Many skincare actives can help brighten dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin tone. You may have heard of/tried ingredients like vitamin C, kojic acid, glycolic acid, and niacinamide. But have you ever heard of tranexamic acid?
Tranexamic acid is an amino acid derivative and a relatively newer ingredient in skin care products. It’s already becoming a cult favorite for its ability to brighten dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
There are many tranexamic acid skincare products on the market, so I purchased several and tried them to find the best tranexamic acid serums that actually work.
These 10 serums are effective, and most are budget-friendly. Let’s get right to the list!
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10 Best Tranexamic Acid Serums
My Top Picks:
- Best Overall: Naturium Tranexamic Topical Acid 5%
- Most Affordable: Good Molecules Discoloration Correction Serum
- Best For Acne Scars: Topicals Faded Serum for Dark Spots & Discoloration
These serums pair tranexamic acid with other brightening ingredients to get the most bang for your buck. The serums made my list by getting results without costing an arm and a leg.
You’ll notice many of the serums in this post are formulated with tranexamic acid AND several other brightening actives, so it can be argued that the best tranexamic acid serum will combine multiple active ingredients to target hyperpigmentation and discoloration.
Here are my top 10 picks for the best tranexamic acid serums:
1. Naturium Tranexamic Topical Acid 5%
Naturium Tranexamic Topical Acid 5% is a tranexamic acid serum that uses 5% tranexamic acid and is enriched with niacinamide, kojic acid, and licorice root extract to brighten the skin, improve uneven skin tone, and diminish the appearance of discoloration and patchy skin.
- Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, is a multi-benefit active ingredient that helps to brighten the skin and target dark spots while supporting a healthy skin barrier and balancing your complexion.
- Kojic acid is an ingredient that brightens the skin and inhibits melanin production to reduce the appearance of dark spots.
- Licorice root extract is another key ingredient in this product, and is known for its brightening properties. It’s also an anti-inflammatory, so it can help soothe redness and inflammation related to eczema or rosacea.
- Panthenol (pro-vitamin B5) helps calm and soothe the skin and keep it hydrated.
- Snow mushroom extract, known as nature’s hyaluronic acid, helps hydrate the skin and lock in moisture.
This gentle serum is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin. If you have oily skin, I think it’s the better choice of the two Naturium products in this post.
2. Paula’s Choice Discoloration Repair Serum
Paula’s Choice Discoloration Repair Serum is formulated to reduce the look of brown and gray patches on your forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin.
It targets uneven skin tone and helps improve that unnatural mask-like appearance which can be hard to treat.
The serum also helps with sun spots from excess sun exposure and post-acne scars and marks that are pink-to-red or tan-to-brown discoloration that occurs after pimples and breakouts have healed.
This serum uses multiple brightening actives to improve discoloration:
- A 3% concentration of tranexamic acid inhibits melanin production to fade existing discoloration and prevent new brown spots from forming.
- A 5% concentration of niacinamide reduces the look of redness, blotchiness, and hyperpigmentation. Niacinamide interrupts melanin production to give you a more even complexion.
- A 0.5% concentration of bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative, brightens the skin and improves the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines like retinol. In addition to its anti-aging properties, bakuchiol has been found to inhibit melanin production for a more even complexion.
As you can see, Paula’s Choice uses a combination of multiple active ingredients to brighten the skin and improve your overall complexion.
You are getting not only the brightening benefits of these actives but also anti-aging benefits as well.
This is the priciest serum of this post, but keep in mind that it offers both anti-aging and brightening benefits.
TIP: You may be tempted to start using these tranexamic acid products daily, but start with a few times a week, and then as your skin adjusts, you can build up to daily or twice a day, depending on the product instructions.
This pigment correcting serum is a best-seller for Good Molecules because it is so affordable and effective for brightening the skin, targeting hyperpigmentation, acne scars, and uneven skin tone.
This clinical study found that cetyl tranexamate mesylate had skin lightening benefits, was well-tolerated, and helped to reduce dark spots and redness and improve skin tone.
A 4% concentration of niacinamide improves skin texture and tone, dullness, and the look of enlarged pores. Niacinamide is excellent for oily skin as it can help regulate sebum production.
This 10-ingredient serum is suitable for all skin types and is lightweight and non-sticky on the skin. This product is also fragrance-free, which is great for those with sensitive skin.
Related Post: Good Molecules Review
4. The Inkey List Tranexamic Serum
The Inkey List Tranexamic Serum (formerly called The Inkey List Tranexamic Night Treatment as shown above) is a 2% tranexamic acid serum formulated to reduce the look of hyperpigmentation and pesky discoloration, uneven skin tone, and acne scars.
This brightening serum also contains 2% ascorbyl glucoside, which is a vitamin C derivative that works to brighten the skin just like pure vitamin C (ascorbic acid) but is more stable.
It not only brightens the skin but also offers antioxidant benefits and helps improve collagen production for firmer, more youthful-looking skin.
