Why The Internet Can’t Stop Raving About Tranexmic Acid

The brightening skincare ingredient can tackle hyperpigmentation.

As far as brightening skincare ingredients go, vitamin C is an A-list star. However, there are other effective ingredients that can treat post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from acne, sun damage, or melasma that deserve some time in the spotlight, too. 

Tranexamic acid is one such ingredient having a moment, with more and more skincare influencers and beauty brands shining light on its benefits and including it in product formulas. While tranexamic acid can be effective on its own, it works even better as an ensemble with other dark spot-fighting ingredients such as vitamin C, kojic acid, niacinamide, and more.

What Is Tranexamic Acid? 

“Tranexamic acid is a synthetic form of lysine, which is an amino acid needed to make proteins,” says Dr. Shari Marchbein, board-certified dermatologist in NYC. “It works by decreasing the production of melanin and we know that the oral form is much more effective at treating melasma than topical form. That being said, serums and other products that contain this ingredient have a lot of potential to help improve hyperpigmentation.” 

The ingredient originally was used as a hemostatic agent to help blood clots, but recently has been utilized as a brightening ingredient to help minimize hyperpigmentation as well as melasma.

What Are the Benefits of Using Tranexamic Acid? 

One of the major benefits of tranexamic acid is that it plays nice with other brightening ingredients, so you can really zero in on hyperpigmentation. 

“There are many treatments for dark spots and these often work well together including licorice, niacinamide, kojic acid, tranexemic acid, retinoids, chemical exfoliants [such as glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid], and more,” Dr. Marchbein says. The dermatologist often recommends serums with tranexamic acid and other brightening agents be used in the same routine for the ingredients to work synergistically to improve post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma. 

Tranexamic acid is also a safer, effective alternative to hydroquinone, a potentially irritating bleaching ingredient. “There aren’t many options when it comes to safe, effective skin lightening bioactives,” says Krupa Koestline, clean cosmetic chemist and founder of KKT Consultants. “Hydroquinone is banned in the EU and restricted in many countries due to its safety concerns. Tranexamic acid has shown promising evidence as a plasmin inhibitor and therefore an effective treatment for UV induced discoloration, dark spots, and redness.”  

What Are the Side Effects of Tranexamic Acid? 

All skin types can use tranexamic acid, but like adding any other new ingredient to your skincare routine, it’s best to do a patch test to ensure you won’t experience irritation. 

It’s also important to wear SPF when using tranexamic acid, along with other brightening ingredients, because the sun can make hyperpigmentation darker. 

“Remember that before you spend your money on antioxidant serums, brightening ingredients, and retinoids to improve the tone of your skin and hyperpigmentation, the most important and first step is diligent daily sun protection,” Dr. Marchbein says. “It is key to reduce the appearance of brown spots (otherwise you are literally throwing your money away).” The dermatologist recommends a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher should be applied to the face, neck, and ears every day — even in the winter.

How Do You Add Tranexamic Acid to Your Skincare Routine? 

Dr. Marchbein says to use tranexamic acid once or twice a day. “I also layer tranexamic acid containing serums over Vitamin C serums and under SPF in the morning and under retinoids at nighttime, so this can safely and effectively be combined with multiple other actives.”

The active can be found in serums, moisturizers, and toners, so it’s entirely up to you what step of your routine in which you want to incorporate it. 

That being said, Koestline says serums are a popular way to go. “Most people do like using actives in their serum layer since you’re applying it before other products.”

Shop Tranexamic Acid Skincare Products:

SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense

Dr. Marchbein is a fan of this serum by SkinCeuticals, which she often recommends to patients treating post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma. It’s infused with tranexamic acid, along with kojic acid and niacinamide, another two tried-and-true brightening ingredients. 

To shop: $98; skinceuticals.com

Peter Thomas Roth PRO Strength Niacinamide Discoloration Treatment

In addition to niacinamide, the all-star cast of Peter Thomas Roth’s discoloration treatment includes tranexmic and kojic acids, alpha arbutin, and pentapeptide. The lightweight cream can be applied twice a day on clean skin and is best followed by a moisturizer. 

