammatory distilled botanical.
- Though witch hazel might soothe skin irritation, there is no research to prove that witch hazel works as a treatment for psoriasis.
- People with psoriasis should look for alcohol-free witch hazel products to avoid drying out their skin.
- Talk with your doctor before trying at-home remedies for psoriasis.