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Is It Possible to Get Rid of Freckles?

Plus, how your skin care routine can help.
August 25, 2023

Skin can be home to many different spots and blemishes that make up our unique faces. From sun spots, dark spots and post-acne marks to birthmarks, moles and freckles, there are endless (extremely common) blemishes that end up on our skin for various reasons. When it comes to freckles we’re prepared to answer all the questions you may have on this skin pigmentation.

Whether you’ve had freckles since a child or they appear and fade at a whim with sun exposure, you may be curious about what causes freckles and if freckles can be removed. Here, learn all you need to know about this skin marking — including answers to questions you didn’t realize you had.

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What Are Freckles?

Let’s start at the very beginning: What exactly are freckles? According to the Cleveland Clinic, freckles are small tan, red or 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, but unlike moles or other dark skin patches, freckles are completely flat and not raised. These skin marks are sometimes confused for sun spots, however, freckles are different than sun spots. The main difference is that freckles can fade on their own, meanwhile, sun spots cannot, per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). 

Face and body freckles are very common and can occur on anyone. Thankfully, they’re not something you need to be concerned about healthwise, confirms the Cleveland Clinic, unless you don’t like the physical look of freckles — then it’s a cosmetic issue.


What Causes Freckles?

While freckles appear on all skin tones and genders, they are most common in people with fair skin as this skin tone showcases freckles easier. There are two common causes of freckles:

1. Genetics

Your DNA is responsible for a lot of things occurring in and outside of your body, so it’s no shock that genetics can influence whether or not you have freckles. Genetics can result in an overproduction of melanin that produces freckles. They tend to develop in childhood or young adulthood as skin is exposed more and more to the sun. 

2. Sunlight

On the subject of sunlight, freckles are actually triggered by sun exposure, according to research published in Wiley Online Library. While genetics determine whether or not your skin will have freckles, the sun is what brings them forward. Freckles can appear or become darker when they are exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet light. 

4 Ways to Get Rid of Freckles

There’s nothing wrong with having freckles, in fact they’re a common face attribute that people try to replicate with makeup and even permanent tattooing. If you still prefer a spot-free complexion, there are ways to fade freckles. 

 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 it isn’t necessarily a quick process to lighten freckles. 

1. Add Skin Care that Exfoliates or Brightens

Add niacinamide and retinol to your skin care routine to help fade the appearance of dark spots and freckles, per the International Journal of Cosmetic Science. Retinols encourage the exfoliation of skin cells to resurface skin’s complexion with lightened dark spots and freckles confirms the Cleveland Clinic. Niacinamide also evens skin tone while fading dark spots that you may be mistaking as freckles. Use one (or both) of these ingredients in your skin care regimen. 

The use of skin care products to help fade freckles and dark spots is a convenient over-the-counter option for those who don’t have the time or money for expensive treatments. However, be mindful that skin care alone may not lighten freckles as much as you want — making other treatments useful in addition to spot treatments and serums. 


2. Invest in Laser Treatments

According to a study published in the Journal of Pigmentary Disorders, certain laser treatments can help fade freckles. This service has to be done in-office by a professional who lessens the appearance of your freckles by using laser energy to resurface the skin. The exact laser treatment you should undergo will depend on advice from your dermatologist. In the realm of pain tolerance, laser treatments for freckles can feel like a rubber band being snapped on your face. While it’s not overly painful, it can be irritating at first. 

3. Try Expert Applied Chemical Peels

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. Chemical peels involve applying a solution to the face that causes layers of skin to exfoliate and peel off. With a deep chemical peel, the exfoliation will reach the middle layer of the skin. 

The skin that is revealed underneath will be smoother and softer with dark spots and freckles diminished in appearance. After getting a chemical peel, the upkeep of your skin is vital — always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen afterward to protect your peeling skin from sun damage.

4. Target Freckles with Intense Pulsed Light Treatments

According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, intense pulsed light treatment, or IPL, is another treatment option for fading freckles. Intense pulsed light treatment uses wavelengths of light to stimulate the skin to regenerate and boost collagen production, diminishing the look of freckles.

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 that all of these treatments should be performed in-office by a board-certified dermatologist. 

How to Prevent Freckles From Getting Darker

There are some easy steps you can take to help prevent freckles from getting darker and prevent future freckles from forming altogether. Here’s a hint: It’s all about sun protection. 

Freckles tend to fade come wintertime according to Harvard Medical School, since there is less direct sunlight during this season. If you’re looking to prevent freckles from getting darker, keep your skin covered when outside for prolonged periods — we recommend a cute large hat of your choosing. Even if it doesn’t feel like the sun is out (it’s always peeking behind a cloud somewhere) just continue to wear your sunscreen for freckles to help prevent them from coming back with the warm weather.

Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater every day (even during the winter). We recommend the L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Daily UV Lotion which protects against the sun's damaging rays without clogging pores or leaving behind visible residue. Apply it generously and frequently to all areas of skin that are exposed, and don’t forget to reapply every two hours, and after you go swimming or have been sweating. 

Also, consider adding niacinamide like the L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal 12% [Niacinamide + Amino Sulfonic + Ferulic Acid] Dark Spot Serum which helps reduce the appearance of all types of dark spots that are often mistaken for freckles, with the added niacinamide and vitamin E, while the amino sulfonic and ferulic acid exfoliates the skin. 

Should You Get Rid of Your Freckles? 

If you like your freckles then you should keep them. You don’t have to take any steps to cover or fade freckles, as they don’t pose a health hazard. However, 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 sudden change in size or appearance of a spot or freckles on your face or neck, book an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist to get it checked out.

More and more people are embracing their freckles with the subtle skin markings becoming a popular trend on social media and fashion runways alike. They’ve become so popular that people even draw on fake freckles to get the look themselves. 

How Do You Fake Freckles?

Whether you want to enhance the natural freckles that you already have or are looking to give yourself a totally new look, you can embrace freckles by drawing or spraying them on yourself. 

Pick up a dedicated face makeup product to apply freckles to your face. Make sure the product is safe to use on your skin and won’t clog your pores. Liquid-based products (like liquid eyeliner or brow gel) are easier to use as they make intentional freckle application easier. These products are lightweight and thin in consistency so you don’t make freckle marks too dark on your face. 

You’ll want to use a product that is smudge-proof and transfer-resistant to create a natural look that won’t melt away throughout a long day. Let the product dry, then apply a setting powder or setting spray like the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Spray and Set Make-Up Oil-Free Setting Spray to seal the temporary freckles.

Next: Can You Actually Get Rid of Sun Spots on Skin?

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Associate Creative Producer: Becca Solovay, Production Assistant: Jason Parigian, Digital Tech: Sam Kang, Photo Assistant: Hannah Lewis-Lopes, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Akihisa Yamaguchi, Wardrobe Stylist: Melina Kemph, Wardrobe Assistant: Kayla Martinez, Prop Stylist: Katrina Rozeville, Prop Assistant: Zach Molina, Model: Alexandra Cunningham

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