What are Freckles: Causes, Remedies, Risks, and More

freckles

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Remember how that One Direction song titled “Little Things” soar high on music hit chart for weeks? – I’m joinin’ up the dots with the freckles on your cheeks (music playing) – well the lovely lyrics explain why.

Whether you’re a fan of the English-Irish boyband or simply love words the songwriter describe lyrically, who would not love to hear that someone could accept your freckled skin anyway? Aw, insert cheesy lines here. 

While some confuse freckled skin as sunburn, and notice how it usually appears on the skin, here’s your guide on how to completely get rid yourself from it. 

What are freckles, exactly? 

According to Merriam Webster, freckles skin are typical small pigmentation disorders that presents hyperpigmentation of dark – light brown – spots on your body. It’s visible in areas that get direct heat of sunlight, especially on the cheeks. . They are due to augmented melanin production which reflects on your skin colour and hair pigmentation. As a whole, freckles come from ultraviolet (UV rays) stimulation and often are innocuous, but sometimes genes plays a big part too. 

There are two types of freckles: Ephelis,  brown spots or tan look mark that most people think as freckles, which can be hundreds or thousands in skin appearance, and Solar lentigines, dark patches of the skin that evolves while you grow up which includes sunspots, aging pigments, and freckles from the sun exposure, of course. Though they’re often confused as similar, the two types differ in the process. 

Ephelides vs. Solar Lentigines 

Freckles (Ephelides – Medical term for a freckle) 

  • 1 mm-2 mm flat spots in size
  • Tan, slightly reddish, or light brown in colour 
  • Typically appear during the sunny months.
  • Hereditary (genetic) trait

Sunspots or liver spots (Lentigo) 

  • 2 mm patch spots
  • Light yellow to dark in color
  • Dark freckles that do not easily fade in winter
  • Appear to people above 40 years old

What causes freckles? 

There are reasons why SPF’s or UV rays protection exist; ephelides (plural of ephelis), tends to appear as a result of intense sun heat and sunburn. It frequently appears in widespread freckles  on the face, hands, upper body, or shoulder area, and are more visible to people with fair skin tone such as Asian or Caucasian. Solar lentigines also causes the same, but it oftentimes shows up to Adults age 40 years or over. 

What’s your probability to get freckles? 

Apparently, the more sun exposure you do, the higher chance our environment naturally displays its freckle aftereffect. Apart from that, genetics from family members who develop freckled skin, or usage of hormone treatment, such as oral birth control can increase your chances to get freckles or solar lentigines also. A 2020  DNA-based Predictive Model  that cohort gene variation of MC1R and 8 SNPs, revealed that  females have ∼1.8 higher odds of freckles presence compared to males. However, genes or gender still may vary on some factors, forms of melanin for example.

The human body has three forms of melanin: eumelanin (which is subdivided further into black and brownish form), pheomelanin, and neuromelanin. Since different skin pigmentation are resulted from eumelanin (brown or black) to pheomelanin (yellow–red), let’s focus on the two forms instead. 

Pheomelanin accounts people with pale and pinkish skin. They aren’t protected from UV radiation, so they tend to have poor tanned skin, red or blonde hair, or a spray of freckles. Most people with this type are located in place the winter season, so freckle traces normally disappear on its own. People who live near the equator on the other hand, are quite lucky, they develop greater proportion of eumelanin, which is  UV–absorbent, with antioxidant, and produces free radicals that accelerates carcinogenesis. It follows dark skinned individuals with brown or black hair, and skin tans easily. 

What are freckles prevention? 

Although freckles set an uneven tone to the skin, the growing clusters or clumps of pigments drive a new craze in terms of beauty. As much as there are people who want to get rid of their freckled skin problem, there are also people who intentionally puts it on. Hence, if they’re annoyed by pigmentation irregularities, here’s some treatments to add to your list: 

  1. SUNSCREEN – Now,  we all know that the major reason of freckled appearance is sun overexposure right? Then make it a habit to apply sunscreen, sure it won’t wipe out existing sun freckles but it helps prevent new ones. You should wear sunscreen always – yes, even if the sky’s gloomy. 

Here’s some tips from the American Academy of Dermatology

  • Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors. 
  • Use an SPF higher than 30
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, especially after swimming or sweating. 
  1. Laser treatment –  Intense Pulsed Light effectively treat skin freckles, that’s why laser procedures are recommended for people with massive fleck spots. The efficacy of Q-Switched Nd: YAG which also has high performance to remove tattoos and freckles hyped dermatologist and cosmetic experts as its considered generally safe in position statement of the European Society of Laser in Dermatology

Though Lasers and IPLS are very effective for treating many hyperpigmented lesions like lentigos, dermal hypermelanocytosis or heavy metal depositions., caution is still needed for other disorders, such as café au lait macules, melasma or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It may bring side effects like swelling, redness, itching, peeling, infection and others. 