To shop: $88; sephora.com

Joanna Vargas Bright Eye Hydrating Mask

Puffiness? Dark circles? Dryness? Crow’s feet? This eye mask by celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas checks all the boxes. It’s powered by brightening tranexamic acid, collagen-boosting matrixyl, soothing allantoin, and hydrating licorice root extract. 

To shop: $60/5; dermstore.com

La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 Serum

In this dark spot-fading serum by La Roche-Posay, tranexamic acid is paired with exfoliating glycolic acid to even out skin tone. Use it alone or add a few drops to your favorite moisturizer.

To shop: $40; amazon.com

The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Night Treatment

If post-breakout dark spots, hyperpigmentation, or dullness are your main skincare concerns, try swapping your usual moisturizer for this overnight treatment. Powered by tranexamic acid, vitamin C, and acai berry extract, it targets areas of discoloration and boosts overall radiance. 

To shop: $15; theinkeylist.com

SkinMedica 2.0 Lytera Pigment Correcting Serum 

Dr. Marchbein says SkinMedica’s Lytera 2.0 serum is another great option for treating discoloration. It combines tranexamic acid with niacinamide, phytic acid, phenylethyl resorcinol, and a marine extract blend to improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation without drying out skin.

To shop: $154; dermstore.com

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The Ordinary’s 8 Best Anti-Aging Products

If you’ve been on the internet within the past year, chances are you’ve read about The Ordinary or have seen photos of its minimalistic products (picture what face serums would look like if Apple made them). The Canadian skincare brand has everything from facial peels to zinc serums at super affordable prices — which is why it’s amassed a cult-like following.

Because the brand has so much to offer, it’s hard to figure out what to start with, especially when anti-aging is on your mind. There’s a ton of competing information out there when it comes to skincare, which is why I usually opt for reviews from Reddit and advice from dermatologists.

There are no skincare fanatics out there quite like those on beauty subreddits. They’ve tested out every product imaginable, and give raw advice and reviews like a best friend. When it comes to what works and what doesn’t, Reddit doesn’t hold back. Here’s what they have to say about some of The Ordinary’s anti-aging offerings.

Best to achieve glowing, dewy skin: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

“LOVED this product. It made my skin noticeably brighter and caused me no irritation. That being said, I had issues with pilling when using this with other products, so I didn’t RP.”

Shop now: $6; sephora.com

Best to combat dark spots: Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

“I’ve had a great response to Alpha Arbutin from the Ordinary. I really notice a difference that I hadn’t achieved with retinol or vitamin C, which are commonly used. Something to keep in mind if you try the common solutions and don’t see the results you’re after.”

“The alpha arbutin works on my dark spots. I noticed they fade faster than my usual routine. I also use niacinamide for my whole face to target oiliness. The AA, I patch it only on my dark spots. But you have to combine it with regular exfoliation and sunscreen.”

Shop now: $9; sephora.com 

Best to brighten and hydrate skin: 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil 

“Can confirm, the rosehip oil is awesome, and I have the most sensitive, complicated, allergic, and comedogenic skin… It keeps hydration and brightens like nothing else.”

Shop now: $10; sephora.com 

Best to combat puffy eyes: Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

“At the moment I have a cold that morphed into a sinus infection (the JOY!). I’m even puffier than usual. Normally I would patch test, but what with not feeling well and looking like a freaking basset hound I thought screw this sh*t and put it on. It bloody works! You can see the difference almost immediately (this coming from me is a high praise :)”

Shop now: $7; sephora.com

Best for fine lines and wrinkles: Granactive Retinoid* 2% Emulsion

“It eliminated most of the fine lines on my forehead (I’m 28, combo skin, prone to breakouts). Makes my skin very smooth too! I started on the 1 percent in squalane in December but I think that made me break out so I switched back.

It did take me a couple of months to really see the difference though, but I read somewhere retinoids take at least min six to eight weeks to reach their top effect (the anti-aging part at least, don’t know about the acne prevention)… But I’m really happy now!“

Shop now: $10; sephora.com

Best vitamin C serum: Vitamin C Suspension 23%

“I currently [use] the Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, it’s only been two days and my skin when I wake up is so glowy and well-hydrated. I’ve been letting it sit at night for about 30 mins before adding my Ponds Hydrating Cream.”

