What to know about tranexamic acid for skin

The innovative ingredient for preventing & fading dark spots

Thankfully, dealing with acne tends to get better with age. But for many people, managing breakouts is just chapter one of their skincare journey. Often when a blemish departs, a different type of spot takes its exact place: hyperpigmentation.

Though dark spots can be very stubborn about leaving your skin, one increasingly popular skin-brightening ingredient holds promise for banishing excess pigment. Here’s what to know about tranexamic acid and how it can help even out your skin tone.

What is tranexamic acid?

Tranexamic acid is a topical glow-revealing and anti-inflammatory ingredient that addresses skin discoloration. It’s a synthetic derivative of the amino acid lysine 1 that was originally developed (and is still used!) as a medication to stop excessive bleeding.

How does tranexamic acid work?

Interestingly, the same effect that makes tranexamic acid useful for encouraging blood to clot also decreases pigment production. 

Itslows down the creation of an enzyme that breaks up blood clots, and that jumbles a whole telephone game of biological communications, including the signals to and from the melanin-producing melanocyte cells in the skin 2. So less pigment is produced, and less gets carried to the skin’s surface to form clusters of hyperpigmentation. 

Plus, tranexamic acid may minimize redness, including that of rosacea 3.

What does tranexamic acid do to the skin?

The effect you see when you look in the mirror is a boost in overall brightness, a more even skin tone, and less redness.

Tranexamic acid helps lighten sun spots, age spots, melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation—and helps prevent new dark spots and patches from forming.

While melasma is a stubborn skin condition often caused by internal factors that aren’t easily avoided (genetics, hormone changes, etc.), tranexamic acid topical formulas can help you manage flare-ups and keep your skin looking clear. 4

Where can you get tranexamic acid?

Tranexamic acid serums, gels, or creams are available over-the-counter from a variety of skincare brands. As a topically applied skincare ingredient, tranexamic acid is still relatively new though.

Studies show it’s effective when combined with a slate of skin brighteners 5, like kojic acid and niacinamide. An Agency dermatology provider can prescribe the right combination of ingredients for you in your personalized Future Formula. 

What are the side effects of tranexamic acid? Unlike treatments that address hyperpigmentation by removing outer layers of the skin (i.e., lasers and chemical peels), tranexamic acid works by interfering with the pigment-creation process, and it’s generally well tolerated by all skin types and tones. 

So far, studies show minimal tranexamic acid side effects 6,7, when it’s applied topically and as directed, but skin irritation is almost always possible with active ingredients. Especially if you’re using tranexamic acid alongside other potent skin brighteners, you may experience mild and temporary redness, dryness, and flaking. If your irritation persists for more than a few weeks or is more significant, reach out to your medical provider.

How long does it take for tranexamic acid to work on skin? 

You may start to notice improvements after a few months of use (along with sun protection), but this can vary from person to person. Keep in mind that your skin cells need to turn over for existing pigment to be released. 

Even after you see results, continued and consistent use of tranexamic acid can help prevent new dark spots from forming and help you maintain a more even skin tone.

Want to know more about your Future Formula?

You know your skin—we’re here to help you know your skincare. Our team of dermatology experts has helped create guides to each of the forward-thinking ingredients in your Future Formula. 

Learn how these ingredients also help your skin face the future: tretinoin, azelaic acid, niacinamide, dexpanthenol

1. Science Direct. Tranexamic Acid. (n.d.).

2. Science Direct. Tranexamic Acid. Ibid.

3. Fontino Bageorgou, et al. The New Therapeutic Choice of Tranexamic Acid Solution in Treatment of Erythematotelangiectatic Rosacea. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. (April 2019).

4. Najmolsadat Atefi, et al. Therapeutic Effects of Topical Tranexamic Acid in Comparison with Hydroquinone in Treatment of Women with Melasma. Dermatology and Therapy. (September 2017).

5. Seemal Desai, et al. Effect of a Tranexamic Acid, Kojic Acid, and Niacinamide Containing Serum on Facial Dyschromia: A Clinical Evaluation. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. (2019, May 1).

6. Bahareh Ebrahimi and Farahnaz Fatemi Naeini. Topical Tranexamic Acid as a Promising Treatment for Melasma. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. (August 2014).

7. Seemal Desai, et al. Effect of a Tranexamic Acid, Kojic Acid, and Niacinamide Containing Serum on Facial Dyschromia: A Clinical Evaluation. Ibid.