A Japanese woman decides she’s had enough with people dying for no reason. Life’s already too depressing and difficult trying to make it as a doctor in a male-dominated society. She comes up with a drug to stop women from bleeding to death while giving birth. Well, the woman needs allies -they can’t be dying on her!
The drug is a success. Soon after, it’s used to stop excessive bleeding during childbirth, surgeries, dentistry, and even heavy menstrual flow. A patient decides to pay a visit to the doctor to thank her for saving her life and maybe show some pictures of the newborn baby.
The doctor’s annoyed, obviously. But she thinks to herself; “That baby is ugly as hell. But she’s already given birth. So what’s up with that glowing skin?” She decides to take a closer look and realizes she invented postpartum glow while treating postpartum bleeding.
That’s how tranexamic acid was discovered as an anti-pigmentation agent. Today, it’s used in skincare to fake that post-near-death-experience glow.
Would you look at that? Men can’t pee straight but the woman saves thousands of lives and accidentally treats melasma. Her name was Utako Okamoto and she died in 2014.
This may be a simplified version of the story. And the husband was definitely involved in the discovery of the drug at some point.
Regardless, skincare products with tranexamic acid are the hot new skin-brighteners. And we’ve rounded up some great options. Check out the deal with this new skincare ingredient to get the most out of your products.
What is Tranexamic Acid?
Tranexamic acid is a derivative of the amino acid called lysine (1). Originally, tranexamic acid was a medication used to control bleeding during surgeries. It’s still used for that reason to this day.
But its effects on hyperpigmentation were later discovered. It turns out tranexamic acid treats and prevents skin discolorations.
After that, the drug was prescribed to melasma patients orally and intravenously. Today, tranexamic acid is used in skincare products like serums and creams as a topical anti-pigmentation agent.
Benefits of Tranexamic Acid For Skin
The main benefit of tranexamic acid for your skin is its ability to reduce hyperpigmentation. Several things can cause hyperpigmentation on the skin. These include dark spots and patches from sun exposure, aka UV-induced pigmentation, and residual spots from acne.
Another pigmentation disorder is called melasma (2), which is more complicated and usually related to hormonal imbalances. That’s why pregnant women commonly suffer from it.
Tranexamic acid’s exact way of treating hyperpigmentation is not clear. However, it seems to inhibit the skin’s inflammatory response to triggers. As a result, it prevents the formation of melanin cells that end up as dark spots on the surface of the skin.
Additionally in a comparative study (3), tranexamic acid is said to be considerably gentler than hydroquinone, which is notorious for being irritating. You can use tranexamic acid in your skincare to reduce any discolorations on the skin and actually improve your skin tone minus the irritation.
Side Effects of Tranexamic Acid For Skin
There’s no known side effect of tranexamic acid when used topically in skincare. On the contrary, it’s gentler than the mainstream anti-pigmentation agent hydroquinone. However, tranexamic acid is still new in the world of skincare. So there’s not enough study to support or deny this.
And lastly, though not really a side effect, there are concerns regarding the effectiveness of topical tranexamic acid. That’s because it may not be able to penetrate the skin (4). And this might explain why tranexamic acid usually comes in serums rather than creams.
Overall, serums are more penetrating than creams. And tranexamic acid seems to work well in serum form (5). So if you’re looking for something in cream form, a niacinamide cream or a vitamin C cream may work better.
But there are workarounds to increase its efficiency too. Just like growth factors, micro-needling seems to make tranexamic acid work better (6). However, it’s best to stick with serums.
How To Use Tranexamic Acid in Your Skincare?
It’s important to start slow when you’re introducing a new ingredient to your routine. Even though it’s gentle enough to use on most skin types, tranexamic acid is still new.
If you’ve tried other ingredients and find them irritating for your skin, you can try a tranexamic acid product. A serum or a treatment with tranexamic acid as the main ingredient will help you better observe your results and your skin’s reaction to it.
On the other hand, you can always try products that contain multiple brighteners. Tranexamic acid is usually paired with vitamin C and other brighteners like niacinamide or azelaic acid. This makes your treatment more targeted and effective.
The Best Tranexamic Acid Skincare Products
From serums to treatments, below are the best tranexamic acid skincare products to target hyperpigmentation.
This one has 3% tranexamic acid to target dark spots and dark patches on the skin. And to enhance the brightening effects, the treatment has a 3% vitamin C derivative as well. Vitamin C is an amazing antioxidant that also stimulates collagen production. But derivatives are way gentler on the skin. The potent treatment has a serum-like texture. And it’s super affordable if you want to try out the new trend.
These are exfoliating pads made with a bunch of hydroxy acids like glycolic and salicylic to resurface the skin. Exfoliation helps with anything from acne to wrinkles and from pigmentation to textured skin. That said, the addition of tranexamic acid and azelaic acid makes the peel pads more targeted towards reducing hyperpigmentation. The pads smooth the skin texture and make sure the revealing skin is brighter and more radiant.
This is one of the best tranexamic acid serums you can get your hands on. The potent formula contains 3% tranexamic acid in addition to 5% niacinamide. Niacinamide, aka vitamin B3, is also known for its skin brightening and barrier restoring benefits. Moreover, the serum has kojic acid to fade dark spots and lighten the skin. If you’re dealing with melasma or severe sun damage, this is one of the best tranexamic acid products to even out your complexion and treat melasma.
