The latest trending ingredient: Tranexamic Acid

Searches for Tranexamic Acid have increased in popularity by 25% over the last year and its popularity is set to continue into the upcoming season, says one study by e-tailer LOOKFANTASTIC. “Tranexamic Acid stops pigment production which helps treat dark spots and hyperpigmentation and brightens skin. Tranexamic Acid is also popular on social media, for example it has 1.4 million views on the TikTok skincare community, with the likes of The Derm Doctor discussing the benefits of the ingredient for skincare.”

Dr Deborah Lee said: “Topical tranexamic acid has shown promising results when used to reduce unwanted skin hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation is a common problem in skincare, and topical use of tranexamic acid, until recently, was not recognised as a potential treatment. Tranexamic acid has recently become popular due to Instagram, the effects of various influencers, and the opinions of some Consultant dermatologists. It has been described as a ‘hero ingredient’ due to its potent skin properties.” And Dr. David Lim says (in a recent Instagram update on his new skincare brand The Formulated) that it’s “one of the biggest breakthroughs for treatment of pigmentation, especially melasma”.

What is it and what is it used for?

Joanne Healy, Product Development Manager at Advanced Skin Technology says “Tranexamic Acid, a derivative of the amino acid lysine, is now one of the most sort after pigmentation actives for improving the appearance of dark spots and uneven hyperpigmentation. It works as an essential support to sunscreen to calm, condition and protect skin from future environmental damage. Tranexamic has a unique method of action in that it not only evens out the dark pigmented spots, but it also has a significant calming effect. It has a twofold response on the 2 key aspects of photodamage, minimising both redness and hyperpigmentation.”

A Huda Beauty blog post notes its anti-inflammatory effects. It’s also an acid that doesn’t act like the other ones we’ve all gotten used to in things like chemical exfoliants and peels. It doesn’t act that way. “Unlike other acids like glycolic and salicylic acid, tranexamic acid doesn’t actually exfoliate the skin,” says Huda Beauty. “Instead, tranexamic acid is a powerful anti-inflammatory that works to disrupt the overproduction of melanin that’s caused by aggravated skin inflammation. Melanin is the naturally occurring pigment that gives your skin its color, and while melanin helps protect the skin, when produced in excess, it can cause dark patches, isolated spots, and dullness.” 

Jessica Giraldi, Head of Education at Professional Beauty Solutionssays “as a skincare ingredient it’s used to help fade discolouration, brighten skin and reduce the appearance of acne scars. It’s great for combatting dark spots and pigmentation after sun exposure, as well as postoperative care after laser and pulsed light treatments. It’s also been used to stop bleeding in the past, says Michelle Wong, PhD, creator of Lab Muffin. “It’s been used orally for reducing bleeding for decades, such as for heavy periods and after surgery. In the last decade it’s also been used for pigmentation disorders, in particular melasma.”

Who can use it?

Anyone with any skin tone, says Jessica. “No matter what your skin tones or complexion concerns may be, this ingredient will target your hyperpigmentation and melasma gently and effectively. Tranexamic acid is also a safer, effective alternative to hydroquinone, a potentially irritating bleaching ingredient”

Is it safe?

Jessica says “Generally, tranexamic acid is safe for all skin types, especially those who seek the appearance of brighter, even-toned skin.” Michelle says the “benefits are that there aren’t many side effects.”

Does it work?

Jessica says “Tranexamic acid is a powerful tyrosinase activity inhibitor, and therefore can limit the production of melanin, the pigment in our skin that leads to uneven skin tone and discoloration.” But Michelle does note that there aren’t many peer-reviewed studies on the ingredient in skincare yet and “there’s not much evidence that it does anything…. There isn’t much reliable peer-reviewed evidence for using tranexamic acid in skincare. There are a few studies where it’s been reasonably effective for melasma, but it’s generally been studied in combination with microneedling or injected rather than just as a regular skincare product. It seems to work best for melasma, but the evidence for other types of pigmentation isn’t really there.”

How and when do you use it?

Joanne says “You should never stop using it! It has an accumulative effect so the longer you use it the better it is but as soon as you stop, those dark uneven spots may return.”

She also notes that you might have to be careful with the other skincare ingredients you use at the same time. “Tranexamic Acid likes to be in a Neutral pH therefore it may not be effective in an acidic formula alongside ingredients like Retinol, AHAs, BHAs and L-Ascorbic Acid. This doesn’t mean you couldn’t use them at the same time, more about how it is formulated to avoid instability within the formula.” And article on Active Skin says that “Unlike Alpha and Beta Hydroxy acids, Tranexamic Acid is a non-exfoliating acid. This means it works on skin issues such as discolouration, dullness and pigmentation, so it’s perfect for anyone wishing to restore their natural glow or even skin tone. TXA works effectively with other exfoliating acids, including Retinol and Vitamin C.:”

How long does it take to work?

For superior results, 3 months is always the recommended time frame for skincare or skin treatments to have a significant improvement,” says Joanne, “but some may see some change in as little as month.”