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Vitamin C and hydroquinone have long been highly coveted for diminishing hyperpigmentation. However, tranexamic acid has been rising in the ranks as one of the most popular ingredients in the newest dark spot treatments on the market. Lately, every new skin-care launch that helps reduce the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or melasma seems to tout an acid of the tranexamic variety.
Unlike many acids of the likes of exfoliating lactic and glycolic, this one is safe for all skin types, complexions, and use during pregnancy. In fact, tranexamic acid is less irritating than most dark spot-diminishing ingredients. Unlike controversial hydroquinone, it does not come with the risk of "ochronosis, a rare paradoxical pigmentation of the skin," says board-certified Y. Claire Chang. "Due to this, there are limitations in how long you can use hydroquinone."
Tranexamic acid, on the other hand, has no limits. Plus, it can act as an anti-inflammatory, says cosmetic chemist Laura Lam-Phaure says. It can help with evening out your skin tone, too.
Well, to explain the origin of the ingredient, allow Chang to give you a bit of a science lesson. "Tranexamic acid is a synthetic derivative of the amino acid lysine," she says. "Amino acids, [by the way], are the building blocks of proteins."
Traditionally, tranexamic acid has been used in medical practice to treat excessive blood loss from major trauma, surgery, postpartum bleeding, and heavy menstruation due to its blood-clotting properties, Chang continues.
The exact mechanisms tranexamic acid employs to reduce pigmentation is actually unclear, Chang notes. Typically, UV light can jumpstart melanin production, which causes melasma and dark spots. "More specifically, UV light induces activation of plasmin, which increases tyrosinase activity and the production of melanin pigment," she explains.
When tranexamic acid is slathered on, studies have found that it can inhibit UV-induced melanin synthesis by "blocking the interaction between keratinocytes [aka skin cells] and melanocytes [aka, melanin-producing cells]," she continues.
Luckily, tranexamic acid plays well with other ingredients in the process. Chang even often recommends combining it with other brighteners, like topical retinoids, vitamin C, kojic acid, or topical hydroquinone, to her patients. For optimal results, she suggests working it into your morning and night skin-care routines. Slot it in after toner but before moisturizer. (Be sure to layer on sunscreen last in the a.m., of course.) Then, just stick with it. "It may take up to eight to 12 weeks to see improvement," Chang adds.
When seeking out products spiked with tranexamic acid, Lam-Phaure recommends tracking down treatments that state the formula's concentration of the ingredient. Around 0.5 to 2.5 percent is the ideal potency range, she says.
The Inky List Tranexamic Acid Hyperpigmentation Treatment is a great example because the brand lists the exact percentage of the ingredient — 2, to be exact. "I appreciate the transparency since oftentimes brands will put just enough of an ingredient to make the claim on the box but not enough to have true results," Lam-Phaure adds. The Good Molecules Discoloration Correcting Serum also packs a 2 percent concentration of tranexamic acid.
The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Hyperpigmentation Treatment
Allure editors swear by the Topicals Faded Brightening & Clearing Gel. Just be warned that its amazing results come with a foul, rotten egg-like odor. “This stuff smells slightly of sulfur and, call me weird, but I kind of… like that," staff editor Jihan Forbes has shared. "It makes me feel as if the product is really working as opposed to just looking pretty on a counter (though, it does that, too).”
Topicals Faded Brightening & Clearing Gel
You can also find us frequently reaching for the Hero Cosmetics Micropoint for Dark Spots as a hyper-focused treatment in acne sticker form. And those of us who love bakuchiol have been into the new Paula's Choice Clinical Discoloration Repair Serum, which is infused with 3 percent tranexamic acid and 0.5 percent bakuchiol.
Allure's associate digital beauty director Sarah Kinonen swears by the La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum. Although it's rich in acids, the affordable elixir also brings hydration to skin in the form of panthenol, so even those with sensitive skin can slather it on.
La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum
And for those willing to splurge, Chang is a fan of the SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum because of its powerful combination of tranexamic acid, resorcinol, and niacinamide. The SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense is also on her go-to list as it's "efficiently formulated with 3 percent tranexamic acid, 1 percent kojic acid, and 5 percent niacinamide to help reduce pigmentation and brighten skin complexion," she explains.
SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum
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