tranexamic acid

Tranexamic Acid at a Glance

  • Fades discolourations by interrupting pathways in skin that trigger uneven tone
  • Beneficial for reducing dark spots and brown/gray patches
  • Rivals the results of over-the-counter concentrations of hydroquinone
  • May also help reduce skin redness
  • Works most effectively in formulas with oil-soluble ingredients designed to improve its penetration into skin

Tranexamic Acid Description

Tranexamic acid is a synthetic amino acid derived from lysine. Topically applied, it works by interrupting at least two pathways in skin that if left unchecked can lead to discolourations (e.g. dark spots, brown/gray patches). It is even suitable for melasma-prone skin. Tranexamic acid also appears to work within skin’s surface layers to make it less susceptible to UV light exposure, which ultimately helps skin retain its youthful appearance (though of course, sunscreen is still necessary for adequate protection).

Double-blind and comparative research has shown that topical tranexamic acid in amounts between 2-5% rivals the results of over-the-counter concentrations of hydroquinone, long considered the gold standard for fading skin discolourations. Comparative studies also indicate tranexamic acid has greater tolerability than hydroquinone.

Studies show consistent application of tranexamic acid is safe, and with topical concentrations between 2-5%, results typically show after two to three months of consistent use.

Research also shows tranexamic acid may help reduce certain types of sensitivity-induced redness in skin.

Note: Because tranexamic acid is a water-soluble ingredient, it works best in skin care products with oil-soluble ingredients (such as tocopherol or plant oils) designed to improve its penetration into skin.

A new derivative of tranexamic acid known as cetyl tranexamate mesylate also shows promise for a reducing dark spots and redness. However, more research is needed before this can be assessed as thoroughly as tranexamic acid.

It’s worth mentioning that tranexamic acid is sometimes prescribed for oral use in low doses to manage signs of melasma.

Tranexamic Acid References

Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, February 2021, pages 561-565
International Journal of Medical Sciences, March 2020, pages 903-911
Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, April 2019, pages 563-567
Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, January-March 2019, pages 63-67; and July-August 2013, pages 139-143
BioMed Research International, November 2018, ePublication
Dermatologic Surgery, June 2018, pages 814-825
Dermatology and Therapy, September 2017, pages 417-424
Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, August 2014, pages 753-757

See amino acids

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!