Everyone, from celebrities to teenagers, wants the best possible skin care products. Through all the white noise and the plethora of options available, it is difficult to figure out which product will be best.
In the ever-growing trend of using acids in skin care and people’s need for bright, glowing skin, tranexamic acid for skin or TXA has emerged as the latest buzzword. While it is not new in the medical world, it is a relatively new ingredient in the skin care world.
Learn all about tranexamic acid in skin care, how to use it, and its side effects in this article.
Table Of Contents
Tranexamic Acid For Skin: What Is It?
Tranexamic acid is a synthetic derivative of lysine (an amino acid). Topical tranexamic acid works by interrupting at least two pathways in the skin that, if left unchecked, can lead to skin discoloration, including larger patches known as melasma (1).
Tranexamic acid is an effective remedy for treating pigmentation and dark spots and brightening your skin with great efficacy. It is primarily used for melasma (dark spots) treatment, including pregnancy melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (2).
Tranexamic acid skin whitening treatment also seems to work on the skin’s surface layers to make your skin less susceptible to UV light exposure.
It provides a powerful and specific anti-inflammatory action to the skin, thus inhibiting the melanocytes’ tyrosinase synthesis (3). Apart from this, it also blocks the transfer of pigment from melanocytes to keratinocytes in the epidermis. All of this helps in reducing hyperpigmentation.
To understand the benefits of tranexamic acid for the skin, it is also important to know how it works, which is explained in the next section.
How Does Tranexamic Acid Work?
Traditionally, tranexamic acid has been used to treat various coagulation disorders. Still, recent studies have shown that this ingredient, when taken orally or applied on the skin, has visible benefits in treating melasma and other hyperpigmentation disorders such as post-inflammatory pigmentation (2).
Topical use of this ingredient is also suitable for anyone with skin disorders, where the products tolerated by the skin are restricted, such as rosacea and atopic dermatitis.
The working of tranexamic acid for skin care is linked to melanocytes’ activation to produce melanin, the cell responsible for producing the pigment. These cells are activated by the Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormone (MSH), and TXA reduces various events that end in the MSH being produced. This means that fewer melanocytes are activated and produce melanin (2).
Less melanin production means that fewer cells are darker, which means that the dark spots start to fade because fewer cells have been affected by the pigment. Further, tranexamic acid also reduces vascularization and is perfect for post-inflammatory pigmentation, as it reduces redness, erythema, and capillary vessels (5).
Now that we know how tranexamic acid works let us explore its benefits for the skin.
Benefits Of Tranexamic Acid For Skin Care
One of the key benefits of TXA is that it can be added to toners, serums, and moisturizers. Unlike other exfoliating hydroxy acids, tranexamic acid works specifically on pigmentation (6).
Among the other benefits of tranexamic acid include:
- The non-exfoliating nature of tranexamic acid serums and tranexamic acid lotions treats various skin issues such as dullness, discoloration, and pigmentation (7).
- It is an active ingredient for people looking to brighten their skin and even out their skin tone.
- Tranexamic acid helps you tackle melasma in several different ways (8).
- Tranexamic acid decreases inflammatory mediators that stimulate pigment production after constant UV exposure. Adding tranexamic acid products to your skin care routine helps in alleviating symptoms such as bumps and redness, which is likely due to its anti-inflammatory effect (8).
- TXA interferes with the interaction of the pigment-producing melanocyte cells and regular keratinocyte skin cells (3). Thus, it prevents hyperpigmentation.
- It decreases the number of MAST cells (also known as mastocyte or labrocyte), which release inflammatory mediators (9).
- Being structurally similar to tyrosine, it could also slow down the production of melanin (8).
In addition to this, the powerful anti-inflammatory ingredients of tranexamic acid disrupt the excessive production of melanin and pigmentation that appears as dark spots on the skin.
Wondering if tranexamic acid is for everyone? Let us find out who can use it.
Who Should Use Tranexamic Acid?
Tranexamic acid is perfect for anyone looking to even out their skin tone or restore their natural glow.
Since it has various anti-inflammatory properties and an ability to minimize the transfer of pigmentation to the surface of the skin, tranexamic acid works very well to soothe skin that is quite prone to inflammation and pigmentation (8).
For instance, if you are someone dealing with acne or have blemish-prone skin that often leaves dark marks and scars on your skin, TXA can be a great option to help you both prevent and treat this kind of discoloration.
Besides knowing who can use it, it is also essential to know how to use tranexamic acid for optimal benefits. Find out more in the next section.
How To Use Tranexamic Acid For Skin Care?
