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

INSTYLE article

The 5 Key Skincare Ingredients You Need To Know About For 2021

Blame it on Zoom or spending a significantly increased amount of time at home, 2020 saw our interest in all things skincare peak to new heights. Frantically Googling the best skincare formulas to slather on our skin, we became a nation obsessed with the hardworking ingredients that promised to boost glow, plump, firm and smooth. So, what ingredients should we be looking out for in 2021? Here, find the top five skincare buzzwords we’re touting as big news in the new year.

Succinic Acid

Forget salicylic and glycolic, there’s a new acid in town: succinic. Perfect for those with spots, it’s a gentle exfoliator that helps peel dead skin cells from pores while also preventing them from clogging again. Naturally found in amber, succinic acid has antimicrobial properties and recent studies have shown it’s also excellent at defending the skin against external aggressors, thanks to its antioxidant properties. Keep an eye out for The Inkey List’s Succinic Acid Blemish Treatment which launches in January (join the Cult Beauty waitlist here). But for now, you can also find it in Zelens’s Z Hyaluron Hyaluronic Acid Complex Serum Drops and Elemis’s Pro-Collagen Energising Marine Cleanser

Calcium

While you might occasionally enjoy a glass of milk to keep your bones strong, did you know that calcium is also important for the skin? “The skin has what we call a ‘calcium gradient’ which plays an important role in creating a strong skin barrier,” explains Dr Ellie Bradley, a senior scientist at Boots. “The calcium gradient is lost with age, meaning skin renewal becomes thinner as you get older. By adding calcium to the top outer layer of the skin, it helps support optimal skin renewal and strengthening of the skin.” Get your fill via L’Oréal Paris’s Calcium Day Cream, Vichy’s Neovadiol Rose Platinum Night Cream or Herbivore’s Orchid Youth Preserving Facial Oil.

Collagen

We all know that collagen is one of the building blocks of healthy, firm skin but 2021 will see more of an onus on applying it topically. “It’s a great ingredient to incorporate into your skincare regime if you want plump, smooth skin, plus it helps reduce the appearance of lines,” explains Dr Bradley. Alexia Inge, founder of Cult Beauty, also believes that marine collagen, in particular, will be big in 2021 thanks to the beauty industry’s obsession with ingredients found in our oceans. Boots will launch its Collagen Youth Activating Day and Night Creams in January and Dr Dennis Gross’s Hyaluronic Marine Collagen Lip Cushion is the ultimate lip product, working to deeply hydrate and plump. 

Liquorice Root

Bright skin is always in, and for that liquorice root can help. An extract from the root of the liquorice plant, it’s also a potent antioxidant and helps soothe the skin, making it perfect for sensitive, red or blemish-prone skin. “Due to its brightening abilities, this is the ultimate skincare ingredient for those who want glowy skin,” says Dr Bradley. Find it in No7 Laboratories Clearing Skin Paste and 111 Skin’s luxurious Celestial Black Diamond Cream.

Cica

One of K-beauty’s most beloved ingredients isn’t going anywhere for 2021. In fact, it’s getting a luxe makeover in the form of Dior’s must-try Cica Recovery Balm, which promises to soothe, soften and revitalise skin for up to 72 hours. Meanwhile, Dr Jart+ is relaunching in the UK in the new year, with its bestselling and ultra-effective Cicapair Tiger Grass range in tow.  

VOGUE article