Tranexamic Acid Is the Newest It Acid—Here's What You Should Know

Updated 09/21/18
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tranexamic acid for skin
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A couple of months ago, I finally found my skincare happy place. My previous nonstop cycle of hormonal breakouts had finally pumped the breaks, I had honed a realistic and sustainable skincare routine (thank you, Renée!), and I felt confident and comfortable in my skin. Finally. With my angry red bumps having abated, the one and only war I still wagered was against that inevitable residual pigmentation and scarring. Sure, I may have finally been able to call a ceasefire, but there was still a lot of collateral damage to address.

The skin around my chin, mouth, and nose (where my hormonal breakouts had wrecked most of their havoc) was red and splotchy, and my cheekbones and jawline were riddled with purplish remnants of the bumps that had previously resided there. Thus, there was only one category of skincare to call upon—acids—and, as I soon discovered, one under-the-radar member in particular: tranexamic acid.

Fast-forward a few weeks, and I'd found myself sitting atop the plush blue sofas of the Clique lobby discussing (aka gossiping about) all the newest and most noteworthy product innovations in the realm of skincare. My sidekick sage? Helen Koo, senior marketing manager of Dermstore and an all-knowing saint when it comes to the latest and greatest happening in the world of good skin. When she slyly passed me the then-just-launched SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense ($98) telling me it would likely change my skin in as little as three weeks, I was intrigued, if not a tad skeptical.

"It contains tranexamic acid, which is pretty uncommon right now, but I think it's about to be the biggest up-and-coming acid in skincare," she told me. Interesting, I thought to myself. A brightening powerhouse, tranexamic acid is said to boast some of the most superhuman benefits in terms of addressing discoloration. Therefore, it's heaven-sent for anyone dealing with melasma, hyperpigmentation, acne scarring, or purple-y red-splotched complexions—aka me. So, taking my role of guinea pig very seriously, I brought home my bottle and began a daily ritual of adding three to five drops to my morning skincare routine—post-toner and pre-SPF.

Drumroll… My skin did change. In fact, it beat Koo's timing prediction; I began noticing a difference in the intensity of my scarring and the overall brightness of my face in just a few days.

After doing some research, I quickly discovered Koo hadn't been kidding when she said tranexamic acid as a topical skincare ingredient was rare and rather on the cusp. What I did find was lots of hard-hitting research commending its effectiveness. And while only a handful of notable skincare brands (like SkinCeuticals, Joanna Vargas, Shiseido, and SkinMedica to name a few) have infused it into certain game-changing formulas, I don't doubt many others will quickly follow suit. A synthetic derivative of the amino acid lysine, tranexamic acid is described by the skincare wizzes at SkinCeuticals as "a powerful ingredient recognized for its ability to brighten skin complexion and improve the appearance of discoloration."

"Listed in the World Health Organization's list of Essential Medicines, tranexamic acid was originally used to reduce blood loss in patients experiencing menorrhagia and during open-heart surgery," the brand explains on its website. "However, in 1979, physicians accidentally began noticing that patients who had been treated with tranexamic acid were seeing visible improvement in skin discoloration." Plus, unlike some acids, which play nicer alone, it pairs beautifully with other brightening and skin-repairing saviors like vitamin C and your favorite SPF (which will help prevent damage and ensuing discoloration from the get-go).

"Everyday elements—including UV exposure, prescription drugs, and some professional treatments—can trigger the skin discoloration process by activating inflammatory mediators within the skin," the brand warns. "This results in a chain reaction that causes skin to produce melanin, the naturally occurring pigment that gives skin its color. While the purpose of melanin is protective, when produced in excess, it can form deposits in the skin that manifest as dark patches, isolated spots, or an overall darker facial appearance."

Enter the expertly crafted elixirs, featuring top-notch acids like tranexamic. Ahead, discover six must-have tranexamic acid skin potions anyone with stubborn discoloration will appreciate. Keep scrolling for the picks currently on our love list!

Joanna Vargas Bright Eye Hydrating Mask $60
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With tranexamic acid as one its starring ingredients, this brightening eye mask from celebrity esthetician Joanna Vargas is one of the best for resurrecting lifeless, shadowy under-eyes. The stellar ingredient roster also boasts matrixyl, allantoin, and licorice root extract to pump extra hydration into skin while simultaneously diminishing puffiness.

SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum $154
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Aptly named, this pigment-correcting concentrate from SkinMedica is highly effective if any kind of discoloration is the bane of your existence. It's a brightening powerhouse (niacinamide is another heavy hitter here) and works skin-improving wonders regardless of skin type. In addition to supporting a healthier and happier skin barrier, it also prevents the formation of future spots and discoloration.

SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense $98
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As one of SkinCeuticals' newest and buzziest launches, this elixir comes in clutch for anyone suffering from lingering sun damage, acne scarring, melasma, and/or hyperpigmentation. With its strategic melding of pigmentation-busting acids (like tranexamic and kojic) plus an extra dose of niacinamide for good measure, it's one of the best serums on the market for combating unwanted discoloration.

Clé de Peau Beauté Concentrated Brightening Serum $200
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Price-tag wise, this heavy-duty serum from cult-loved skincare brand Clé de Peau Beauté isn't for the faint of heart. If you're seeking results by way of ultra-luxurious means, though, then you've met your match. Chock-full of lust-worthy fare like peony, cinnamon extract, hyaluronic acid, mangosteen, raspberry, black tea, and, yes, tranexamic acid, it'll provide major bang for your buck.

White Lucent Brightening Protective Emulsion Broad Spectrum SPF 18 2.5 oz
Shiseido White Lucent Brightening Protective Emulsion Broad Spectrum SPF 18 $55 $54
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While most tranexamic-acid formulas come to us in the form of layerable serums, we appreciate that Shiseido brings us a more outdoors-friendly option with this game-changing SPF.

Swap it in as your daytime moisturizer and you'll be left with a vitamin C–packed potion designed to ward off environmental precariousness (like UV pollution and dehydration) while supporting cell turnover and hydration.

Su-Man Velvet Skin Brightening Serum $164
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If you're new to Su-Man, prepare to meet your newest skincare obsession. In addition to tranexamic acid, it also plays host to dragon's blood—a fit-for-a-fairytale antidote I personally swear by for skin that looks legitimately touched by an angel. Additionally, it features a potent blend of other yummy things like antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, omegas, and ceramides. Basically, you're killing all of your skincare birds with one heavenly stone. Trust us—you'll thank us later.

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