Shop now: $6; sephora.com

Best for evening skin texture: Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% 

“I’ve been raving about this stuff on this sub for a while now (and being consistently downvoted for some reason). It really is a game changer. I can’t use it every day because my skin is very thin and sensitive but on the days I do use it it gives me porcelain skin.”

Shop now: $8; sephora.com 

Best exfoliant to combat dullness: Mandelic Acid 10% + HA 

“I have sensitive combination skin and other acids have not worked for me in the past. This one is very gentle and started showing effects within a week.”

Shop now: $7; sephora.com

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All The Inkey List Reviews You’ve Read Are True

Great skin care doesn’t have to be expensive. And if you’ve read any reviews of The Inkey List, you know this to be true. The British brand has been providing reliable skin-care essentials under $15 since 2018, but thanks in part to TikTok, the buzz for the best Inkey List products is just getting started.

The line is often compared to The Ordinary for its affordable cost and formulas focused on single ingredients. And while both brands have truly impressive quality, where they differ is the packaging. The Ordinary takes a clinical approach with names that refer to specific ingredients, while The Inkey List breaks down the phonetic spelling of ingredients, along with a clear description of the result it gives.

This is no coincidence, as the brand’s founders Colette Laxton and Mark Curry set out to simplify the world of skin care. To do so, the brand offers a quick quiz on its website, called the Recipe Builder, which will craft you a customized routine, or you can use the brand’s Ask Inkey feature to have any imaginable question answered at all times. 

Still, the line, which features 36 skin-care products in nearly identical packaging, can be a bit confusing. While you could theoretically test your way through the entire line for the cost of one luxury serum, that’s what dermatologists and editors are here for. Glamour editors—from skin-care obsessives to true minimalists—put the whole line to the test. Read on for their honest The Inkey List reviews and our breakdown of the products truly worth adding to your routine. 

The Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum

“Lactic acid is one of my favorite skin-care ingredients, but it’s usually harder to find in more affordable products. Lactic is great for acid beginners in general since it hydrates as it exfoliates, and this is a particularly gentle one. Over time I definitely saw more of an evenness and glow, and my skin was super soft. If you want to be wowed, I would say go for something with more punch, but if you just want to dip a toe into acids, this is your girl.”

Buy at Sephora $13

The Inkey List Retinol Antiaging Serum

“This gave my beloved retinol a run for its money! I much prefer this formulation, which is a light cream, over other serums. It was much easier to distribute than an oil-based formula, so I wasted less of the product and was less at risk of overusing it and irritating my skin. It was a really easy addition to my skin-care routine—it layered on smoothly and didn’t dry me out. The only downside is that The Inkey List only makes this retinol with 1% retinol and 0.5% granactive retinoid, whereas other brands offer higher percentages. I think this is the ideal product if you want to start incorporating retinol, or if your skin is sensitive.”

Buy at Sephora $10

The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin Brightening Serum

“I’ve really upped my skin-care routine during quarantine, and it’s been working wonders. I use this in the morning with my Paula’s Choice Niacinamide Treatment, and then some evenings I use my Shani Darden Retinol Reform. Altogether I’ve seen a lot of improvement in my hyperpigmentation and skin texture, but this product is to thank for fading those really tough dark spots.”

Buy at Sephora $12

The Inkey List Peptide Moisturizer

“My skin has recently made me painfully aware of the fact that even though I’m locked inside 24/7, time stops for nobody. Since the start of the pandemic, I feel as if my youthful-looking complexion has starting looking…not quite as youthful. Dry patches, undereye shadows, and new tiny lines (fun!) are suddenly visible, and this moisturizer contains a peptide duo that helps support natural collagen and hydrate skin. I love a cream that doesn’t just moisturize but works to fix other problems, and with continued use I think this one—which is super lightweight, almost like a gel—could be it.”

