Once And For All, What Are Freckles?

Large Editorial Image


November 1, 2015

Freckles are associated with innocence, youth and cuteness overload. But with so much attention given to sun care and protecting our skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, it’s natural to assume the dark pigmentation otherwise known as freckling might actually be dangerous sun damage in disguise. And, if that’s the case, shouldn’t we be researching ways to eliminate the adorable sprinkling of freckles we’ve had across our noses since we were 4?

The short answer is: not necessarily. All freckles are not created equal and it helps to understand what actually causes freckles, as well as the differences between spots you’ve had since toddlerhood and those you may have created after spending years on the beach.

What Are Freckles?

One important way you can tell whether you have freckles or moles is by using your sense of touch, says Dr. Tien Nguyen, a dermatologist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif. “Freckles are small localized areas of hyperpigmented skin that appear darker than the normal surrounding skin,” Nguyen says. “These small areas can be next to each other and coalesce into a larger patch on your skin. The skin over the freckles is completely smooth and normal to feel and touch.”

Are Freckles Different Than Moles?

Freckles tend to develop in early childhood and throughout adolescence, but do not usually develop in adults, says Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles and Clinical Instructor at the University of Southern California. “Unlike moles, which are caused by a nest or increased number of melanocytes (the actual color cells in the skin that make the melanin), freckles are caused by the transfer of melanin by melanosomes (transport cells) into regular keratinocytes in response to UV exposure,” Shainhouse says. “This might have developed as a protective mechanism. The melanin can, technically, move back to the melanocytes when the skin is ‘safe’ (no longer in the sun), which is why freckles seem to fade in the winter.”

In addition to feeling them, moles and freckles differ in appearance: moles tend to be larger than freckles, which are 2-3mm, round, and light or medium brown, Shainhouse says. “If you notice any new or changing spots on your body, including ones that have irregular borders, are asymmetric (not round), have mixed or changing colors or are obviously growing, get them checked by your dermatologist, to make sure that they are not dangerous,” Shainhouse says.

Are Freckles A Sign Of Skin Cancer?

It all depends on the age in which you developed freckles. Those found on newborn skin could be part of a congenital nevus, or signs of other congenital anomalies, Nguyen says, and should be examined and addressed immediately. Although freckles developed during childhood don’t necessarily point to skin cancer, their mere presence probably means there is a history of sun exposure and a skin cancer screening is recommended to be safe, according to Nguyen.

Freckles are usually seen in people with fair skin, light or red hair, and blue or green eyes–who also happen to burn more easily in the sun, Shainhouse says. “Having at least one blistering sunburn before the age of 15 will double your risk of developing melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer,” Shainhouse says.

Should You Have Freckles Removed?

Unless they truly bother you, there are no health reasons why you should have your freckles removed. “They are not dangerous in and of themselves,” Shainhouse says. “Freckles do fade when you spend enough time out of the sun (they are lighter in the winter, when it is cold and you are covered up or indoors all day) and sometimes they fade with age.”

If freckles have always been the bane of your existence, there are ways to remove them from your skin. First and foremost, Nguyen recommends avoiding the sun, using sunscreen, and looking into bleaching creams to start.

If those methods don’t prove drastic enough for your needs, Shainhouse recommends Intense Pulsed Light (ILP), which is a laser that can lighten superficial pigment changes and even out skin tone. “You will notice a significant lightening after the first treatment,” Shainhouse says. “You may need a second treatment a month later. IPL works best for face and chest; it is much less effective on arm, legs and hands. Cost varies, depending on size of treatment area. A single full-face treatment might cost anywhere from $200 to over $500.”

If you have tanned skin, YAG lasers can be safer because the wavelength goes deeper to avoid the top layers of the skin, which reduces the risk of burning or developing light patches on the skin after a treatment. “Multiple treatments might be necessary,” Shainhouse says. “Cost varies, and depend on the size of the treatment area and the number of treatments purchased.”

For more beauty tips, check out 7 surprising facts about Bath & Body Works and the one thing you shouldn’t do when putting on mascara.

[Photo: Imaxtree]

 

Shop foundation

More foundation | 3 of 6048 »

Dior Diorskin Nude Skin-Glowing Foundation Broad Spectrum Spf 15 by

Christian Dior

Buy Now

Skin Foundation Spf 15, 1 oz by

Bobbi Brown

Buy Now

ColorStay Makeup for Normal/Dry Skin SPF 15 by

Revlon

Buy Now




  • The One Hack That Will Forever Change The Way You Shop At Zara

    The One Hack That Will Forever Change The Way You Shop At Zara

    Style

    today

  • Hurry! This $39 Tunic Sweater Is Selling Like Crazy At Nordstrom Right Now

    Hurry! This $39 Tunic Sweater Is Selling Like Crazy At Nordstrom Right Now

    Style

    today

  • Nordstrom's Super Popular Peacoat Is Now Available In Red... And It's Only $37!

