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The Skinny on Freckles and Sunspots

By December 13, 2022No Comments

What are they? How are they different? Why do some people get them and not others? Does sunscreen stop them? What kinds of treatments can be done?

How do freckles develop?

Freckles are the result of an overproduction of melanin. Melanin is a pigment that gives your hair, skin and eyes (your “complexion”) its color. So if you have a fair or light complexion and your skin is exposed to the sun, instead of tanning you are more likely to develop freckles. Of course, this is also determined by your genetics.

Are there different types of freckles?

There are two types of freckles: ephelides and solar lentigines.

Ephelides: Ephelides are flat and usually red or tan-to-brown in color. Ephelides are the freckles that most people think of when they hear the word “freckle.” Sun exposure and sunburns mainly cause them. They typically appear on body areas exposed to the sun: face, arms, upper chest, neck and back. People with lighter hair color and skin color are more prone to ephelides. They’re mainly seen on people who are white and people of Asian descent. Ephelides tend to first appear in young children who are exposed to the sun. Ephelides continue to develop into young adulthood. Ephelides tend to fade with age. color enhanced during summer, fades during winter As freckles are almost always harmless, there’s no need to treat them. As with many skin lesions though, it’s best to avoid the sun as much as possible and use a daily sunscreen. This is especially true if you freckle easily or don’t wish to develop more freckles. Have irregular borders that aren’t very defined.

Solar lentigines: Solar lentigines are yellow to red to brown to dark patches of skin. They’re also called actinic lentigines, liver spots or age spots, as they usually develop in adults over age 40. Repeated sun exposure over time mostly causes them, and they’re found on exposed areas of skin, including your face, forearms, back of your hands, chest, back, shoulders and lower legs. They don’t fade or disappear.

How can I get rid of my freckles?

Freckles can’t be completely removed but can be lightened with topical products, lasers and cryotherapy.

Acid and chemical peels: Acid and chemical peel products containing alpha hydroxy acid, trichloroacetic acid, glycolic acid or phenol can be tried. These products cause the top layer of skin cells to slough off and stimulate the growth of new skin cells.

Retinoids, retinols: These chemicals encourage skin cells to slough off so new cells are brought to the surface. They also stimulate collagen production.

Lasers: Lasers remove the top layer of skin.

Cryotherapy: This procedure uses liquid nitrogen to freeze noncancerous age spots and actinic keratosis (pre skin cancers). The treated areas become dark and shed in a few days.

Your dermatologist will discuss the best treatment options for you if you wish to fade your freckles.