Tranexamic acid is one of the acids used for lightening pigment spots. However, it is never present in chemical peels, nor in oily and problem skin treatment. Despite popular belief that brightening the skin with acids always causes the skin’s flaking and peeling, tranexamic acid works in a completely different way.
Tranexamic acid was introduced to cosmetology fairly recently.
The use of tranexamic acid for cosmetic purposes was discovered by medical surgeons. In the early 1960s, Japanese research scientist Dr. Okamoto discovered that tranexamic acid has antifibrinolytic properties or, putting it simply, it helps the body form a blood clot in the injured blood vessel and stop the bleeding. It turned out that tranexamic acid is also not toxic, has anti-inflammatory and allergy suppressing effect, suppresses the growth of bacteria (which is especially important for healing wounds) and even prevents the spreading of tumours. It was established that the activity of tranexamic acid is dozens of times higher than that of the conventional haemostatic agent, gamma-aminocaproic acid.
For over 30 years surgeons have been using tranexamic acid to prevent bleeding during surgery and bandaging even for cancer patients and patients with severe allergies. At some point a peculiar effect came to their attention: the patients’ skin tone was becoming lighter and more even. As it turned out, tranexamic acid can erase dark spots, the locus of hyperpigmentation, from the skin without a trace.
Tranexamic acid affects the skin in an unusual way, very different from the effect of alpha hydroxy acids and other well-known bleaching agents.
UV rays, the main culprit in the appearance of pigment spots, cause some complex changes in the skin. The impact of UV radiation activates melanin-producing cells melanocytes and intensifies the synthesis of melanin. At the same time UV rays increase the number of inflammatory mediators in the skin, enhancing inflammation and further increasing melanin production. In fact, any kind of skin inflammation can lead to the appearance of dark spots on the skin, this is why people with acne often have uneven complexion as well.
What Does Tranexamic Acid Do?
Tranexamic acid works in many ways at once:
- blocks the production of melanin in the cells;
- prevents melanin from accumulating locally;
- dissolves the already present melanin.
Tranexamic acid can stop bleeding by preventing the formation of plasmin, a little enzyme able to dissolve blood clots. It works on pigmentation in a similar way — by binding inflammatory mediators tranexamic acid stops the development of inflammation and prevents the pigment granules from forming. Inflammation suppressed, melanocytes calm down and stop producing unnecessary melanin, the skin brightens and evens out.
The biggest advantage of tranexamic acid is that it is absolutely nontoxic and does not irritate even hypersensitive skin. It also reduces the skin’s sensitivity to ultraviolet, which means that the risk of pigmentation after or during treatment is incredibly low. What it means is tranexamic acid can be used to treat pigmentation even in the height of beach season and does not require extra protection from the sun.
Tranexamic acid does not penetrate into deep skin layers. It accumulates in the corneal layer of the epidermis where it strengthens keratin connections and the skin’s resistance to damage; the skin becomes less sensitive and heals after an injury faster. Tranexamic acid solutions are recommended for the treatment of post-laser and post-traumatic pigmentation (after laser resurfacing, chemical peelings, plastic surgery or acne treatment).
When it is necessary to work on deeper lying pigment granules, tranexamic acid can be transported into derma with the help of liposomal delivery systems: this method is used to treat all kinds of melasma, including the “mask of pregnancy”.
Tranexamic acid is resistant to light, heat, cooling, pH changes, oxygenation. In fact, it remains practically unchanged under the influence of almost all external factors. It blends together well with other brightening ingredients, including alpha-hydroxy acids, making them safer for the sensitive and damaged skin.
Excerpt from “The Science of Beauty” by Dr Tiina Meder
© Dr Tiina Meder
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