Freckles: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

Small sized brown coloured spots on the skin are known as freckles. They are especially present in those areas of the body that are exposed to the Sun, for example, the face. Though they may not give a good visual look, freckles are not harmful to the patient. The major factor that is responsible for the formation of freckles is the overproduction of melanin. This is the element that determines the pigmentation or colour or skin and hair. UV rays stimulation is the precise process that causes freckles.

Freckles are divided into two different categories

  • Ephelides: Lack of proper protection against the ultraviolet rays of the sun is the major cause of ephelides. These types of freckles are present on the face and back of the hands. It is also found in the parts above the waist. People with lighter tone are more prone to this category of freckles. The probability of such freckles is higher in the Asian and Caucasian people.
  • Solar lentigines: People who have crossed 40 are more prone to this category of freckles. They are also common among Asian and Caucasian people

Causes of Freckles

Exposure to the sun without adequately shielding one’s skin is one of the major causes of freckles. When the UV rays of the sun come into direct contact with the skin it can result in freckles over a reasonable period of time.

Genetics is another major reason for freckles after the environment. Those persons whose skin can easily be affected by sunburn are at a higher risk of developing freckles. It happens especially if they don’t take adequate protective measures before going out in the Sun.

Let’s delve deeper into the causes of Freckles:

The skin tone of an individual is determined by Melanin, The two categories of Melanin are: Pheomelanin and Eumelanin

  • The presence of pheomelanin results in light skin, skin that tends to tans poorly, freckles and red or blonde hair Such people lack the natural protection against UV radiation
  • People who have a higher amount of melanin in their skin have a darker tone, brown or black hair, and skin that can easily be tanned. Such people enjoy more protection against skin damage caused by UV rays.
  • Solar lentigines
  • There specific factors that increase the probability of developing freckles it includes
  • The specific capacity of the skin to tan
  • History of freckle
  • Directly exposing the skin to the sun
  • Oral birth control or any other hormone treatment of a similar nature
  • Dark tone
  • Ephelides
  • The specific structure of genetics and exposure to the sun are the major causes of
  • Sun exposure Such freckles are more likely to make the appearance during the summer and with winter they can fade away.
  • These freckles are generally 1-2 mm or sometimes larger than that
  • These freckles have either have an irregular or well-defend border
  • The colour of such freckles is red to light brown
  • Solar lentigines
  • The primary cause of these types of freckles is exposure to the sun
  • These freckles are generally visible aftershave of 40 and in most of the cases these freckles don’t fade with time
  • The areas that are exposed to the Sun are more prone to such freckles like back, shins, face, hands and chest
  • The changing seasons do not have any effect on such freckles. They are generally 2 mm or larger than that
  • Such freckles have a well-defined border in most of the cases
  • Their colour is light yellow to dark brown

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Complications of Freckles

There isn’t any direct risk or health challenge arising out of freckles. Thus there aren’t any specific complications that can be brought about by freckles. However, sometimes such marks especially moles could indicate that the person is more prone to develop melanoma that is a specific dermatological cancer. That is why it becomes necessary for a person to examine the type and size of the freckles/moles

  • Shape: Think of your freckles in two dimension figure and imagine folding them in exact half. If the outline on each side doesn’t match then they are asymmetrical in nature that requires a medical attention.
  • Border: In the case of cancerous moles, the borders are notched, bumped or uneven
  • Colour: Variation in the colour is another indication of some malignant dermatological disease
  • Diameter: The general diameter should be around 1/4 inch. If it exceeds this size then you need to seek medical examination
  • Variation: If the mole varies in shape, colour size or elevation with time then you need to check the doctor

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Prevention of Freckles

Prevention against freckles is not really difficult and by adopting the right preventive methods you can stop the appearance of more freckles. There are other specific methods to efface the freckles from your skin.

  • As this condition is directly associated with UV rays of the sun, it is recommended to shield it from the UV rays of sun before going outdoors.
  • You can use sunscreen lotions with water resistance for that purpose.
  • After applying the lotion to the affected parts of your skin allow them a minimum of 15 minutes to stay on your skin.
  • Make sure to that the lotion should have a minimum SPF of 30. This preventive measure can save the skin from advancing pigmentation.
  • The people with the family history of freckles would need to take even better care before going out in the Sun. In fact, the genetic factors cannot affect a person who doesn’t have exposure to the sun.

