What Causes Freckles? The Complete Guide To Freckles

What Causes Freckles? The Complete Guide To Freckles

If you’ve recently spent some time in the sun in Australia, you may have noticed little brown spots on your face, shoulders, and other exposed areas, and these are what we call freckles.
But what are freckles? How do you get freckles? Are freckles bad? What causes freckles, and can you avoid them?
You’ve got questions, and Clinica Lase has answers. Learn more in our complete guide to freckles.

What Are Freckles?

Freckles are small brown spots on your skin caused by clusters of concentrated melanin.
They are usually found in areas that get a lot of sun exposure. This is why freckles form on the face, shoulders, and your upper back and chest.
They’re harmless, and are usually caused by exposure to UV radiation and of course, the most common source of UV radiation is the sun.

What Causes Freckles?

Freckles appear when the skin is exposed to UV radiation, and produces melanin, the pigment responsible for darkening and tanning the skin during sun exposure.
Areas that have an overabundance of “melanocytes” will overproduce melanin, changing the color of the outer skin cells.
And in most cases, freckles never really completely disappear. Upon exposure to UV radiation, they will quickly darken and come back.
This is why you may not have freckles during the winter, but they may come back as soon as the hot summer rolls around.

Are Freckles Genetic?

Yes, freckles are genetic, to an extent. The number one risk factor for developing lots of freckles is frequent sunburns.
If you have fair skin and do not protect it with sunscreen, you may develop more freckles.
However, the second most important risk factor was found in a study of 523 middle-aged French women. It was found that a gene called MC1R - which helps provide your cells with instructions on how to make melanin - had a big effect on the number of freckles.
Those who have this gene produce more pheomelanin, which does not protect the skin from UV radiation as well.
Those who have the MC1R gene tend to hair fairer skin, skin that tans poorly, and red or blonde hair.
These genetic factors are all associated with an increased risk of freckles and UV skin damage.

The Different Types Of Freckles

There are actually two different types of freckles, known as “ephelides” and “solar lentigines.”
Ephelides are what you may commonly think of as freckles – little dark spots on your face and other UV-exposed areas.
Solar lentigines are sometimes called “sunspots,” “aging spots” and “liver spots.”
They are usually much larger and darker than ephelides, and develop in the late 40s in people who have had a lot of UV exposure.

Moles Vs. Freckles – What’s The Difference?

The difference between a mole and freckle may not seem obvious. They are both caused by UV exposure, but they are completely different things.
The primary difference is that, while freckles will become less dark over time without UV exposure, moles will remain the same, dark color. They will not fade or disappear. Moles are also usually (but not always) raised up on the surface of the skin.
Like freckles, moles are normal, particularly for those who have fair skin. The average adult has between 10-40 moles at any given time.
However, large or irregular moles can also be a sign of melanoma or skin cancer. This is quite rare, though. Only about 1 in every 10,000 moles is cancerous.

Are Freckles Bad?

Rest assured that freckles are not a bad thing at all! They’re a natural response to sun exposure for those who have fair skin, and they are not harmful.
However, even if you do want to get rid of freckles, doing so can be difficult.
While treatments like laser treatment, pico genesis or microneedling may reduce the appearance of freckles, they will usually come back with sun exposure.

Preventing Freckles – Our Top Tip

Want to prevent freckles? The simplest way to do this to prevent sun exposure.
Make sure to wear long-sleeved shirts, wide hats, and UV-resistant clothing in the summer sun, and lather up with SPF 50+ sunblock on any exposed skin.
If you can block UV light from your skin, you can reduce the number of freckles that you develop.

Know The Facts About Freckles

We hope this guide has helped you learn more about freckles, what they are, how they develop, and how you can prevent them.
To learn even more about taking care of your skin, browse our other articles on our blog.
And feel free to submit an enquiry or give us a call for more information on our range of skin care products and treatments.