Buy at Sephora $15

The Inkey List Vitamin C Brightening Cream

“Vitamin C is one of the cornerstones of a solid skin-care routine, but it’s also a difficult ingredient to get into when you’re first building out your regimen. For one, the best vitamin C serums tend to be expensive, and two, they’re not always exactly pleasant to put on, thanks to their signature tangy scent. That’s what makes this cream such an excellent gateway into the category. The formula isn’t greasy or smelly, and since it has a cream base, it’s easy to mix with moisturizer. It won’t give you the full brightening power of a $160+ serum, but it definitely makes a noticeable difference in the overall radiance of your skin.”

Buy at Sephora $10

The Inkey List Ceramide Hydrating Night Treatment

“I’m a sucker for a fancy night cream, but this gave my more expensive options a run for it’s money. It goes on as a sort of creamy, cushy gel that dries down to almost nothing. Normally I like to feel really greased up before bed, but this one provided just as much moisturizing power as something thicker. It plumps up my skin beautifully, calms the between-seasons redness I’m currently dealing with, and doesn’t clog my pores. If you’re only going to grab one thing from the line, I would make it this one.”

Buy at Sephora $15

The Inkey List Squalane Oil

“If you’re trying to take a more hands-on approach to learning about skin-care ingredients, I highly recommend you start with squalene. After spotting the lightweight hydrator in several of my favorite facial oils, I decided to try its full power, uninterrupted, for 14 days. I feel it does a great job of restoring balance to my skin after using retinols, enzymes, and other active ingredients. It’s versatile enough to boost either your a.m. or p.m. routine (or both!) by adding a few drops to your favorite moisturizer.”

Buy at Sephora $12

The Inkey List Brighten-i Eye Cream

“To be honest, I’m still undecided whether I think eye creams do anything long-term, so this $10 option doesn’t feel like too much to risk. It depuffs thanks to the metal tip and provides a great base for my concealer, which are my two major concerns. It also brightens thanks to mica, and has blurring spheres to make me look just a touch more well-rested.”

Buy at Sephora $10

The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Hyperpigmentation Treatment

“I can’t say that I was familiar with tranexamic acid before this—apparently it’s clutch for reducing hyperpigmentation and dark spots—but I can say with certainty now that this is a lovely product. It is super smooth and light, glides on easily, and feels nice with just a moisturizer on top. You definitely have to be sure to wash it off in the morning, but it tells you that on the bottle. I do think it’s making a mild difference to my skin—things are looking brighter and more even—and I look forward to using it for a long time to come.”

Buy at Sephora $15

The Inkey List Snow Mushroom Moisturizer

“I was excited to try this because The Inkey List said it reduces redness—and snow mushroom honestly sounded very mystical. It was very gentle and mild, and left me with a nice glow, but not super greasy. It didn’t help with my mask-induced redness, but turns out only my dermatologist could. For the price, it’s definitely a great no-frills moisturizer to have on hand.”

Buy on their website $10

The Inkey List Q10 Antioxidant Serum

“In theory I know the benefits of antioxidants and how they’re essential for long-term protection against free radicals and signs of aging, but in practice I rarely want to spend my money on products I won’t see an immediate return on investment from. That’s what makes this lightweight serum, which is also formulated with hydrating squalane, so appealing. While there’s no overnight difference, for $7 I know I’m doing something to protect my skin down the road. Plus, it’s a great option if you have sensitive skin that reacts poorly to vitamin C.”

Buy at Sephora $7

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum

“I have sensitive, acne-prone skin, so I was reluctant to believe the hype about hyaluronic acid, assuming an acid was the last thing my skin needed. But this serum left me converted. Unlike exfoliating acids, H.A. is both gentle and deeply hydrating. After using it both morning and night for a few weeks, my skin feels totally balanced with zero clogged pores.”

Buy at Sephora $8

The Inkey List Rosehip Nourishing Night Oil

“Rosehip oil has recently become my secret weapon for waking up with a radiant glow. (Don’t be confused—rosehip oil, which is filled with fatty acids and omega-6 that plump up your skin, isn’t the same as rose absolute, the rose-scented essential oil you’re probably thinking of.) If you want your skin to look luxuriously dewy without appearing shiny, add this stuff to your nighttime regimen ASAP. As we roll into the winter, I’ll be relying on this to improve my skin’s overall texture and moisture retention.”

Buy at Sephora $11

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