Move over, Hydroquinone.
Tranexemic acid (or TXA for short) is the new ingredient on the skincare block that promises to lighten discolourations and even out the skin tone – without annoying side effects (like turning your skin blue – yes, hydroquinone CAN do that).
But (come on, you knew there was a catch), it works better for some types of dark spots than others. Can it fade away yours?
Read on to find out:
- What Is Tranexemic Acid?
- Tranexemic Acid For Skin: What Does It Do?
- Tranexemic Acid For Melasma: An Effective Treatment?
- Does Tranexemic Acid Work For Other Types Of Pigmentation, Too?
- Can Tranexemic Acid Reduce Redness?
- How Do You Use Tranexemic Acid?
- What Are The Best Skincare Products With Tranexemic Acid?
- Does Tranexemic Acid Have Any Side Effects?
- The Bottom Line
What Is Tranexemic Acid?
Tranexamic acid is a synthetic amino acid derived from lysine (an amino acid involved in the biosynthesis of proteins).
TXA slows down the production of plasmin, an enzyme in your blood that dismantles blood clots. It’s what doctors use to slow down bleeding during surgery.
In the process, they discovered that patients taking Tranexemic Acid also experienced their dark spots getting lighter. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
You can get your fix in several different ways: as an oral supplement, topically in a cream or serum, or by injecting it into the lower levels of your skin.
Related: Why You Should Add Amino Acids To Your Skincare Routine
Don’t know how to mix and match skincare ingredients? Subcribe to the newsletter below to download the “How To Combine Actives Like A Pro” cheatsheet and find out:
Tranexemic Acid For Skin: What Does It Do?
Tranexemic Acid is a skin-lightener that reduces hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and dullness.
It works in two main ways:
- Anti-inflammatory: It reduces the amount of cells that release inflammatory mediators after prolonged UV exposure, so they can’t trigger the excessive production of melanin (the pigment that gives your skin its natural colour).
- Tyrosinase inhibitor: Tranexemic Acid is very similar to tyrosine, an amino acid that slows down the activity of tyrosinase (the enzyme that controls the production of melanin). Researchers think it works in the same way, too.
In other words, Tranexemic Acid stops the production of excess melanin in its tracks. When that stops, your dark spots, slowly go back to their natural colour.
Well, some of them do. Tranexemic Acid doesn’t work on all types of hyperpigmentation…
Related: Battle Of The Skin-Lighteners: Which Is The Best Alternative To Hydroquinone?
Tranexemic Acid For Melasma: An Effective Treatment?
Melasma is a pigmentation disorder that turns patches of skin brown or grey. It can happen everywhere, but it’s more common in the face.
What causes it? Genetics, unprotected UV exposure and hormonal changes, especially during pregnancy. It’s such a common condition during this special time, it gained the nickname “the mask of pregnancy”.
You’re more likely to get melasma if you’re from African, Asian, or Hispanic descent. Once you do, it’s very hard to treat. Not many treatments can do the deed.
Preliminary research shows that Tranexemic Acid has what it takes to treat melasma, especially when taken orally (effective doses range from 250 to 1500mg daily) for 8 to 12 weeks.
Few studies have been done on topical application. The few we have show that 3-5% Tranexemic Acid is as effective as 2-4% Hydroquinone at lightening melasma – and has fewer side effects.
Injecting Tranexemic Acid underneath your skin works, too. But for some reason, that’s my least fave option. Why get an injection if a cream or tablet will do?
The catch? Most of these studies were done on Asian patients, so we don’t know how well TXA works on other ethnicities.
Still, if you’ve tried chemical peels and lasers without success and you’re not ready for Hydroquinone yet, Tranexemic Acid is definitely worth a try. Talk to your doctor to find out the best delivery option for you.
Related: Is Hydroquinone As Dangerous As They Say?
Does Tranexemic Acid Work For Other Types Of Pigmentation, Too?
You’d think that if Tranexemic Acid works for melasma, it’ll work for all other types of pigmentation, like freckles and age spots, right?
- A 2011 study shows that Tranexemic Acid can’t prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from laser treatment.
- A 2012 study found that, although Tranexemic Acid worked well to treat melasma, it did nothing for freckles and dark spots.
Sure, there are studies that show Tranexemic Acid can lighten age spots and other types of discolourations… when used together with other skin-lighteners like Alpha Arbutin or Kojic Acid.
Alone, it doesn’t do the deed. And that begs the question: does Tranexemic Acid really contribute to lessening discolourations when used with other skin-lighteners or did Alpha Arbutin & co do all the work?
Bottom line: if you don’t have melasma, don’t bother with Tranexemic Acid. It likely won’t do anything for you.
Related: Kojic Acid VS Hydroquinone: Which One Is Right For You?
Can Tranexemic Acid Reduce Redness?
As Tranexemic Acid has anti-inflammatory properties, it could help reduce redness. Preliminary research is promising, but by no way conclusive:
- A 2019 study shows that 5% Tranexemic Acid used every night for 6-8 weeks can reduce redness after acne.
- A 2020 study found that 10% Tranexemic Acid helps relieve redness associated with rosacea.
There’s almost nothing that works for redness (the best thing I’ve found is Niod Modulating Glucosides). If you’re struggling with this, you may want to ask your doctor about using Tranexemic Acid.
Related: My Full Review Of Niod Modulating Glucosides
How Do You Use Tranexemic Acid?
Oral supplements and injections are more effective than OTC topical products. Consult your doctor for the best way to use them.
Wanna wet your feet in the water (or your skin in Tranexemic Acid) before going all in? Topical products are your best bet. Here’s how to use them:
- Wear sunscreen: Unprotected sun exposure is the main cause of dark spots. If you use any skin-lightener without sunscreen, you risk the discolouration becoming darker, not lighter. To avoid that, apply sunscreen generously in the morning and often during the day.
- Start small: A slight tingle is normal. Anything more than that and you’re irritating your skin. If this happens, start with a smaller concentration or use it less often. You can always build up dose and frequency gradually as your skin gets used to it.
- Mix and match: Unless your skin is very sensitive, once you’ve built tolerance to Tranexemic Acid, you can use it together with retinol and Vitamin C to fade away melasma even faster.
Related: Mix And Match: What Skincare Ingredients Shouldn’t You Use Together?
What Are The Best Skincare Products With Tranexemic Acid?
- Skinceuticals Discolouration Defense Corrective Serum ($98.00): Available at Dermstore and Look Fantastic
- The Inkey List Tranexemic Acid Overnight Treatment ($14.99): Available at Asos and Cult Beauty
P.S. These products contain small concentrations of Tranexemic Acid. Give them at least a couple of months before deciding if they work or not.
Does Tranexemic Acid Have Any Side Effects?
Tranexemic Acid is gentler than Hydroquinone, but it can still cause irritation and dryness in sensitive skin.
Oral TXA can cause digestive issues and potentially increase the risk of blood clots. That’s why you need to take it under doctor’s supervision.
The Bottom Line
Tranexemic Acid, especially when taken orally, is a promising new treatment for melasma. But there’s no proof it can treat other types of discolourations, yet.