What’s Up with Freckles Anyway?

Have you ever stared into the mirror and wondered why your face and arms are covered with freckles? Depending on your skin type and sun exposure, the number of freckles may increase every year. If you are frustrated with the freckles and looking for ways to reduce their appearance, there may be options available for you to try!

First, the biology!

A freckle is a cluster of concentrated melanin and they are most visible on people with fair skin. Although a freckle can appear on anyone, they are genetic and are an inherited trait. The formation of freckles is triggered by exposure to sunlight. Freckles are also referred to as “ephelis”.

Social & Psychological
Some people consider freckles to be cute but others view them as an embarassment. The fact is that no one likes looking different from their friends and freckles can really make you stand out in a crowd. Freckles, although naturally occuring, can make children and teens feel different from their friends and perhaps even unattractive.

Where do freckles form?

Many people develop freckles in the areas most commonly exposed to the sun. The face including the nose and cheeks are usually the first to form patches of freckles. Other areas of the body such as the hands, back and arms may begin to develop freckles as exposure to sun and age increase. Freckles rarely form in fold areas of the body such as the armpits.

Are they dangerous?

It is easy to become concerned that spots on the skin may be a signal of another underlying condition. Freckles are not a skin disorder that requires treatment. They are a result of a lower concentration of photoprotective melanin in the skin and increased susceptibility to the damaging effects of UV radiation.

NOTE: It is important to consult with a dermatologist to determine if any new brown spots that form on your skin are dangerous or not. Skin conditions (such as skin cancer) may reveal themselves as new or irregular spots on the skin and should not be ignored. Consult with a doctor if you have any concerns.

Types and Appearance

Ephelides (simple freckles) are typically flat, round and light tan or brown. They appear most commonly on fair skinned people although they can appear on other skin types. Although the color and appearance of freckles tend to be uniform from person to person, colors may vary from reddish to yellow or even black. Most freckles are no larger than the head of an average nail.

Sunburn freckles are the result of increased exposure to the sun and burning of the skin. These will be much larger than their every day counterparts in that they are larger and have irregular borders. They appear most commonly on the back and arms (areas of the body more prone to overexposure).

How to Minimize the Appearance

Some freckles may gradually decrease in appearance over time. This is especially true during the colder months when exposure to the sun is minimized. Many people have freckles that just stay the same in appearance all year round. Minimizing the appearance of these can be a time consuming and frustrating process.

A skin lightener can be effective choice for helping to counter act the effects of hyperpigmentation in the skin. Skin lighteners decrease the appearance of brown spots of the skin to more closely match the surrounding coloration. Although these will not make freckles (or moles) disappear, they may greatly decrease their appearance.

Note: Some products may contain ingredients that can cause harm with extended use. Consult with an esthetician or dermatologist for recommendations if you are unsure or need additional information.

Prevention

Learning to prevent freckles from ever occurring is the best defense. Start by taking small steps:
Wear sunscreen (at least SPF30) daily – even in the winter!
Minimize exposure to the sun and tanning (especially burning)
Protect the skin by covering it up and wearing a brimmed hat

By taking these simple steps you may begin to see your freckles fade naturally over time. Remember that proper skin care takes dedication and determination but is achievable over time.

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