Similarly, this dark spot treatment puts niacinamide at the center of the formula and enhances the skin benefits with tranexamic acid, arbutin, and kojic acid. The total concentration of all that is skin-brightening is a whopping 15%. The treatment is an effective one to reverse any sun-induced discolorations and dullness as well as dark spots from acne.
All skin types need some sort of exfoliation. It’s good for skin turnover, collagen production, enlarged pores, congestion, and more. But what makes a peel the best one for your unique skin is its targeted formulation. If you’re using peels to get rid of discolorations, you’re going to love this peel. It contains both AHAs and BHA, namely glycolic, lactic, malic, and salicylic acids, to resurface the skin and reveal a healthier layer. The addition of tranexamic acid increases the skin’s radiance and strengthens your hand to better target dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
Spot treatments and acne patches are nothing new. But these innovative and practical patches are great for zeroing in on your dark spots. These are micro-needling patches, meaning that the patches contain teeny tiny needles to infuse the skin with brightening goodies. When you stick the patch onto your skin, it delivers tranexamic acid, niacinamide, arbutin, and licorice extract into the skin to fade away the look of dark patches and to brighten the area. Apply it on any dark spot or post-acne marks to fade them away.
A similar formula is this one. This is a spot treatment but for dark spots. And it has all the goodies you need to reduce the look of discolorations and dark patches on the skin. 2% tranexamic acid coupled with 5% niacinamide help to fade stubborn spots. And that’s not it, the gel also packs kojic acid and licorice root to amplify the effects and aloe for some skin-soothing love. The clean formula offers an easy and affordable way to spot treat hyperpigmentation without getting your whole face involved.
This one is a vitamin C peel to target signs of aging, dullness, uneven skin tone, and texture. After all, vitamin C is the gold standard to increase radiance, brighten the skin, and neutralize free radicals that cause the formation of wrinkles. But we don’t usually see vitamin C in peeling treatments. The reason is that this is a super potent exfoliating serum that packs hydroxy acids and skin brighteners. Glycolic, mandelic, and salicylic acids and gluconolactone resurface the skin. Meanwhile, vitamin C, tranexamic acid, azelaic acid boost radiance and fade away discolorations. The wash-off anti-aging peel is amazing for improving your skin texture and evening out the skin.
And speaking of anti-aging, this tranexamic acid serum comes at discolorations with a concentration of 3% and an added 5% niacinamide. But it also has bakuchiol in it. If you’re not familiar, bakuchiol is a plant-derived antioxidant that acts like retinol but without irritating your skin. Well, it’s an exciting time to be dealing with hyperpigmentation, isn’t it? The lotion serum is as gentle as they come no matter your skin type.
In case you’re not familiar, azelaic acid is also a multi-tasker that, among many other benefits, has brightening and anti-inflammatory effects on the skin. It reduces acne as well as redness from inflammation and rosacea. The serum has 10% azelaic acid in addition to 3% tranexamic acid. Although it’s gold for melasma and dark spots, people with stubborn acne scars will especially love it for clear skin.
This is another potent brightening serum. It’s formulated with tranexamic acid, niacinamide, and resorcinol, which is an antioxidant that also evens out the skin tone. But this fragrance-free serum has signal peptides added into the mix, which are a bunch of amino acids that inhibit melanin production as well. The highly targeted formula reduces and prevents dark spots, making it one of the best topical tranexamic acid products on the market.
- Cai, J., Ribkoff, J., Olson, S., Raghunathan, V., Al-Samkari, H., DeLoughery, T. G., & Shatzel, J. J. (2020). The many roles of tranexamic acid: An overview of the clinical indications for TXA in medical and surgical patients. European journal of hematology, 104(2), 79–87. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejh.13348
- Kim, S.J., Park, J.‐Y., Shibata, T., Fujiwara, R. and Kang, H.Y. (2016), Efficacy and possible mechanisms of topical tranexamic acid in melasma. Clin Exp Dermatol, 41: 480-485. https://doi.org/10.1111/ced.12835
- Atefi, N., Dalvand, B., Ghassemi, M., Mehran, G., & Heydarian, A. (2017). Therapeutic Effects of Topical Tranexamic Acid in Comparison with Hydroquinone in Treatment of Women with Melasma. Dermatology and therapy, 7(3), 417–424. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13555-017-0195-0
- Liu, Y., Han, Y., Zhu, T., Wu, X., Yu, W., Zhu, J., Shang, Y., Lin, X., & Zhao, T. (2021). Targeting delivery and minimizing epidermal diffusion of tranexamic acid by hyaluronic acid-coated liposome nanogels for topical hyperpigmentation treatment. Drug delivery, 28(1), 2100–2107. https://doi.org/10.1080/10717544.2021.1983081
- 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; 20: 561– 565. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.13545
- Budamakuntla, L., Loganathan, E., Suresh, D. H., Shanmugam, S., Suryanarayan, S., Dongare, A., Venkataramiah, L. D., & Prabhu, N. (2013). A Randomised, Open-label, Comparative Study of Tranexamic Acid Microinjections and Tranexamic Acid with Microneedling in Patients with Melasma. Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery, 6(3), 139–143. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-2077.118403
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