    Nordstrom's Super Popular Peacoat Is Now Available In Red... And It's Only $37!

    Style

    today

  • 5 Ways To DIY Eyelash Growth For Longer, Stronger Lashes

    5 Ways To DIY Eyelash Growth For Longer, Stronger Lashes

    Beauty

    today

  • Drop Everything - Here’s How To Win Free Lush Products RIGHT NOW

    Drop Everything - Here’s How To Win Free Lush Products RIGHT NOW

    Beauty

    1 day

  • Score A Gorgeous Leather Rebecca Minkoff Bag For Under $100 With Our Exclusive Promo Code

    Score A Gorgeous Leather Rebecca Minkoff Bag For Under $100 With Our Exclusive Promo Code

    Style

    1 day

  • Upgrade Your Fall Look With These Creative Ways To Wear A Scarf

    Upgrade Your Fall Look With These Creative Ways To Wear A Scarf

    Style

    1 day

  • It's Trench Coat Season! Shop The Best Styles For Fall RN

    It's Trench Coat Season! Shop The Best Styles For Fall RN

    Style

    1 day

  • 5 Beauty Products Sephora Can’t Keep In Stock Right Now

    5 Beauty Products Sephora Can’t Keep In Stock Right Now

    Beauty

    1 day

  • First Look! Check Out LG SIGNATURE's Stunning Collection On Display At Bloomingdale's

    First Look! Check Out LG SIGNATURE's Stunning Collection On Display At Bloomingdale's

    Style

    1 day

  • This Is The Best Maybelline Foundation For Oily Skin

    This Is The Best Maybelline Foundation For Oily Skin

    Beauty

    1 day

  • Chip & Joanna Gaines' Target Home Collection Just Made Your Holiday Shopping Super Easy

    Chip & Joanna Gaines' Target Home Collection Just Made Your Holiday Shopping Super Easy

    Celebrity

    1 day

  • Forever 21's Plus Size Line Just Got a Fabulous New Makeover

    Forever 21's Plus Size Line Just Got a Fabulous New Makeover

    Style

    1 day

  • A Beginner's Guide To Using Crystals To Relax & De-Stress #WellnessWednesday

    A Beginner's Guide To Using Crystals To Relax & De-Stress #WellnessWednesday

    2 days

  • 5 Target New Arrivals To Shop Before They Sell Out

    5 Target New Arrivals To Shop Before They Sell Out

    Style

    2 days

  • Here Are The Best iPhone X Cases For Every Kind Of Person

    Here Are The Best iPhone X Cases For Every Kind Of Person

    2 days

  • Get A Sneak Peek Of MAC's Holiday 2017 Collection (You're Going To Want It All!)

    Get A Sneak Peek Of MAC's Holiday 2017 Collection (You're Going To Want It All!)

    Beauty

    2 days

  • Here's Why Those Urban Decay Vault Combos Are TOTALLY Worth It

    Here's Why Those Urban Decay Vault Combos Are TOTALLY Worth It

    Beauty

    2 days

  • This Is The One Blouse You Need To Purchase For Fall

    This Is The One Blouse You Need To Purchase For Fall

    Style

    3 days

  • Once And For All, Here's How To Take Off Eyeliner Without Scrubbing Your Eyelids

    Once And For All, Here's How To Take Off Eyeliner Without Scrubbing Your Eyelids

    Style

    3 days

  • Sale Alert! The Best-Selling Tarte Shape Tape Concealers Are 25% Off Right Now

    Sale Alert! The Best-Selling Tarte Shape Tape Concealers Are 25% Off Right Now

    Beauty

    3 days

  • Use Our Exclusive Promo Code To Score The Best Rain Boots Ever For 20% Off

    Use Our Exclusive Promo Code To Score The Best Rain Boots Ever For 20% Off

    Style

    3 days

  • 5 Things You Need To Know About Nordstrom's Return Policy

    5 Things You Need To Know About Nordstrom's Return Policy

    Shop

    3 days

  • This eBay Hack Will Help You Get Some Serious $$ From Your Old Purses

    This eBay Hack Will Help You Get Some Serious $$ From Your Old Purses

    3 days

  • Drop Everything--These Are The New Launches Our Editors Are Shopping Now

    Expect To See A LOT Of This Hat In Your Social Feeds

    Shop

    3 days

  • Gift Alert! All The Beauty Products Our Editors Want This Year

    Gift Alert! All The Beauty Products Our Editors Want This Year

    Beauty

    3 days

  • These Are The Best Collaborations You <em>Need</em> To Know About Now

    Style Bloggers Love This 'Elevated Athleisure' Line That Dropped TODAY

    Shop

    3 days

  • Today Only! Get A Best-Selling tarte Mascara For Just $10

    Today Only! Get A Best-Selling tarte Mascara For Just $10

    Beauty

    4 days

  • Molton Brown's New Russian Leather Scent Smells Like Everything You Love About Fall

