Everything You Need to Know About Freckles
Whether you’ve had freckles your whole life or recently noticed a few more dark brown spots pop up on your skin after summer, freckles on the face need some special TLC. From consulting with your dermatologist to ensure the marks are benign to applying SPF everyday, we’re breaking down exactly what you need to know about freckles. To help us explain what freckles are, what causes them and more, we turned to board-certified dermatologists Dr. Peter Schmid, Dr. Dendy Engelman and Dr. Dhaval Bhansuli.
What Are Freckles?
Dr. Schmid explains that freckles typically develop in individuals with very fair skin. Freckles (also known as ephelides) look like flat, brown circular spots and are typically small in size. While some people are born with freckles, others will notice that they come and go with changes in the season, being more prevalent in the summer and fading with the fall.
What Causes Freckles?
Freckles typically increase in the summer because they appear as a response to an increase in sun exposure. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can stimulate the skin’s pigment-forming cells to produce more melanin. In turn, the skin develops small patches of freckles.
While exposure to ultraviolet rays can cause freckles to appear, freckles can also be genetic. “In youth, freckles can be genetic and not indicative of sun damage,” says Dr. Engelman explains. If you’ve noticed freckles on your skin as a young child without any prolonged sun exposure, your freckles may be due to a genetic predisposition.
Are Freckles Cause for Concern?
Freckles, for the most part, are harmless. If your freckles begin to change in appearance though, it’s time to consult with a board-certified dermatologist.. “If a freckle darkens, changes in size or shape or has any other change, it’s best to be evaluated by a dermatologist,” says Dr. Bhanusali. “I encourage all patients to regularly take photos of their skin spots and track any new moles or lesions that they think may be changing.” These changes may be indicative that your freckle isn’t a freckle at all, but rather a sign of melanoma or another form of skin cancer.
The Difference Between Freckles, Moles and Birthmarks
While birthmarks, moles and freckles may look similar in appearance, they’re all unique. “Birthmarks and moles present at birth or in the early childhood years as red or blue-ish vascular or pigmented lesions,” says Dr. Bhanusali. He explains that they can be flat, round, dome-shaped, elevated or irregular. On the other hand, freckles appear in response to ultraviolet light, are circular and small in size.
How to Care for Freckled Skin
Freckles are a marker of significant sun exposure and fair complexion, both of which can heighten your risk for developing skin cancer. To make sure you stay protected, we’re sharing expert-approved tips for taking care of freckled skin.
TIP 1: Wear Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen
It’s vital to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, like the La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-in-Milk SPF 100, whenever you are outdoors and reapply at least every two hours. Make sure to cover all exposed skin, especially after you have been swimming or sweating.
TIP 2: Stay in the Shade
Limiting sun exposure during the peak hours can make a difference. When the skin is exposed to high levels of heat, it triggers melanin activity and results in more defined freckles and spots. The rays are strongest between 10AM and 4PM.
If you like the look of freckles, but staying out of the sun prevents them from coming out, we recommend drawing on extra freckles with an eyeliner or freckle product, like the Freck Beauty Freck OG.
TIP 3: Exfoliate Your Skin
We’re all for embracing freckles, if you would like to reduce their appearance, exfoliation can help. While freckles will often fade in intensity on their own over time, exfoliating encourages surface cell turnover and can speed up the process.
Photo: Chaunte Vaughn