One study reported good results for lightening freckles and skin pigmentation with products such as:

  • Alpha hydroxy acids (8% AHA toner)
  • Trichloracetic acid (TCA)
  • Phenol
  • Acid Peels
  • Apart from the above-described options, there can be other ways to prevent the formation of freckles. In some cases, it may also be possible to efface the freckles by using the preventive measures. However, for that you need to go for more specific treatment, Such treatment might be expensive and may require special care. Besides, it is advisable to be cautious before going for such treatment:
  • Facial peels: The facial peels can also help in reducing the freckles. However, not all types of such peels are good for the skin. Some of them can produce undesirable results like irritation or burning skin. That is why it is recommended to go for a skin patch test before using such peels and continue only if your skin feels comfortable.
  • Laser therapy: Laser therapy is another way to reduce the freckles. One can go for fractioned resurfacing laser. Such laser is generally used on the face but is equally effective for other places too like chest, upper shoulders and above the knees. In the fractionated laser resurfacing the water residing inside the dermatological layers is targeted. The middle layer of the dermis is reached after drilling through multiple layers. As a result, the old epidermal pigmented cells are expelled. As a reaction to this process, the collagen remodelling occurs and new collagen is formed.
  • Sunspots: If a sunspot is the major reason begins the unwanted marks on your skin then you cannot expect them to fade away by reducing the exposure to the sun, They need specific treatment.
  • Destroying Pigmented areas: You can also go for the lasers that are pigment specific. Such lasers don’t go through the skin layers but destroy the pigmented areas.
  • Sunscreen Lotions: Sunscreen lotion is the most commonly used preventive product to prevent your skin from producing new freckles. However, note that the existing freckles don’t fade away with the help of Sunscreen lotions. Hence wearing a branded sunscreen lotion with the minimum SPF of 30 especially before going out in the sun can help reduce the chances of freckles. It is recommended that the lotions should stay for 154 i.e. soar more if before you leave the home. For the best results try applying the lotion after every 2 hours You should also use the lotion after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Laser treatment: In the laser treatment the damaged areas are targeted with the help of focused pulses of intense light. There are several types of lasers. The ones that are deemed effective for effacing freckles are 1064 Q-switched Ned YAG laser.
  • There is generally no last longing for health risk after laser treatment. However, there is a low rise scarring and other types of side dermatological effects like
  • Itching
  • redness
  • swelling
  • peeling
  • crustiness
  • changes in skin colour
  • infection

Note: The people having a history of oral herpes need to be extra cautious while going for laser treatment as this treatment can result in flaring up the condition (forming herpes around your mouth) However taking antiviral education can help a long way in preventing this condition.

Depending upon the individual factors, various other medications and creams might also be prescribed. Likewise, it is also recommended to avoid specific medications or products before the laser surgery begins. It is always best to discuss your complete medical history with the doctors before you go for the laser procedure.

However, in many cases, you might have to go for the multiple sessions. The total recovery time after laser treatment is generally two weeks.

- Cryosurgery: Another way to get rid of freckles is to administer liquid nitrogen in order to freeze the abnormal dermatological cells and destroy them. This cream is extremely cold. However, cryosurgery is generally regarded as a safe method and it takes little time for the patient to recover. There is no need of administering anaesthesia to the patient. It is very uncommon to experience scarring after as a result of cryosurgery. However, some other side effects might be experienced like bleeding, blistering and hypopigmentation.

- Topical fading cream: One of the over the counter remedies is bleaching cream that is also termed as fading cream. The special element available in the fading creams- hydroquinone suppresses the production of melanin and also helped in lightening the affected skin areas.

Topical hydroquinone cream may cause:

- inflammation

- burning

- dryness

Topical retinoid cream: Retinoid is another type of cream that issued to supply vitamin A to the effective skin that helps in lightening do the freckles. The retinoid can absorb the UVB radiation thus offering photoprotection to the affected person. As a result, it can effectively stop the formation of new freckles.

It is not mandatory to have a prescription for using the retinoid cream. There are several side effects related to retinoid that include:

- Red, dry or irritated skin

- Sensitivity and peeling

- Skin Peel: Another way to treat freckles is to peel off the affected areas. For that purpose, a moderate chemical peel can be used that may include trichloroacetic acid or glycolic acid. This acid is capable of penetrating into the middle layers of the skin and peel off the affected skin. The new skin is formed after the removal of the damaged skin.

The temporary side effect of chemical peels include



- Reddened or irritated skin

- Crusting and swelling

Generally, it should take no more than 2 weeks to heal from the side effects of skin peel. It is recommended to soak your skin on a regular basis and carefully apply the skin ointment. The direct contact with the sun should be avoided and prescription antiviral should be taken for a period of two weeks after the treatment.

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Natural remedies

The people who would not like to go for chemical based creams or surgical/laser treatments might also go for natural remedies. However such remedies may work during initial or milder cases and their effects might vary:

- Squeeze some fresh lemon juice on a ball of cotton and apply it carefully to your affected skin. Let it remain for some time before washing it off thoroughly. The lemon can help in lightening the skin thus reducing the visual impact of freckles.

- Make a scrub by combining honey and sugar. Apply it on the affected skin. Honey is also believed to be effective in lightening the skin, You can also replace the sugar with salt.

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Last updated on : 19-12-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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