This buzzy skin ingredient is like a brightening, discoloration-fighting laser in a bottle

February 24, 2020 at 09:01PM by CWC


Vitamin C has long been the brightening king of the beauty aisle. Celebrated for its ability to treat dark spots and discoloration, it has earned itself a rightful place in nearly everyone’s morning skin routine. But when it comes to treating more serious skin-tone issues, there’s another ingredient that might just push vitamin C off of its hyperpigmentation-fighting throne.

Tranexamic acid has recently become increasingly common in skin-care products thanks to its science-backed benefits. Its most significant claim to fame? It can treat all kinds of hyperpigmentation, including acne scarring, photo-aging, and the notoriously-difficult-to-deal-with melasma. According to research, topically-applied tranexamic acid works by inhibiting a pigment-producing enzyme in your skin called tyrosinanse. This interaction keeps melanocytes, or the cells that form melanin, in your skin from becoming overstimulated—which is what causes dark spots in the first place. In addition to controlling the uneven production of melanin, the acid will “help calm the skin, reduce inflammation, and help promote the health of the skin’s natural barrier,” says Colorado-based board-certified plastic surgeon Manish Shah, MD.

Kate Spade Autumn/Winter Sale

While tranexamic acid has proven to be effective on its own, board-certified dermatologist Nava Greenfield, MD notes that it can be mixed with other brightening agents like kojic acid, ferulic acid, or vitamins C and E. Since acids can generally be drying, be sure to ease into introducing tranexamic acid into your routine, and be wary of mixing it with other intense actives like glycolic or retinol.

Ready to add tranexamic acid to your own regimen, alongside (or even instead of?) vitamin C? Scroll through for some skin products to help get you started.

Some tranexamic acid skin products to try:

Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense, $98

tranexamic acid for skin
Photo: Skinceuticals

There’s a reason why dermatologists swear by this serum for fighting discoloration. It combines 3 percent tranexamic acid with kojic acid and niacinamide for a triple-threat in brightening, while also working to exfoliate. The result? Brighter, more even skin.

Up to 30% off Homewear

The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Hyperpigmentation Treatment, $15

tranexamic acid for skin
Photo: The Inkey List

Specifically designed for hyperpigmentation concerns, the Inkey List’s brightening concoction uses tranexamic acid plus vitamin C and açai berry extract to brighten skin and improve tone. At only $15 a bottle, it’s a great way to give the ingredient a try for the first time without breaking the bank.

Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel, $65

tranexamic acid for skin
Photo: Murad

Think of this stuff as a chemical peel in a bottle. It’s got alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic, lactic, and malic to exfoliate, beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid to unclog pores, and tranexamic acid to even skin tone—and that’s just phase one. After the acids are done working their magic, antioxidant-rich plant holy basil extract steps in to strengthen and defend the surface of your skin.


tranexamic acid for skin
Photo: Skinmedica

Fight discoloration and soothe skin at the same time with this active-heavy serum. In addition to tranexamic acid, it’s got peptides and niacinamide to brighten and strengthen the skin barrier while fending off future pigmentation problems. Acne scars don’t stand a chance.

Another ingredient that’s been taking the skin-care aisle by storm? Alt-milk (yup—you read that right). Plus, why you should be thinking about discoloration as both a short and longterm skin concern

Author Zoe Weiner | Well and Good
Selected by CWC