It would be a fib to say I’ve heard about tranexamic acid for skin before working in beauty. But its growing popularity and my deep research on skincare ingredients made me come across tranexamic acid multiple times. With that said, I’ve decided to answer all of your questions related to tranexamic acid — what it is, what it does to the skin, and who can use it. And don’t get tricked by the acid in its name because this one is not like the AHAs or BHAs you’re used to and doesn’t work by exfoliating skin.
Ok, enough teasing. Read on, by the end of this post you’ll be ready to take the plunge and add this new powerhouse into your forever-expanding skincare routine, of that I’m sure.
What is tranexamic acid?
Tranexamic acid (TXA) is a synthetic derivative of lysine amino acid, commonly used in medicine to stem bleeding and alleviate heavy periods when taken orally. But lately, this ingredient has made its way onto our vanity countertops in all sorts of skincare products that address dark spots, sun spots, post-acne marks, and discolorations. And for good reasons — tranexamic acid has everything it takes to brighten and even your skin tone, and you’re just about to find all about it.
How does tranexamic acid work?
Tranexamic acid for skin whitening works by inhibiting the interaction between melanocytes (cells that give skin pigment) and the cells on the skin’s outermost layer, keratinocytes. Simply put, tranexamic acid hinders the transfer of dark pigment to the surface of the skin, lightening dark spots and evening tone. More than that, tranexamic acid for skin acts as an anti-inflammatory, meaning it has a role in controlling the breakdown of essential proteins (like collagen and elastin) needed for a firmer, elastic complexion. Plus, it may help with inflammatory acne.
How effective is tranexamic acid?
TXA pops up in a bunch of skincare products aiding to fix uneven skin tone because it genuinely works, and dozens of scientific research back up its well-deserved fame. For instance, in a study, fifty women with melasma have topically applied a 3% tranexamic acid solution on one side of the face and on the other side a solution with 3% hydroquinone two times a day for 12 weeks. By the end of the trial, the researchers concluded that TXA is as effective as hydroquinone (one of the most potent skin lightening agents). But women noted higher satisfaction with TXA use due to fewer side effects like dryness and irritation.
Another trial applied a tranexamic acid serum containing 2% TXA to 54 volunteers twice daily for eight weeks. The study concluded that topical tranexamic acid serum successfully improved the overall facial tone as well as the look of dark spots and redness.
All in all, TXA is a gentle and effective ingredient for skin lightening, quickly becoming the first go-to, especially for those who can’t tolerate harsher brightening actives, such as retinol, hydroquinone, or vitamin C.
Tranexamic acid is mild and is generally considered safe for all skin types. However, a few tranexamic acid side effects in rare cases include irritation or dryness, especially for beginners. Also, tranexamic acid is safe to use when pregnant or breastfeeding, but it’s always best to talk to your doctor about trying new skincare products to play safely.
How to use
There are plenty of ways to use tranexamic acid for skin. While you can find it in cleansers, toners, and moisturizers, a tranexamic acid serum best tackles hyperpigmentation and discoloration. And if it packs other skin brightening agents, such as vitamin C, retinol, niacinamide, azelaic acid, and kojic acid, you hit it big.
A powerful skin brightening agent, tranexamic acid blocks the interaction between skin cells and melanin-producing cells, improving overall tone, sun damage, post-acne marks, and discoloration. The best part? Unlike its skin brightening counterparts, tranexamic acid is mild and acts gently on hyperpigmentation, being the perfect choice for those who find vitamin C, retinol, or glycolic acid difficult to tolerate.
- Dunn CJ, Goa KL. Tranexamic acid: a review of its use in surgery and other indications. Drugs. 1999 Jun;57(6):1005-32. doi: 10.2165/00003495-199957060-00017. PMID: 10400410
- Ebrahimi B, Naeini FF. Topical tranexamic acid as a promising treatment for melasma. J Res Med Sci. 2014;19(8):753-757
- da Silva Souza ID, Lampe L, Winn D. New topical tranexamic acid derivative for the improvement of hyperpigmentation and inflammation in the sun-damaged skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2021 Feb;20(2):561-565. doi: 10.1111/jocd.13545. Epub 2020 Jun 25. PMID: 32588531