What are freckles?

Freckles, or as we like to call them ‘beauty spots’ have become somewhat of a beauty phenomenon over the last few years, with many getting youthful clusters tattooed on their face or using a pencil to achieve the look. While some people are naturally born with a smattering and others are using cosmetic methods to achieve the look, many are unsure what freckles actually are and why some people are graced with them and some aren’t.

What are freckles?

Freckles are formed as a product of both genetics and sunlight exposure. Melanocytes are skin cells that produce the dark pigment melanin, people with darker skin have more Melanocytes than those with light skin. Freckles are essentially clusters that are scattered across the skin, mainly on fairer skin. When these are exposed to UV rays they increase the amount of melanin, resulting in darker, more pigmented spots across the skin.

Like Sunspots, freckles are usually found on body parts that are more likely to be exposed to sunlight such as the face, forearms, chest, hands and legs. Therefore, they are more prominent in the summer months or while vacationing. During the winter they are more likely to fade and become less visible.

Should I be worried if I have freckles?

In short, no. Freckles are not a cause for concern even though they can be a product of prolonged exposure to sunlight. With that said, it is still important to monitor your freckles over time and if you notice any darkening or changing shape then speak to a dermatologist to have them assessed. You may also notice an increase of freckles after spending time in the sun, while this is completely normal, outside of sun exposure, multiplication of freckles should also be checked over to be on the safe side.

What is the difference between freckles and moles?

Moles and freckles in theory are very common. They are both caused by extra-pigmented skin cells, both a result of genetics and are both very common occurrences. The main difference between freckles and moles is that while freckles are a result of overproduction of melanin, moles are a cluster of Melanocytes that grow in one area rather than dotted across the skin.

The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is by assessing the colour and texture of a mole or freckle. Moles are often raised from the skin’s surface while freckles tend to be flat. In general, Moles are also darker and have more colour variations than freckles, they are also deeper in the skin.

Typically, moles are likely to appear during childhood or adolescence. Most people will have several by the time they are an adult and compared to freckles, they are more likely to fade or disappear later in life.

Protection

While freckles are not a cause for concern and not necessarily caused by sun damage, it is important for those with or without them to stay protected. As they are normally found on fairer skin individuals, a high SPF is really important. Ensure that SPF is incorporated into your daily skincare routine for all round protection from UV rays. During Summer months, ensure you are regularly topping up your sun cream every 2 hours and immediately after swimming or getting wet. During peak times, you may also want to take shelter or retreat to shade as this is when the sun is most powerful and therefore, the most damaging.

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