Whether you were practically born with freckles or you tend to develop them after a long day in the sun, chances are—if you’re reading this article—you’ve been wondering what causes freckles and whether you can get rid of freckles, or if it’s at least possible to fade the look of these speckles. If you’re hoping to get rid of yours, we have some good news and some not so good news, but we’ll get to that soon. Keep reading for what you need to know about freckles, including what they are in the first place and how you can adjust your skin care routine to help keep more freckles from popping up.
WHAT ARE FRECKLES?
Let’s start at the very beginning: What exactly are freckles? We have an easy answer—they are exactly what they look like! According to the Cleveland Clinic, freckles are small brown spots that are usually found on the face and the arms. If you’re curious, the scientific name for freckles is actually ephelides, per the Mayo Clinic. Freckles are nothing more than small areas of extra pigmentation on the skin. Unlike moles or other dark skin patches, freckles are completely flat aka not raised on the skin. Freckles are very common and can occur on anyone. Also, they’re typically nothing to be concerned about, since as the Cleveland Clinic states, they don’t present any health threats. In other words, the only skin care concern about freckles is cosmetic.
WHAT CAUSES FRECKLES?
Freckles occur in both men and women equally, and like we said, they are very common. They are the most common in people with fair skin and naturally red hair, and for most people, they tend to develop in childhood or young adulthood. However, one hallmark of freckles is that they do often get darker in color after exposure to the sun’s rays. This is why it’s always important to take sun protection measures, such as applying broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day (even if its cloudy), reapplying sunscreen every two hours when you’re outdoors, and seeking shade during the sun’s peak hours from 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. On the flip side, you might notice that your freckles tend to fade come wintertime, and this is completely normal as well, according to Harvard Medical School.
CAN YOU GET RID OF FRECKLES?
And now, time to answer the question we’re all here for: Is it possible to get rid of freckles? Or are they permanent and lifelong? While you may not be able to get rid of freckles instantly (you’re better off turning to makeup to cover them up temporarily or—our preferred option—embracing them), research does indicate that you can fade the appearance of freckles. Keep in mind, however, that it isn’t necessarily an easy process. According to a study published in the Journal of Dermatology and Dermatologic Diseases, certain laser treatments can help fade freckles. Another potential freckle-fading treatment to consider is a chemical peel. Per the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, deep chemical peels may be used on the face to help address freckles—although this is something you will need to discuss with your dermatologist beforehand since it can take more than three weeks for the skin to heal afterward. According to Stanford Health Care, other treatment options for freckles include laser resurfacing and pulsed light rejuvenation.
Something to keep in mind is that these treatments are not necessarily permanent. You can always develop new freckles, which is just one more reason to be diligent with sun protection. Regardless of the permanence of these treatments, or the option you choose, remember: all of these treatments should be performed in-office by a board-certified dermatologist.
As for options that don’t involve in-office treatments, the Cleveland Clinic lists Retin A as another way to reduce the appearance of freckles. You also may be pleased to hear that freckles often tend to fade, or even disappear, with age, according to the Mayo Clinic.
HOW TO PREVENT FRECKLES FROM GETTING DARKER
The Mayo Clinic also shares that there are easy steps you can take in order to help prevent freckles from getting darker and prevent future freckles from forming altogether. Here’s a hint: It all goes back to sun protection. The Mayo Clinic advises that it’s important to shield your skin from sunlight, especially during the summer. For sunscreen, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of 15 or higher, whenever you are outdoors. Apply it generously and frequently to all areas of skin that are exposed—and don’t forget to reapply after you go swimming or have been sweating.
Editor’s note: Not sure which type of sunscreen is best for you? Check out our article, Which Sunscreen Is Best? Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreen, for everything you need to know.
DO YOU NEED TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT FRECKLES?
If you think your freckles look cute (we do!), you certainly don’t have to take any steps to cover them up. One thing to note is that even though freckles are generally harmless, you’ll want to pay attention to your skin and watch out for any changes. If you do notice a change, it’s not a bad idea to book an appointment with a board-certified derm.