To maximize the benefits of TXA for your skin, it is best to combine it with other skin care ingredients as this acid is quite gentle on its own. For instance, you can combine it with retinol or a chemical peel to treat melasma. Similarly, combining TXA with vitamin C or kojic acid helps you maximize its brightening power, thus ensuring that you get the most out of the ingredient (6), (8).
There are multiple ways to take tranexamic acid, such as orally as a tablet, having it injected on the lower layer of the skin, or apply it topically on your skin as a lotion, moisturizer, cream, or serum. However, as with many other active ingredients, tranexamic acid is best used in leave-on formulations such as tranexamic acid serums, tranexamic acid lotions, tranexamic acid creams, and moisturizers.
Here is how you can use it topically in your skin care routine:
- Begin by using tranexamic acid once a day initially.
- Once you develop enough tolerance for it, move to two times a day – morning and evening.
- To make sure it penetrates deep into your skin, use it is after a vitamin C serum and before SPF in the morning, and after retinol in the evening.
- Tranexamic acid works quite well with the usual super-actives such as niacinamide, vitamin C, and exfoliating acids such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid.
Another point to keep in mind is always wearing sunscreen in the daytime since tranexamic acid is used especially to target hyperpigmentation. Constant exposure to harmful UVA and UVB rays can make all kinds of hyperpigmentation even worse, so there is no point in using a product that treats it without also preventing it from worsening further (8).
Have questions regarding the frequency of tranexamic acid use for the best skin care routine? You can find out more in the next section.
How Often Can You Use Tranexamic Acid For Skin Care?
If applied in a specific and controlled quantity as a topical serum or lotion, TXA is safe to use daily.
As an ingredient, tranexamic acid can be used both at night and in the daytime. However, sometimes it is specifically formulated in a format or with other ingredients that are better for use in the evening.
It is, therefore, recommended to check the directions on the product you purchase as it will mention if you cannot use it in the daytime or at any specific time.
If the tranexamic acid you use comes in the form of a serum, it is ideal for applying it after cleansing and toning but before moisturizing the skin. Use toners or serums with pH-dependent ingredients such as AHA, vitamin C, or BHA. Ideally, you should use those first and then apply the serum or lotion with tranexamic acid (10).
To use tranexamic acid for optimal skin care, it is also important to know the side effects of using it. You can learn more about it below.
What Are The Side Effects Of Tranexamic Acid?
While tranexamic acid in topical skin care products is generally safe to use and well-tolerated by all skin types, it is best to conduct a patch test before using it, especially if you are prone to reactions to new products.
It is also recommended to consult with a qualified dermatologist before incorporating TXA as an ingredient into your skin care routine. This is mainly because using too many new skin care products at once can do more harm than good and overwhelm your skin, thus causing several issues such as redness, itching, or flakiness.
It is also important to wear sunscreen with a good SPF and generally avoid the sun if that is the main cause of your pigmentation.
In extreme cases, the adverse effects of tranexamic acid on the skin include (8):
- Numbness or itching of the face, fingers, or toes
- Abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, and vomiting
- Facial hypertrichosis
- Headache and transient amnesia
- Increased hair shedding
- Lip or periorbital swelling
Tranexamic acid is one of the best skin care ingredients that are rapidly gaining popularity. Joining the ranks of alpha-arbutin and vitamin C, TXA is becoming one of the most effective counters to hyperpigmentation of various kinds, including dark patches, sun spots, melasma, and post-acne scars.
Tranexamic acid is great for brightening the skin through a complex process that involves various enzymes and receptors in the body. It prevents melanin formation and also blocks formed melanin from finding its way into your skin cells.
Regardless of the cause for your hyperpigmentation, tranexamic acid is worth a shot.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
How safe is tranexamic acid to use for the skin?
Tranexamic acid is completely safe to use in creams, lotions, and masks at concentrations up to 3% (8). If pregnant, it is best to consult a healthcare professional before using it. If you have sensitive skin, make sure to do a patch test before using it on your skin.
What are the other ingredients that you can use alongside tranexamic acid?
Tranexamic acid pairs well with other ingredients such as vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and retinol. However, it is important to wear an SPF of 30 or higher in the daytime to prevent sun damage to the skin. Do not try to mix the various ingredients at home without expert supervision. You can instead go for products containing these ingredients or use them one after the other.
Do skin issues cured by tranexamic acid come back once usage is stopped?
If the usage is not consistent, the acid may not show the desired results. It is best to consult a dermatologist about when to stop or how long to use the acid.
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