The Inkey List also includes 2% Acai berry extract to help even skin tone.
Suitable for all skin types, this treatment is ideal for dull, discolored skin. The serum has an opaque gel texture that is non-sticky.
The Inkey List notes that it can be used on your body, but be sure to patch test it before applying it to the affected area.
While previously called a “night treatment,” you can use this serum in both your morning and evening skincare routines.
If you choose to use a moisturizer with this serum, The Inkey List recommends waiting at least 30 minutes before applying your moisturizer.
- Best The Inkey List Products for Hyperpigmentation and Dark Spots
- Best The Ordinary Products for Hyperpigmentation and Dark Spots
5. Facetheory Exaglow Serum
Facetheory Exaglow Serum uses 5% tranexamic acid to lighten pigmentation, dark spots, melasma, and age spots, and smooth rough areas of your skin for a more even-looking skin tone.
In addition to tranexamic acid, the serum contains several additional brightening actives to support the effects of tranexamic acid:
Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, works to brighten the skin, improve uneven skin tone, and diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), helps to exfoliate dead skin cells, brighten the skin, and improve fine lines.
Sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a vitamin C derivative, brightens the complexion and provides antioxidant protection against free radicals.
Glycyrrhiza glabra root extract, also known as licorice root extract, is an anti-inflammatory that helps to brighten the skin and improve uneven skin tone.
Sodium hyaluronate, a form of hyaluronic acid, helps to hydrate the skin and keep it plump and supple.
NOTE: Facetheory notes it is effective after 8 weeks of continued use. So when you’ve been using it for a few weeks and have yet to see results, be sure to continue using it for 2 months before evaluating its effectiveness.
Related Post: Facetheory Review
6. Naturium Tranexamic Acid Brightening Treatment 5%
Naturium Tranexamic Acid Brightening Treatment 5% is an emulsion that combines 5% tranexamic acid with encapsulated kojic acid, alpha arbutin, and acetyl glucosamine to target dark spots and uneven skin tone and brighten the complexion.
In addition to tranexamic acid, encapsulated and free kojic acid work together to brighten the skin and target dark spots.
Alpha arbutin is another active ingredient that inhibits melanin production to brighten the skin and reduce excessive pigmentation and dark spots. It’s a derivative of hydroquinone but does not have the same unwanted side effects.
Acetyl glucosamine is an amino acid sugar and a natural moisturizing factor that helps hydrate the skin while evening out skin tone.
Raspberry seed oil and rosemary leaf extracts provide antioxidant protection against free radicals that cause premature aging.
Allantoin and panthenol help soothe the skin. Squalane helps to lock in moisture and prevent water loss.
All of these actives are suspended in a light, lotion-like emulsion that is easily absorbed by the skin.
This emulsion hydrates and moisturizes the skin on its own or can be applied before your moisturizer, like a serum/treatment, if needed.
This nourishing emulsion is excellent for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and dark spots.
It is suitable for most skin types, including sensitive skin. If you have oily skin, you may prefer the lighter serum texture of Naturium Tranexamic Topical Acid 5%.
Related Post: Naturium Skincare Review
7. Cos De Baha Tranexamic Acid 5% Serum
Cos De Baha Tranexamic Acid 5% Serum pairs 5% tranexamic acid with 5% niacinamide to brighten the skin, diminish the appearance of dark spots, and even out your complexion.
Tranexamic acid is the key ingredient in the serum that we use for its brightening properties. Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 helps reduce inflammation, brighten skin tone, and fade hyperpigmentation.
Aloe barbadensis leaf (aloe) extract is the most concentrated ingredient in the serum. Aloe has potent anti-inflammatory benefits and is a natural humectant that helps the skin retain moisture.
Sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid) helps the skin to stay hydrated and plump. Allantoin, derived from the comfrey plant, is known for its soothing and healing properties.
This serum will help brighten the skin and fade away those pesky dark spots and discoloration if you have post-acne marks, sun spots, dark spots, or even melasma.
8. Topicals Faded Serum for Dark Spots & Discoloration
Topicals Faded Serum for Dark Spots & Discoloration is a brightening serum formulated to reduce discoloration, post-acne marks (including acne scars), and spots.
The serum is packed with ingredients to address these concerns, including tranexamic acid for brightening discoloration.
The serum also contains niacinamide, a kojic acid derivative, alpha arbutin, azelaic acid, and licorice root extract, some of the absolute best ingredients that have brightening and spot-fading properties.
Such an impressive ingredient list!
The serum can even be used for melasma since tranexamic acid has been clinically proven to help with melasma.
The serum is formulated for all ethnicities and skin tones. Topicals recommends starting usage at once a week and then building to daily use if tolerated.
One thing I’d like to note is the scent. While it doesn’t contain any added fragrance, the serum has a noticeable scent, which Topicals notes in their product description smells like sulfur.
This sulfur scent is due to the inclusion of glutathione, an ingredient that reduces the appearance of discoloration.
