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