This article began with me asking dermatologists about the best ingredients for brightening skin. I expected to receive a variety of answers, but instead, every doctor responded with the same ingredient: tranexamic acid. Across the board, experts said tranexamic acid is the best brightening ingredient for dark spots. Here’s what to know about the brightening ingredient.
How does tranexamic acid help brighten dark spots?
Rochester, NY dermatologist Lesley Loss, MD explains that tranexamic acid helps fade all our peskiest skin concerns, including dark spots, melasma and hyperpigmentation. Santa Monica, CA dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD calls it the new hero product. She notes it has only recently been added to dispensed products. Tranexamic acid helps brighten skin by “blocking” interaction between cells that create pigment, explains Washington, D.C. dermatologist Tina Alster, MD.
“Tranexamic acid is unique in that it inhibits melanin production caused in response to skin damage. For instance, when exposed to radiation, melanin is produced by ‘melanocytes’ within the dermal layers that release melanin (pigment) as a defense mechanism against further exposure,” says Dr. Alster. “This process can become chronic for some, and the ability to stop that process in combination with sunscreen use can dramatically reduce skin discoloration.”
Dr. Alster says tranexamic acid can be even more powerful when used in conjunction “with all-trans retinol and vitamin C (particularly THD ascorbate for its lipid solubility and improved penetrative ability within the fatty layers of the skin).” She says this “is a winning combination when layered correctly and applied consistently with daily and nightly cleansing.” All-rrans retinol deeply penetrates skin, stimulates cell turnover and promotes collagen synthesis, creating a more consistent skin tone and texture, explains Dr. Alster. Meanwhile, THD ascorbate, a lipid-soluble form of vitamin C, will help defend against further hyperpigmentation by reducing free radicals, she adds. The antioxidant effect of vitamin C also boosts protection from UV.
Both Dr. Loss and Dr. Shamban recommend SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum ($160) and Even & Correct Advanced Brightening Treatment ($178). Dr. Shamban says the new lightening cream is outstanding. “The actives interfere with various stages of the pigment production by the melanocytes.” Dr. Alster recommends The A Method Skin Perfecting Serum ($100) and Advanced TX Lightening Gel Elixir ($94). Our personal favorite: Murad Rapid Dark Spot Correcting Serum ($83), a do-it-all serum that’s also packed with AHAs and glycolic acid for more radiant skin.