I definitely notice a chemical-like scent, which does go away once it absorbs into your skin.
9. Acure Brightening Tranexamic Acid Serum
Acure Brightening Tranexamic Acid Serum is a brightening face serum that pairs tranexamic acid with niacinamide and kojic acid, which are all actives that work to fade hyperpigmentation and dark spots and brighten your skin.
The serum also contains aloe vera for its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory benefits and safflower seed oil, a moisturizing ingredient for your skin.
Zinc PCA is also included for its sebum-control properties, making this serum a great option for those with oily or acne-prone skin.
The texture is lightweight and easily absorbs into the skin, making it suitable for all skin types.
This serum stands out for its nourishing formula. It leaves my skin soft, smooth, and very moisturized.
10. Boots Ingredients Tranexamic Acid Serum
Boots Ingredients Tranexamic Acid Serum reduces the look of hyperpigmentation, dark spots, uneven skin tone, and scarring from blemishes (i.e. post inflammatory hyperpigmentation).
Tranexamic acid works to lighten and brighten your skin, while witch hazel water, allantoin, and panthenol soothe your skin.
Sodium hyaluronate also helps to bring moisture into your skin, making this a great serum for dehydrated or dry skin types.
The serum is formulated to be used at night in your evening skincare routine.
This serum has a lightweight, gel-like texture that absorbs quickly and leaves no residue behind. And you can’t beat the low price!
Alternatives To Tranexamic Acid
If you’re looking for alternatives to tranexamic acid for addressing skin concerns like hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, or redness, there are several effective options you can consider.
Here are some of the best tranexamic acid substitutes:
This form of vitamin B3 is renowned for its skin-brightening effects, as well as its ability to improve the skin’s barrier function. Niacinamide is gentle on the skin and can help reduce the appearance of dark spots and redness.
Derived from fungi, kojic acid is a natural skin-lightening ingredient. It inhibits melanin (pigment) production and, as a result, helps fade dark spots and pigmentation.
Azelaic acid is known for its anti-inflammatory and skin-lightening properties as it inhibits tyrosinase activity, the enzyme responsible for producing melanin. This makes it an effective ingredient for treating hyperpigmentation and acne scars.
A popular antioxidant skincare ingredient, pure vitamin C (ascorbic acid), offers many skin benefits, including brightening and evening out skin tone. It can also boost collagen production and protect against environmental damage.
Licorice Root Extract
A natural brightening alternative, licorice root extract is praised for its skin-lightening and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s commonly found as a helper ingredient in products formulated to reduce hyperpigmentation, redness, and dark spots.
Derived from the bearberry plant, alpha arbutin is a gentle but effective ingredient that inhibits melanin production. It’s often used in products designed for sensitive skin.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
Alpha hydroxy acids, commonly known as AHAs, are water-soluble exfoliating acids. Glycolic acid and lactic acid are two of the most popular types of AHAs.
These AHAs help exfoliate the skin’s outermost layer, leading to a brighter, more even complexion, and help reduce the look of age spots, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation.
What Is Tranexamic Acid?
Tranexamic acid is a synthetic derivative of the amino acid lysine that works as a brightening ingredient by interrupting the pathways that lead to hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone.
It targets the enzyme involved in the production of melanin (skin pigment), called tyrosinase.
Tranexamic acid has traditionally been used as an oral medication.
But in recent years, topical tranexamic acid has become popular in skincare products because of its ability to target hyperpigmentation and brighten the skin.
The Benefits of Tranexamic Acid
Tranexamic acid offers many benefits for your skin. It can help to:
- Reduce the appearance of dark spots and discoloration
- Brighten the skin
- Even out the skin tone
- Fade acne scars and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
- Reduce inflammation
Tranexamic acid has become popular recently as a treatment for acne, melasma, and other forms of hyperpigmentation.
It is often used in combination with other lightening agents such as niacinamide, licorice root, and kojic acid.
Tranexamic acid targets discoloration without the harsh side effects of some skin brighteners like exfoliating acids, so it can be a great choice for sensitive skin.
Plus, it doesn’t make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Who Can Use Tranexamic Acid?
Tranexamic acid does not typically cause irritation and is well-tolerated, so it is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
But, as with any new skincare ingredient, it is always best to do a patch test on a small area of skin before using it for the first time to avoid an adverse initial reaction.
How Long Does It Take Tranexamic Acid To Work On Skin?
It could take at least 8 weeks to see results from tranexamic acid, so consistency and patience are key.
Related Post: Best Drugstore Vitamin C Serums
Final Thoughts On The Best Tranexamic Acid Serums
If you are looking for a brightening ingredient that can target dark spots and hyperpigmentation, tranexamic acid is a great option, and these tranexamic acid serums are some of the best affordable formulations that you can find.
With regular use, you can expect to see a more even skin tone, a reduction in the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin tone, and a brighter, more radiant complexion.
Don’t forget to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily to protect your skin from sun damage and excessive pigment production.
Thanks for reading!