Tranexamic Acid : A New Skin Care Ingredient for Pigmentation


Tranexamic Acid

The desire for fair skin is pretty universal especially among young Asian women who equate being fair as being more attractive. There is even a Chinese saying that can be roughly translated to “one part of fairness hides a hundred parts of ugliness”. This belief often led to irrational use of skin lightening or whitening agents, which may result in untoward effects.

Often, I would come across patients who are excited about certain medications or products, the effects of which are strongly vouched for by their 'friends'. They make claims like “Trust me, it really works!” or “My friend’s been using it and swears by it!” or “Don’t be such a worrywart, try it!” Hence, it is no wonder even the most hesitant ones would be tempted to give it a try. The more cautious ones who are concerned about the side effects would maybe show me the products and ask for my opinion. In many instances, these so-called miracle products more often than not contains Tranexamic Acid, one of the skin lightening or whitening agents available in the market.

Tranexamic acid or its mouthful scientific name, trans-4-aminomethyl cyclohexane carboxylic acid is essentially a plasmin inhibitor, commonly used to stop bleeding (haemostatic agent) during major surgeries or heavy menses. In the field of dermatology, cosmetics and aesthetics, it has been used either as an oral agent, topical agent or intradermal injection to treat melasma and some other pigmentation disorders for its whitening effect.

How exactly does tranexamic acid works?

  • Control melanin pigment formation
  • Prevent melanin pigment accumulation
  • Reduce skin pigmentation
  • Anti-inflammation

Treatment of melasma with tranexamic acid produces gradual improvement that could be observed in the majority of the patients and usually detected after one month.

Tranexamic acid is well tolerated under normal circumstances. However, commonly reported side effects are gastrointestinal disorder such as abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Tranexamic acid may also reduce menstrual blood loss.

Oral and topical uses of tranexamic acid have shown to be effective in localized lesions such as in the treatment of melasma. There is no scientific data available to demonstrate the role of tranexemic acid as an overall skin whitening or lightening agent. In other words, you should not expect a whole body skin whitening effect à la Michael Jackson even if you are taking tranexamic acid orally! It is always important to know what you are using or consuming. There are plenty of products out there in the market with outrageous claims. This is not to say all of them are fakes. You can never be too careful. Just be mindful and if you have any doubts, please seek advice from your doctor.

Dr. Ian Tan 
Anna Hoo Clinic