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What to Know About Tranexamic Acid—Your New Favorite Skin Brightener

Photo by Prostock-Studio/Getty Images

From niacinamide to kojic acid to hydroquinone, there are so many skincare products that feature skin brightening ingredients. Now, a new ingredient has hit the market that we can’t wait to learn all about: tranexamic acid. Before you go adding yet another new product to your regimen, let’s take a deep dive into this buzzy skincare ingredient. We reached out to South Texas-based board-certified dermatologist Adeline Kikam, DO, MS, FAAD to find out just how tranexamic acid works, who should use it, and everything else you need to know.

About the Expert: 
Adeline Kikam, DO, MS, FAAD is a South Texas-based board-certified dermatologist and skin of color advocate for inclusive skincare and dermatologic health.

What is tranexamic acid and how is it used in skincare?

First and foremost, the ingredient has important uses in the medical field, explains Dr. Kikam. “Tranexamic acid is a hemostatic agent, so it’s used to stop or control blood loss in conditions such as heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia), blood disorders such as hemophilia, and others where it has a long history of use orally and intradermally.” And while those applications may sound, well, intense, don’t forget your skin is also an organ. Topical tranexamic acid is becoming increasingly popular, but the derm explains, “The mechanism of action of tranexamic acid as relates to its dermatological use is not yet well understood.” Ultimately, it mostly comes down to melanin, aka, our skin pigment. “It is hypothesized that it reduces the size of blood vessels in skin, as well as [slowing] melanin synthesis, improving redness and hyperpigmentation,” says Dr. Kikam.

What are the benefits of tranexamic acid for skin?

  • It reduces discoloration

    Especially due to sun damage.“Right now it’s used off label orally and topically in dermatology for reducing UV-induced melanogenesis—or stimulation of melanin production—resulting in improved discoloration in skin,” explains the derm, adding that it can help in fading dark spots and the treatment of melasma, which is common in darker skin and women of childbearing age. 

  • It brightens your complexion.

    While it can be used as a targeted treatment for the skin conditions above, using a serum with tranexamic acid can also help even out overall skin tone.

  • It neutralizes redness.

    Tranexamic acid can also help soothe irritation, and is tolerable for sensitive skin types.

How to use tranexamic acid in your skincare routine

Tranexamic acid is found in facial serums at a concentration anywhere from 0.5-5% (depending on the supporting ingredients in the formula). It can be used morning and night before moisturizer, and should always be followed with sunscreen in the morning. It’s tolerable on most skin types, and is especially great for acne-prone skin, “especially for dark spots or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation,” says Dr. Kikam, who says side effects are “minimal” and may include redness, stinging, burning, and rash.” 

The ingredient can also be used alongside most of your other products. “It’s safe to combine with commonly used ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, retinol, vitamin C, and chemical exfoliants,” says Dr. Kikam. The caveat? Take caution when using more than one brightening product at a time. “Just be careful with over-combining it with too many other depigmenting agents to avoid over-irritation,” advises the derm. 

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About the author
Lindy Segal
Lindy is a contributor at IPSY, a beauty and lifestyle writer, and Real Housewives aficionado. She was an editor at People and Glamour, and her freelance work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Who What Wear, and Cosmopolitan, among other publications.
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Article Last Updated June 22, 2021 12:00 AM