Is witch hazel beneficial for any chronic skin conditions (i.e. eczema)?
Witch hazel has antimicrobial properties as well as the ability to reduce oil and inflammation. These properties make it well suited to manage acne. For cold sores, it can help reduce inflammation. Eczema may be more difficult to manage with witch hazel alone, however, given its astringent properties. However, it may help to reduce inflammation in conjunction with other more hydrating products.
What should people know before they decide to use witch hazel? Are there any contraindications? Is it better to use it diluted?
One of my patients from Puerto Rico brought in a bottle of witch hazel and said she uses it for everything. In Spanish I believe it is called agua maravilla. This translates to “wonder water”. Given its antimicrobial and anti inflammatory properties it tends to be a nice go-to product to help manage skin conditions. It is usually better to dilute the product in water or an oil to reduce its astringent properties and make it less irritating to the skin.
What about witch hazel as an antiseptic? Can you use it in lieu of things like Neosporin, etc.?
The actual ability of witch hazel, concentration needed, and carrier oil for witch hazel to kill bacteria, fungus and viruses has not necessarily been well studied. For early wound management to help clean a wound it is not a bad option but should be used in conjunction with with products better studied and suited for treating infections such as antibacterial creams and ointments.