What is Tranexamic Acid?
Tranexamic Acid is the new rising star in the family of acids used in skincare. Unlike AHA's and BHA's, Tranexamic Acid does not remove dead skin cells or promote cellular renewal. It works rather differently to lighten pigmentation and treat uneven skin tone, increasing radiance and overall skin clarity and glow.
Historically this ingredients has been used internally, in medicine, to help control heavy periods and decrease blood loss during surgery. Patients that took this medication, reported notable improvement in their skin discoloration.
This does not come without side effects. I scoured the internet for user reviews and came across some pretty grim experiences spanning from swelling and numbness in joints, to losing more that 50% of hair and return of Melasma upon stopping treatment. So before you run to your doctor asking for a prescription, make sure to consider possible side effects. But let's get back to the topical skincare.
Just like Kojic Acid, Ellagic Acid, L'Ascorbic Acid, and Azelaic Acids, Tranexamic Acid is a tyrosinase inhibitor, meaning it blocks the production of melanin (dark pigment) at a cellular level. Research has been quite promising with regard to this new topical.
Where does Tranexamic Acid come from?
Tranexamic Acid is a water-soluble synthetic ingredient derived from Lysine (amino acid). It is best used in concentrations of 2-5% and combined with oils to facilitate its absorption into the lower layers of the skin.
What does Tranexamic Acid do?
A study concluded that over 90% of participants showed visible reduction in pigmentation with the daily use of Tranexamic Acid for 12 weeks, in combination with sunscreen (1).
Here are some reported benefits of Tranexamic Acd:
- Redness reduction.
- Fades acne spots, age spots and melasma.
- Acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor.
- Helps restore moisture to the lipid barrier.
Can Tranexamic Acid be mixed with other active ingredients?
Tranexamic Acid works well in combination with AHA'a, BHA's and other brightening ingredients such as Licorice and Niacinamide.
How and when do I use Tranexamic Acid?
Tranexamic Acid can be used AM or PM on clean skin, either as a spot treatment or all over for uneven skin tone. It can then be followed with a brightening serum, moisturizer. Sunscreen is a must during the day time routine. Please refer to this blog for great mineral sunscreen options.
Depending on the formulation that you use, and skin sensitivity; it is highly advisable to ease into it. I recommend patch testing first behind the ears. If no reaction is noted, you may start with 2-3 applications per week, and build up to one daily application if needed and your skin tolerates it.
As is the case with most discoloration treatments, this shouldn't be a long term treatment.
What are the side effects of topical Tranexamic Acid?
There aren't any studies so far that detail any known side effects. Some comparative studies that tested this ingredient in comparison with Hydroquinone, sited that Tranexamic Acid had the same results with fewer adverse effects.
What are the best Tranexamic Acid products?
At the Beauty Doctrine, we are always after products that intersect efficacy with highly natural and clean formulations. That in mind that with this molecule being so new in the skincare realm, and synthetically derived, here are our top choices from formulation currently available on the market:
1- Paula's Choice Clinical Discoloration Serum: My first choice. Made with 3% tranexamic acid, 5% niacinamide, 0.5% bakuchiol and Vitamin E. It has a 4 out of 5 stars on the brand's website.
2- Face Theory Exaglow Serum with Tranexamic Acid, Vitamin C and Liquorice; combines 5% Tranexamic Acid (highet concentration), Niacinamide, Vitamin C, Glycerin and Hyaluronic Acid. This is a blend of cute a few actives that deliver results. I'd be careful to introduce to slowly into your routine, patch test, and avoid if sensitive or reactive.
3- The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Hyperpigmentation Treatment: This is considered clean by Sephora's standards. Keep in mind, it has a few ingredients I find less than optimal, but might be trying short term for a more budget friendly option.
1. Dermatology and Therapy, September 2017 [pages 417-423].