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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.
What exactly is tranexamic acid?
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.
How does tranexamic acid work?
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.