Vitamin C has long been the brightening king of the beauty aisle. In addition to protecting the skin from environmental aggressors, the antioxidant is celebrated for its ability to treat dark spots and discoloration and has earned itself a rightful place in nearly everyone’s morning skin routine. But when it comes to treating more serious skin-tone issues, there’s another ingredient that might just push vitamin C off of its hyperpigmentation-fighting throne.
Tranexamic acid has recently become increasingly common in skin-care products thanks to its science-backed benefits. Its most significant claim to fame? It can treat all kinds of hyperpigmentation, including acne scarring, photo-aging, and the notoriously difficult-to-deal with melasma.
“Tranexamic acid is a great ingredient to combat pigmentation,” says Dennis Gross, MD. “It works by blocking skin cells and melanocytes—aka the cells that produce pigment—from communicating with each other, leading to a reduction in pigmentation. It helps with everything from sun spots to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and there is even some anecdotal evidence suggesting it helps with melasma. Beyond pigmentation, it strengthens the skin’s moisture barrier—keeping hydration in and external irritants out.”
In addition to controlling the uneven production of melanin, the acid will “help calm the skin, reduce inflammation, and help promote the health of the skin’s natural barrier,” says Manish Shah, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Englewood, Colorado.
While tranexamic acid has proven to be effective on its own, board-certified dermatologist Nava Greenfield, MD notes that it can be mixed with other brightening agents like kojic acid, ferulic acid, or vitamins C and E. Since acids can generally be drying, be sure to ease into introducing tranexamic acid into your routine, and be wary of mixing it with other intense actives like glycolic or retinol. You can find it in a serum, moisturizer, toner—truly any type of skin care. Ready to add tranexamic acid to your own regimen? Scroll through for some options to help get you started.
Shop 11 different ways to use tranexamic acid for skin
Droplette, Tranexamic Eraser Set — $336.00
Send pure tranexamic acid into your pores with Droplette, a skin-care device that releases skin-care ingredients through a powerful micro-mist to deeply penetrate your skin. Get this kit which includes the device and 30 TXA capsules or just get the capsules ($138) if you already have the device. I love using this during the summer to protect against hyperpigmentation—just avoid inhaling with it too close to your mouth/nose, or you will cough on a cloud of TXA.
Farmacy, Brighten Up 3% TXA Dark Spot Toner — $34.00
This toner blends tranexamic acid with azelaic acid, two ingredients Emily Trampetti, an esthetician in Chicago, loves for fitting dark spots. “Azelaic acid and tranexamic acid are wonderful brighteners for the skin,” she says. “They’re excellent, excellent, excellent for people who are prone to hyperpigmentation. Especially in summer months when you really want to prevent melanogenesis—that process in the skin that creates pigment and sun damage—from occurring.”
Skinceuticals, Discoloration Defense — $108.00
There’s a reason why dermatologists swear by this serum for fighting discoloration. It combines 3 percent tranexamic acid with kojic acid and niacinamide for a triple-threat in brightening, while also working to exfoliate. The result? Brighter, more even skin.
Element Eight, O2 Peptide Face Cream — $250.00
This luxe cream floods the skin with tranexamic acid, peptides, vitamin C ester, and camelia oleifera alongside a super-dose of oxygen. It uses oxygen (a gas!) bound to a proprietary liquid that the brand’s CTO first developed to expedite healing in spinal surgery. It mimics hemoglobin in that it gives oxygen something to hold on to, giving skin 20 times more oxygen than it can get from the air alone.
Topicals, Faded Serum — $38.00
This serum blends tranexamic acid with two other brightening ingredients—niacinamide and azaleic acid—which also help soothe skin, even out skin texture, and provide antioxidant protection.
D&S Laboratories, Advanced Dark Spot Corrector — $52.00
“This serum is formulated with tranexamic acid, kojic acid, and niacinamide that all work together to treat dark spots,” says Dr. Mikailov. “And this formula also has an encapsulation delivery to keep the ingredients stable.”
The Inkey List, Tranexamic Acid Hyperpigmentation Treatment — $16.00
Specifically designed for hyperpigmentation concerns, the Inkey List’s brightening concoction uses tranexamic acid plus vitamin C and açai berry extract to brighten skin and improve tone. At only $15 a bottle, it’s a great way to give the ingredient a try for the first time without breaking the bank.
Murad, Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel — $79.00
Think of this stuff as a chemical peel in a bottle. It’s got alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic, lactic, and malic to exfoliate, beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid to unclog pores, and tranexamic acid to even skin tone—and that’s just phase one. After the acids are done working their magic, antioxidant-rich plant holy basil extract steps in to strengthen and defend the surface of your skin.
SkinMedica, Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum — $160.00
Fight discoloration and soothe skin at the same time with this active-heavy serum. In addition to tranexamic acid, it’s got peptides and niacinamide to brighten and strengthen the skin barrier while fending off future pigmentation problems. Acne scars don’t stand a chance.
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