For decades witch hazel has fallen in and out of fashion in the beauty industry.
You may have seen it in its liquid form in your mother’s medicine cabinet or in the drug store next to the hydrogen peroxide and isopropyl alcohol.
In its liquid form, it looks like water. While some people have incorporated this extract into their skincare routine, it’s sometimes added to creams, ointments, gels, and salves.
Witch hazel is commonly used as an all-natural astringent, doubling down on its anti-inflammatory properties by soothing irritated and inflamed skin. From treating hemorrhoids to punishing pimples, this product can be used for a wide variety of medicinal purposes. In fact, Mom probably had it left over from soothing your diaper rash!
Herbalists have treasured its cooling effect for centuries, and its distinctive woody scent is easily recognizable. That’s because witch hazel is derived from the twigs, bark, and leaves of elm trees. Four species are native to North America, one to Japan and one to China.
Skincare products have used witch hazel extract as a natural remedy for reducing the appearance of blemishes, providing a cooling sensation to lotions, and tightening and toning the skin.
Perhaps you’ve found a long-forgotten bottle stashed in the back of your medicine cabinet. But wait, before you twist off the cap and use your old witch hazel, you may be wondering whether it has surpassed its expiration date and turned wicked.
Does Witch Hazel Expire?
The short answer is: Yes. Witch hazel does go bad, as is true with most all-natural products.
Witch hazel from Public Goods is completely alcohol-free and doesn’t include any artificial fragrances or ingredients. Instead, it contains aloe vera and lavender oil. With no alcohol included in our formulation, it can stay good for around two years.
Some witch hazel products contain alcohol, which may prolong its shelf life. Before you use it, read the ingredients to see if your bottle contains pure witch hazel or a combination of ingredients.
While alcohol may prolong its shelf life, the added ingredient may also cause unwanted side effects. For example, if you’re using witch hazel on your face to calm inflammation, the added alcohol might further dry out and irritate your skin. You may only want to use witch hazel with alcohol to cleanse minor cuts and scrapes.
Examples of Expiration Dates for Witch Hazel
From Nature With Love notes that 86% witch hazel (which contains added alcohol as an ingredient) expires after two years.
Thayer’s claims that its Rose Petal Witch Hazel Facial Toner, which contains grapefruit seed extract as a natural preservative instead of alcohol, does not expire. However, they recommend using it for only two years after opening.
Additionally, American Distilling states that its witch hazel product, containing 14% alcohol, has a shelf life greater than three years.
So, as you can see, the answer to the question “does witch hazel go bad” is largely dependent on the specific product you’ve selected.
How To Know If You Have Expired Witch Hazel
In the United States, witch hazel is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA]. It’s treated as an over-the-counter drug. You’ll find an expiration date either on the lid or near the Universal Product Code (UPC) or barcode on your bottle.
If you have witch hazel from another country or it was poured into another bottle at some point, you’ll know if it’s gone bad depending on its color. In its pure liquid form, witch hazel is clear. Once expired, it tends to take on a yellowish tint.
Also, be sure to check the scent. The woody scent should smell like a mild root beer or sarsaparilla. On the other hand, expired witch hazel may smell “off.”
Generally, witch hazel that’s been made in a lab will last for four to five years, unless the lid has been left off or it becomes contaminated.
What Happens When Witch Hazel Goes Bad
If you think your witch hazel has expired, throw it away. After all, you are probably using it to help soothe minor skin irritations. Expired witch hazel will only make them worse, and may cause infection.
When using witch hazel, don’t double-dip. While witch hazel has astringent properties, but it is not a disinfectant.
To avoid contamination, you may want to pour a portion of your witch hazel into a bowl and dispose of the excess.
If you do use witch hazel straight from the bottle, dab it on a cloth or cotton ball instead of dipping the cloth in the solution. We say this because you can contaminate it by putting a foreign object into the bottle. Once it’s contaminated, it can expedite the spoiling process. This deterioration could result in breakouts, redness, and rashes when applied the skin.
Fortunately, witch hazel is relatively inexpensive. Buy a new bottle to be sure your product is good to use.
Our witch hazel is biodegradable, alcohol-free, cruelty-free and vegan. Made with organic aloe vera, the product is safe for sensitive skin and is an ideal active ingredient for D.I.Y. face wash, makeup remover, deodorant, aftershave, and acne cleanser.
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