Tranexamic acid: what is it, what are the benefits and the skin types it suits best

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Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition that can result in uneven skin tone. Stylist looks into what makes tranexamic acid an effective ingredient to increase our skin’s brightness

With a host of acids on offer in skincare, it can be both overwhelming and confusing to know what each one does. From hydrating hero hyaluronic acid to brightening and exfoliating glycolic acid and spot-soothing salicylic acid, there’s a lot to get to grips with. And to make it even more specific, everyone’s skin is different.

Common skin conditions such as acne and the scarring it leaves to sun spots and the effect of sunrays when we do and don’t wear SPF can leave our skintone uneven. Hyperpigmentation is often the byproduct of common skin conditions, such as acne which can leave behind discoloured scars, or can be caused by unprotected exposure to the sun. As a result, spots and scars darken as they become more melanated than other parts of your skin.

So when looking for a product to reduce hyperpigmentation and make your skin tone more even, there’s no doubt you’ll shift your focus to products that will brighten and exfoliate.

For a long while, vitamin C was the ultimate when it came to skin brightening ingredients. Nowadays, AHAs and BHAs in skincare provide another effective dose of radiance – and the latest acid rising through the ranks: tranexamic acid. 

While it sounds daunting, tranexamic acid is actually a really effective ingredient that can slot into an existing skincare routine.

To learn more, Stylist probed spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation, Dr Emma Wedgeworth about what tranexamic acid does for our skin and who can benefit from it.

What is tranexamic acid?

“Tranexamic Acid is a synthetic molecule with a similar structure to the naturally occurring amino acid lysine,” she says. Lysine typically helps with skin’s firmness.

What are the benefits of tranexamic acid?

In skincare, it’s primarily used as an ingredient that helps brighten dark spots and improve pigmentation. “Tranexamic acid slows the production of melanin by inhibiting a pathway known as the plasminogen/plasmin pathway. By doing so, it reduces the interactions between our pigment producing cells (melanocytes) and skin cells (keratinocytes) and this leads to a reduction in pigmentation, particularly in melasma,” says Dr Wedgeworth.

Which skin types suit tranexamic acid?

It’s suitable for most skin types. However, tranexamic acid has particular benefits for those with hypigmentation.

Willing to try out tranexamic acid? We’ve curated a list of the best products to add to your skincare arsenal.

The best tranexamic beauty products

  • The overnight face mask

    The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Night Treatment

    The INKEY List Tranexamic Acid Night Treatment

    Cult brand The INKEY List pairs 2% tranexamic acid with 2% vitamin C and 2% of antioxidant-rich acai berry for a brightening concotion that works during the night to lighten dark spots.

    £14, Cult Beauty

  • The serum

    Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense Serum

    Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense Serum

    Slightly less potent in strength, this serum cobines 1.8% tranexamic acid with 5% niacinamide to help reduce redness and 5% of the exfoliator, hepes. It helps reduce the appearance of post-acne scars.

    £85, Skinceuticals

  • The peel

    Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel.

    Murad Replenishing Peel

    A blend of glycolic acid, lactic acid and tranexamic acid, Murad’s peel evens skintone overnight. Peels work similarly to liquid exfoliators and are a great avenue for those who don’t really use overnight masks.

    £48, Look Fantastic

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Images: Getty and courtesy of brands.

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