Thursday, July 12, 2007

Apple #253: Freckles

In response to the Apple about sunburns and sunscreen, regular reader Dustin suggested I put together an entry about freckles.

Okay, Dustin (a.k.a. a3dmofo), here you go:

  • The medical term for freckles is ephelides (ə-FEL-ih-dēz).
  • People who have fair skin and red or blond hair are more likely to be born with freckles.
  • Though freckles are a genetic trait, they usually don't appear on the skin until age two.
  • More freckles will appear over time, depending on your genetic predisposition, from childhood through the teen years.

This boy's freckles are supplied by his genes.
(Photo from Akvis' tips about how to remove freckles from your photos)

  • After you pass your young adult period, the genetically-related freckles stop appearing. Any freckles that show up after this point are ones that are caused by too much sun exposure.
  • When your skin tans or burns (really, that amounts to the same thing as far as your skin is concerned), your skin produces more melanin. This is the skin's attempt to try to protect itself from further burning.
  • If your skin is light or fair, your skin will work harder to protect itself. This means it will try to produce more melanin, and that means more freckles. So in effect, fair-skinned people get hit with more freckling twice over: once when they're young, and again as they age and are exposed to the sun.

Looks like this woman's freckles are inspired by her genes as well as too much sun!
(Photo is by Helen Bankers from New Zealand and was nominated for a 2006 Spider Award for photography)

Rachelle Lefevre has freckles, and look how beautiful she is!
(Photo from VH1)

  • If you're in your twenties or older and you have a lot of freckles, this does not necessarily mean you're going to get skin cancer. What it does mean is that your skin is really sensitive to the sun, and you need to do as much as you can to protect it from further over-exposure.
  • Age spots are a similar deal as freckles. They show up after too much sun exposure. They are actually a concentration of melanin at the surface of the skin. If you've got age spots, that means, again, slather on the sunscreen next time you go out into the sun.
  • People have tried for centuries to get rid of their spots and freckles. There are all sorts of home "remedies" that involve washing in lemon juice or milk or bleach or who knows what all. But none of those things have any effect on the melanin that is chemically present in the skin cells. And in most cases, those "remedies" will actually increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun and ultimately result in the appearance of more freckles.

Melanin is produced at the melanocyte layer, which as you can see is far below the surface of the skin. This is why nearly every topical "remedy" for freckles or age spots will have very little effect.
(Diagram from the American Academy of Dermatology)

  • Some people report some success in lightening their age spots by using creams that contain Retin-A. But, again, this is a treatment that will make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure in the future.
  • The only methods that actually remove freckles and age spots are
    • laser resurfacing
    • freezing off the spots
    • chemical peels.
  • These three methods are all really expensive, usually require several treatments, and have somewhat significant recovery time. In some cases, you can also suffer permanent scarring besides.
  • The moral of the story is, if you've got spots, your skin is trying to tell you something. Rather than trying to kill the messenger, heed its warnings and put on that sunscreen!

See? Putting on sunscreen is fun!
(Photo by Davehat at Flickr)

Emedicine, Ephelides (Freckles), January 12, 2007
Skinandhealth by Lumenis, What are freckles
Better Health Channel, Sun protection and skin cancer Q&A
Test Symptoms at Home, Sunburn, skin-aging, and skin cancer symptoms
Mayo Clinic and Yahoo Health, Skin Conditions, Age spots (liver spots), February 23, 2007
Go Ask Alice, University of Columbia, Freckles, April 27, 2001
Dr. Melton, Freckle Removal
Onelook, ephelides


  1. Hi Apple Lady,

    I'm so glad you did this blog! I too have freckles. I used to be ashamed of it, and kids made fun of me when I was little. But now I proudly embrace my genetic heritage!


  2. Kids make fun of the dumbest things, don't they? At the time, it seems all-important, but looking back, sheesh. Go freckles!

  3. Great as usual, thanks for the post! I also enjoy that I'm forever linked to the urinal cake apple. :D

  4. i have just as many freckles an that helen bankers girl due to a bad sunburn a few years bak does anybody no how long it will be until all my freckles fade completely

  5. can sumbody please answer ???

  6. Anonymous, I didn't reply to you sooner because the answer to your question is contained in the entry, though not directly.

    For a truly reliable opinion tailored to your situation, you should see a dermatologist.

    But unfortunately, in my opinion, I don't think your freckles will ever fade. The chemical composition of your skin cells has been altered by the sun. As noted in the entry above, the only treatments known to actually remove or lighten freckles or age spots are very costly, can require several treatments, and can actually cause more damage.