  1. Cold therapy or Cryosurgery – the use of extreme cold in surgery to destroy abnormal skin cells or diseased tissue. They’ll use a spray, cotton swab, or metal device called a cryoprobe to apply liquid nitrogen to causing pigments. It may cause some potential side effects such as blistering or bleeding but rarely scar. 
  2. Retinoid Creams – hail on retinoid creams Vitamin A compound. It prevents sun-damage to the skin and clear to brighten freckles. Retinoic acid that can be found in retinoid creams has epithelium protective action that treats and prevent ultraviolet-induced damage to the skin following exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Over-the-counter retinoids can be bought with or without prescription, it may bring common side effects of redness, dryness, peeling, and skin irritation sometimes. 
  3. Topical Hydroquinone Creams – skin-lightening creams which contain hydroquinone subdue melanin production and brighten dark skin areas. It may cause you some of the following though as side effect:
    • Inflammation 
    • Tingling Sensation 
    • Blistering and Burning
    • Dryness

According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), bleaching products that contain up to 2% of hydroquinone are safe and effective. However, it was discovered that it also can result to skin darkening and disfiguration or even cancer cancer in rats, this led them to conduct further study with Toxicology Experts, and continue hydroquinone products to sell until concrete research is proven. 

  1. Chemical Peels – this is a quite famous regimen for anyone who wishes to have new growth of skin cells. Moderate skin peels containing trichloroacetic or glycolic acid penetrates deeply into middle skin layers. Dead skin cell is removed and generates new one. Although using Chemical Peels may cause stinging, temporary irritation or swelling, it’s proven well effective to replenish uneven-causing freckles. Just don’t forget to apply topical sun protection creams while on treatment healing. 
  2. Natural Remedies 
    • Honey – mix honey with sugar, salt or baking soda to make scrub paste, then apply to pigmented area.
    • Lemon – juices from lemon contains antioxidant that help to lighten the skin. Get a cotton swab and apply directly to skin, and then rinse it off. 
    • Sour Cream, Buttermilk, and Yogurt– the three contains lactic acid that potentially enlightens unwanted pigments. Apply directly to the skin and leave it for about 15mins, then wash. 
    • Shallots or Onions – you can use this as Exfoliator, that’s perfectly lightens your freckles. (Straight from your kitchen haha!) 

FAQ's

Most frequent questions and answers

For the record, mole is not what is freckles – if it’s not obvious. They are lesions that are darker and not associated with sun exposure, although it’s likely to appear on the fair skin individual same as ephelides. It can appear as brown  to pink and differing shapes, yet it’s a pigment-forming cells that has a greater amount of blood vessels. It occurs in areas that also gets sun exposure and may appear in a fraction of diameter sizes.

Moles can suggest an increased risk for melanoma, or malignant skin cancer, so make sure you do self exams as well.

Today, skin freckles from sun are well embraced by women mostly. Some might want its speedy disappearance, but others prefer to flaunt it as a natural sign of individuality and beauty. There are even some who go for a faux freckle tattoo as the perky dot covets an asset in beauty. 

Like moles, freckles are harmless and pose no threat. But it sometimes shows early signs of skin cancer or risk for melanoma, so better know your ABCDEs for self exam: 

  • Asymmetry – one half mole differs the other. 
  • Border irregularity – uneven or unmatched border. 
  • Color – not uniform and not normal in color. 
  • Diameter – its greater than 6mm, which is about a pencil eraser in size. 
  • Evolving – CHANGES in size or became larger , shape or elevation of a mole/ freckle patch. 

Seek doctor medical advice promptly if you experience bleeding, itching, crusting, or more of the above criteria from the pigmented area.

While some people loved to have exposed freckles in the sun, others are quite bothered by it – especially those who get freckles genetically. Cosmetic improvements for freckles are offered in-store and effective therapies are also reviewed and suggested on any website. However, we can never change our own genetic component of freckling, so practice your these main prevention measures to protect over sun exposure:

  • Stay out of the sun, especially during peak sun hours or time  (10am – 4pm). Always find shade or stay indoors as over sun exposure trigger freckles. 
  • Use sunscreen with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 50, if you need to go outdoors. Apply it every 2 hours. 
  • Use wide brimmed hats (6”) or sun protective clothing such as long sleeve shirts, trousers etc. 

Bottom line 

“Even if you inherit freckled skin from your mom or dad, you can’t really freckle unless you’ve had sun exposure”, says Dee Anna Glaser, MD, chair of the department of dermatology at the St. Louis University. Therefore, products with SPF are your extensive protection from face freckles sun causes (UVA and UVB radiation).

If you can’t love your unique freckle markings, your healthcare provider may prescribe creams or procedures for you to take (Note: advise your doctor of any antiviral or medication you currently take, this may result some flare ups on your skin, e.g herpes). But, if you’re proud with the spray or splattering paltry of freckles face, then show it off without doubt – just remember to care for it, the right way. 

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