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From brightening vitamin C to exfoliating lactic acid, using acids in skin care is nothing new. But what about tranexamic acid for skin?
Tranexamic acid is a medication prescribed to treat heavy bleeding, but it’s also a rising skin care star used to treat melasma and other hyperpigmentation.
Sussing out skin care isn’t always easy. So, before you jump on the tranexamic acid train, there are some major factors to consider.
Tranexamic acid is a synthetic derivative of the amino acid lysine. Traditionally, it was prescribed to regulate heavy periods or control post-op bleeding.
Research shows tranexamic acid has the ability to prevent the growth of new blood vessels and the formation of melanin (aka skin pigment). This might be why topical tranexamic acid appears to help lighten dark spots from hyperpigmentation, melasma, or sun damage.
Although many beauty brands infuse their products with tranexamic acid, we still need more studies to know exactly how it works to improve dark spots.
Yes, tranexamic acid stops heavy bleeding. But you’re here for the glow-up, right?
Let’s skip to the good part.
Age spots. Liver spots. Sunspots. No matter what you call ‘em, these dark spots crop up due to UV exposure. And if you don’t like the way they look, tranexamic acid might be your new BFF.
In one small 2014 study, 50 folks with UV-induced dark spots applied 3 percent tranexamic acid to one side of their face and 3 percent hydroquinone + 0.01 percent dexamethasone on the other side twice each day for 12 weeks. Researchers discovered that tranexamic acid was just as effective as the more traditional treatment — but with far fewer side effects.
Another 2017 study with 60 participants came to a similar conclusion. While these studies are super small, they’re promising.
Not all dark spots come from the sun. Some folks also get hyperpigmentation from acne. Others develop melasma, a skin condition that causes dark patches on the face. Tranexamic acid to the rescue!
A recent study on a topical tranexamic acid derivative found that applying it 2x a day for 8 weeks reduced hyperpigmentation by 78.6 percent.
Research shows that tranexamic acid combats melasma in 2 ways: shrinking *and* lightening dark patches. Since studies have included everything from 3 percent cream to 5 percent gel, we need more studies to pinpoint the best dose and product.
Tranexamic acid has effectively soothed swelling from hereditary angioedema, a condition characterized by swelling around the eyes, lips, hands, and feet. Sometimes folks with angioedema also experience frequent itchy rashes.
Of course, tranexamic acid’s power to crush swelling from angioedema does *not* mean it’s an automatic #win against irritation. More research is needed to know if it could dial down general redness or puffiness.
Tranexamic acid used topically in skin care is generally considered safe. But like any product, irritation can occur.
You’ll dial up your risk of side effects when taking it orally versus applying it topically.
PSA: Always do a patch test before slathering a new cream or serum across your whole face.
Some signs of contact dermatitis (a fancy term for your skin is irritated or allergic to something) include:
Tranexamic acid pills can cause more serious reactions. But that’s why they’re prescription-only, right? Chat with your dermatologist to see if it’s right for your skin sitch.
Tranexamic acid tablets are sometimes prescribed as a treatment for melasma.
Some reported side effects include:
You may need to avoid tranexamic acid medication if you:
You may also encounter additional safety issues if you take hormonal birth control pills or are breastfeeding. Always, always talk with your doctor before taking supplements or medications to make sure it’s OK for you!
Good question! If your doctor prescribes tranexamic acid pills, take them as directed on the bottle.
When applied topically, tranexamic acid is mostly an ingredient in serums, but it’s also used in topical dark spot correctors or treatments.
Typically, tranexamic acid isn’t nearly as harsh as bleaching agents like hydroquinone. That means it can be incorporated into your daily skin care routine. Many manufacturers infuse it with other skin-loving ingredients, which is a sign that you could layer it with your ride-or-die creams, retinol, toners, etc.
How often and how much you use will vary from product to product. Your best bet is to follow the instructions on the label, starting with the smallest recommended amount.
Wanna try some tranexamic acid? We rounded up some of the best tranexamic acid-infused products based on their entourage of effective ingredients, brand quality, and reviews from customers.
Yep, the price is hefty. But this bottle of skin-brightening magic is also gentle enough to use daily and thin enough to layer with makeup. It’s also enhanced with lightening kojic acid and skin-smoothing niacinamide. We call that a win.
Let’s keep it real: Like many, many other serums, this won’t be a home run for all. Snag a sample size to test it for yourself. Some reviewers don’t love the formula’s amber tone or sticky texture, while others rave that their friends want to know what’s giving them their new glow.
At $12 a pop, this Ulta Beauty classic is practically a no-brainer. The TA works to fade your sunspots while the niacinamide smoothes uneven texture and helps enlarged pores look smaller.
Most reviewers love that they see results at such a low price, while some say this serum exacerbated their sensitive skin.
This $205 bottle of serum features a bevy of fancy-sounding ingredients: Silk essence? Pearl elements? And yeast extract? But beneath the glitz and glam is a solid formulation of tranexamic acid and a water-soluble vitamin C derivative (ethyl ascorbic acid).
Reviewers praise this brightening serum’s silky texture and the way it sinks into the skin quickly. Add their rave reviews about an instant glow and fading dark spots and it might just be worth the splurge.
Skin-loving acids, unite! This tranexamic acid-infused product is packed with gently exfoliating, brightening ingredients. Hence, Murad’s claim that it’ll accelerate cell turnover by 33 percent in just 1 week. What we know is that this multi-acid peel’s acid combo is a solid addition to your nighttime skin care routine.
Reviewers love their morning glow after using this peel. They also say it feels moisturizing and softening on their skin.
Heads up: The rumors are true about this brightening gel. It does kinda smell like rotten eggs. But if you can get past the sulfur scent, the acids will gently brighten your skin while ingredients like licorice root will subtly soothe inflammation.
Reviewers say they notice a brightening effect within weeks of using this serum. But remember, studies of tranexamic acid suggest that it might take more than 8 to 12 weeks to reach a product’s full effect.
This simple, affordable formulation is a great way to dip your toes into intensive skin care treatments.
Vitamin C acts as a golden elixir for fine wrinkles and dullness, while tranexamic acid does its brightening, lightening thing. Truly, this little bottle has incredible potential for the price.
But don’t take our word for it. Reviewers say it delivers on its spot-correcting promises, though some say it made them break out.
Why does your skin love niacinamide? Let us count the ways. It’s antibacterial, hydrating, anti-inflammatory… oh, and it can reduce the appearance of fine lines and enlarged pores. In other words, this formulation is brimming with skin care goodness.
We know it’s not an option for everyone with the price tag. But reviewers who had the cheddar (or, y’know, generous friends), the stuff noticeably improved scarring and hyperpigmentation.
This serum is a one-two punch for reducing the signs of aging skin — especially if you’ve spent time soaking up UV rays.
By now you know what tranexamic acid will do, but what about all those other acids? Glycolic acid is known to help slough off dead skin cells, leaving your face smooth as a dolphin. 🐬 And the lipo-hydroxy acid is a salicylic acid derivative known to help pores stay squeaky clean.
TBH, reviews are mixed. Folks who love it say it *really* helped by evening skin tone, lightening dark spots — the works. But those who feel meh about it say it didn’t do a thing for their skin. Still, with a 4.4-star average among more than 781 reviews, we’d say it beautifies more faces than not.
Last medically reviewed on March 14, 2022
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