    So, you're probably going to have to live with those freckles. Be sure to apply lots of sunscreen in the future to keep from getting any more of them!

    Best wishes,
    --the apple lady

  7. so am i gonna be this freckled if not more freckled for like becuase everyone at school calls me freckle face if i stay out of the sun will they fde in less thasn a month ??

  8. Sweetie, I'm sorry, but your freckles are not going to fade. Ask your family doctor if you still don't believe me.

    As for the kids teasing you, they'll all get freckles too, sooner or later. Or if it's not freckles, they'll get something else. And probably, the kids who are teasing you have something about their bodies or their personalities that they don't like. And they're just taking it out on you. Very mean and not fair, and it's hard to put up with, I know. I used to get teased, too, or else I got the silent treatment.

    The best thing you can do is don't let them see that it bothers you. Sometimes it works if you can laugh with them, or make a joke with them. It really isn't about whether you have freckles or six arms or seven noses, or anything else like that. Kids pick on each other to figure out who they can control. If you show them that they can't make you feel bad about yourself, they'll leave you alone. I promise.

    Here are some more suggestions about how you can handle it when people try to tease you:

    Give some of these things a try, and let me know in a couple of weeks how you're doing, okay?

    --the apple lady

  9. ive talked to a doctor and he also said there impossible to fade especially on how many of them i have and i cant ignore becuase its the whole class that makes fun of them all day and not one of those lucky kids have one freckle my mom counted the freckles on my face alone and she counted 70 987 just on my face and im covered like that head to toe and if i dont go outside for one second for mabey two months maby i wont gain anymore freckles right take a look at the (charles mareaia freckles gallere and i have more than the first girl then please comment back PLEASE


  11. Hey, there, now, no need to shout at me, okay?

    I don't know what you want me to say. I can't erase these freckles for you. Nobody can. You can try to prevent getting more freckles by using lots of sunscreen every time you're outside. As for the ones you have, they're part of you now and that's all there is to it.

    The real answer is, you have to stop focusing on your freckles. Because it's not about the freckles anymore. It's about how you deal with the fact that you have them, and that other kids tease you about them.

    Here are my suggestions about what YOU CAN DO:

    1. TALK to your parents or an adult you trust about this. Tell them how you're feeling. It sounds like one of the things you need is sympathy, and parents are a great place to get that.

    2. TALK to adults at school whom you trust. That could be a counselor, your teacher, the principal. Tell them you're being teased and ask them for advice. Tell your parents about the teasing, too. Be ready to LISTEN to what they have to say.

    3. FIND other people who have freckles. I'm sure there are lots of people online who talk about what it's like to have freckles. Like people on this page, for example: You can TALK to these people, too.

    3. DO SOMETHING ELSE to get your mind off the freckles. When you get upset like this, go do something physical. Run around the block, go swimming, get on your pogo stick and jump around, go catch butterflies -- DO SOMETHING ELSE.

    4. FIND AN INTEREST. Maybe that thing you do to work off your anxiety can become a new hobby. Take up butterfly collecting. Learn chess and join a speed chess club. Take a karate class. Get yourself DOING something and focus on that.

    5. STOP WORRYING about what other people think and START DOING things that you enjoy instead.

    I can't fix this problem for you. I can only give you suggestions about ways to cope with it. It is UP TO YOU to work this out. And YOU CAN DO IT.

  12. do you agree that that girl has alot of freckles because i have the same amount and srry for getting excited please comment back 1 more time ???

  13. She has a lot of freckles, and she is beautiful. Now go do something else, for the sake of your own sanity.

  14. one more question my friend is jealous that i have freckles and he has none is there anyway to get freckles like by cream or something ???

  15. You've got nothing else to do kid now do ya?

    Freckles no freckles.. who cares. Just face the fact that people come in different color/shape/size...


  16. i have a lot of freckles. And every were i go i feel diffrent i have been called spoty and heard people say look at that girl there. But now i no i am diffrent and diffrent is good in some ways. i get called freckle face and freckles but i a have thought about it and if had no freckles i would be like every body else.

  17. hi have freckles to and i hat them!
    but i dont have soo many liek my face is not filled with the,m but is there any way i could probally fade thema little so there not as noticable?

    plz answer!

  18. Jeez enough already!! Guys you need to read the advice you are being given ... your freckles will NOT fade - they are a part of you and you need to accept them!