    Molton Brown's New Russian Leather Scent Smells Like Everything You Love About Fall

    Beauty

    4 days

  • Meet Shelley Gibbs Sanders, The Pioneering Designer Behind Everyone's Current Jewelry Obsession, The Last Line

    Meet Shelley Gibbs Sanders, The Designer Behind Everyone's Current Jewelry Obsession, The Last Line

    Style

    4 days

  • This Is The One Body Lotion You <em>Need</em> Before Winter

    This Is The One Body Lotion You Need Before Winter

    Beauty

    4 days

  • The One Drugstore Powder You Should Stop Using, According To A Dermatologist

    The One Drugstore Powder You Should Stop Using, According To A Dermatologist

    Beauty

    today

  • Everyone Thinks Joe Jonas And Sophie Turner Are Expecting & We're Freaking Out!

    Everyone Thinks Joe Jonas And Sophie Turner Are Expecting & We're Freaking Out!

    Celebrity

    today

  • 7 Things Every Fashion Girl Over 30 Never Wears

    7 Things Every Fashion Girl Over 30 Never Wears

    Style

    today

  • Um, Did Jennifer Aniston Not Realize Her Top Was Completely See-Through?

    Um, Did Jennifer Aniston Not Realize Her Top Was Completely See-Through?

    Celebrity

    today

  • The Ultimate Guide On What To Wear To An Office Holiday Party

    The Ultimate Guide On What To Wear To An Office Holiday Party

    Style

    1 day

  • The One Drugstore Cleanser You Should Stop Using, According To A Dermatologist

    The One Drugstore Cleanser You Should Stop Using, According To A Dermatologist

    Beauty

    1 day

  • 5 Pairs Of Leggings That Don’t Actually Look Like Leggings

    5 Pairs Of Leggings That Don’t Actually Look Like Leggings

    Style

    1 day

  • Your Ultimate Guide On What To Wear To Thanksgiving Dinner This Year

    Your Ultimate Guide On What To Wear To Thanksgiving Dinner This Year

    Style

    2 days

  • Ashton Kutcher Explains Why He'll Never, EVER Post Pictures Of His Kids

    Ashton Kutcher Explains Why He'll Never, EVER Post Pictures Of His Kids

    Celebrity

    2 days

  • Kylie Jenner Just Showed Off Her Baby Bump On Snapchat & Everyone's Freaking Out!

    Kylie Jenner Just Showed Off Her Baby Bump On Snapchat & Everyone's Freaking Out!

    Celebrity

    2 days

  • Move Over 'Damn Daniel,' Here's How To DIY A 'Ciao Ryan' Halloween Costume

    Move Over 'Damn Daniel,' Here's How To DIY A 'Ciao Ryan' Halloween Costume

    Style

    2 days

  • The One Drugstore Product You Should Use For Thinning Hair, According To A Dermatologist

    The One Drugstore Product You Should Use For Thinning Hair, According To A Dermatologist

    Beauty

    2 days

  • Here's How To Get The Sold Out Gigi x Maybelline Jetsetter Palette

    Here's How To Get The Sold Out Gigi x Maybelline Jetsetter Palette

    Beauty

    2 days

  • 5 Target Skincare Products With Incredible Reviews & Reputations

    5 Target Skincare Products With Incredible Reviews & Reputations

    Beauty

    2 days

  • How To DIY A Kendall Jenner Pepsi Commercial Halloween Costume This Year

    How To DIY A Kendall Jenner Pepsi Commercial Halloween Costume This Year

    Style

    3 days

  • Can You Spot Khloe's Baby Bump In This KUWTK Christmas Special Photo?

    Can You Spot Khloe's Baby Bump In This KUWTK Christmas Special Photo?

    Celebrity

    3 days

  • Here's Why Nicole Kidman Never Talks About Her Two Other Children

    Here's Why Nicole Kidman Never Talks About Her Two Other Children

    Celebrity

    3 days

  • The One Skincare Habit That’s Aging You, According to a Dermatologist

    The One Skincare Habit That’s Aging You, According to a Dermatologist

    Beauty

    3 days

  • The One Drugstore Eye Cream You Should Stop Using, According To A Dermatologist

    The One Drugstore Eye Cream You Should Stop Using, According To A Dermatologist

    Beauty

    3 days

  • Did Kylie Jenner Just Accidentally Confirm Her Pregnancy? Her Latest Snapchat Makes Us Think So!

    Did Kylie Jenner Just Accidentally Confirm Her Pregnancy? Her Latest Snapchat Makes Us Think So!

    Celebrity

    3 days

  • 7 Beauty Products You Didn’t Know You Could Buy At Target

    7 Beauty Products You Didn’t Know You Could Buy At Target

    Beauty

    3 days

  • Joe Jonas And Sophie Turner Got Engaged & Jonas Brothers Fans Are Not Happy

    Joe Jonas And Sophie Turner Got Engaged & Jonas Brothers Fans Are Not Happy

    Celebrity

    3 days