    I have freckles - Lots of them ... i hated them growing up and sometimes still don't like them. But the fact is - they make me unique ... all my friends are dark skinned with brunette or blond hair ... they look like any other attractive girl but i stand out ... people notice me when i walk in a room ... for the right reasons. My auburn hair is striking and my pale complexion is flawless and intriguing... in fact i won a modelling competition a few years back because of my unique looks.

    I stay out of the sun but i wear fake tan to give me a glow to my skin ... I also wear face make up but i make sure i dont hide my freckles with it ..What i have learned is that i can make the most of my features and that its really great to be different. I didn't think that at school though but now i love how i look!


  19. im 12 years old and i cant stand them. they make me look like im 4th grade when actually in 7th and im tired of being called freckle face.its mean and annoying. they are not pretty they are ugly on my face. my freckles are scattered on my face across my nose and cheeks. i really want to get rid of themm!

    pleaseee helpp!

  20. Please excuse the shouting but I am tired of this. If you read any of the previous comments or this entry, you would already know what I am about to say:




    If you still don't get it after all of this, you have a much larger problem than just freckles.

  21. Im 17, and i have freakles, i used to get bullied to about them, but then i found ways of delaing with them, try using 'Ambi skincare'this may or may not work for you, If its not working do what im doing, dont expose yourself to the sun, I always cover myself up or put fake tan solution on in the summer to make the freakles disapear abit, if u stop going in the sun, they die down a little (Trust me), And in the winter i use foundation, 'infallible' by loreal, Do this till your 18 to get a chemical peal or laser treatment, this is what im doing,:) . And people Stop having ago at the apple lady cause she was only informing you.

  22. I'm 15 years old and I have a lot of freckles too. They do NOT look good on me. But I don't let that get in my way of having fun. So what if I'm not the prettiest girl in my classes? I just want to be with my friends and have fun. I'm really sad though because my boyfriend broke up with me and he told me it was because of my freckles. They creeped him out. I cried for days. But now I realize I DON'T EVEN CARE. I like my freckles. They give me my own identity.

  23. hey i have freckles and im a 13 year old boy. i have quite a bit on my nose and cheeks, but they're only visible within like 3 feet. (everyone always says that.)dont worry about the freckles bcuz theyre natural and they show off your heritage.

  24. Thank you so much for posting this! I'm a fourteen year old girl, and I always feel so insecure about my freckles (I have them all over my face and arms), mostly because all of my friends have perfect, freckle-free skin. I've wanted them to go away since I can remember. But now that I think about it, I cant imagine myself without them. Thank you!

  25. Xiang'er6/15/2009 4:22 PM

    I am actually very grateful of freckles because me and my oolder sister are often mistaken as twins but are her freckles (and my lack of) is something that sets us apart.

  26. I am 25, have freckles, but they have faded a bit on my face, used to wear a TON of make up to cover them, then just got acne and acne scars, skin is better now but still not great. My advice is if you have fair skin NEVER GO IN THE SUN! if you do put on hat, sunnies, sunscreen and shirt, reapply sunscreen every 3 hours! Who cares if you end up white as a ghost, better than freckles, and is also quite fashionable now! Another thing about being fair skinned is that you will experience wrinkles earlier, already got them around my eyes and can tell my skin is not as taunt as it used to be, so again: THE SUN IS YOUR ENEMY!!!
    Freckles have caused me so much pain over the years (teasing, feeling ugly etc.)that I do not want to have kids because I do not want them to have this awful genetic trait, especially in a world that we live in today, beauty is far more important than intelligence, education, talent or personality. Just avoid the sun at all costs, become anight person, sleep all day and try to keep your skin healthy.

  27. freckles are freaking beautiful i have like probably more then all of you, and you guys are acting like its such a bad thing. Freckles make you unique and most people hate them but you just have to realize that we are all people and love who you are don't go for anything less then perfect, just love life and live it, it doesn't matter what other people think of you, its your own thoughts that will change you not others.

  28. freckles can be beautiful. Look at Lindsay Lohan. But they can also be a problem.

  29. just to let you know , there is lasor removal for freckles . i got it done and i had so many like over a thousand ... it worked and now im flawless ! just fyi

    THERE IS A WAY TO GET RID OF THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. I have ALOT of freckles, and i love them. Im only 15, so u would expect me to hate them, but instead i think they make me unique. Freckles are different and beautiful, don't try to get rid of them!

  31. Okay does anyone know a sunscreen that prevents freckles because every time I go in the sun I get more and more and yes I do use a ton of sunscreen and repeatedly too


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