Freckles. Some people love them, and some people hate them. What are freckles, exactly, and what causes them? And, if you are one of those people who has dark spots, age spots or freckles and hates them, how do you get rid of them?
How Freckles Form
Freckles are concentrated areas of pigmentation in your skin. Normally, a pigment called melanin is evenly dispersed throughout the skin resulting in a consistent skin tone. In skin with freckles, some of the pigmentation clumps together to create dark spots on the skin.
What Causes Freckles?
Freckles occur most often in people with light skin and fair hair. Although freckles are most common in Caucasians, they can occur in anyone with light skin and hair, including African Americans and Asians. If you can tan, you can freckle.
They occur primarily on areas of skin that are exposed to sunlight, such as the arms, face, and chest, and tend to get darker during the sunny months.
Freckles are also similar to liver spots and age spots, except that so-called liver and age spots tend to be larger and do not fade during the winter months.
How to Prevent Freckles
Although some people are naturally more prone to freckles than others, one way to prevent them is to limit your exposure to sunlight. If you must spend time in the sun, wear a strong sun screen and consider using a sun shade or wearing long sleeves.
Even if you currently have freckles, you can reduce their appearance by staying out of the sun, which can make them darker.
How to Remove Them
Removing freckles is not easy because they tend to be fairly small and spread over large areas of skin. Some of the processes that remove age spots can also be used on freckles, but because of their size and placement, results could be spotty – no pun intended.
Skin forms in layers, and the outermost layer is made up of rows of cells stacked on top of each other. A chemical peel is usually an acid solution that removes, or peels, some of those cells from the topmost layer of skin, and sometimes penetrates deep enough to remove them from the middle layer. How deep the peel goes depends on the type of chemicals used. Because freckles actually occur in the middle layer of the skin, where the pigment resides, a "medium peel" would be most effective.
The Medium Peel:
- Uses two acids to peel the upper and middle layers of skin: glycolic and trichloreacetic acid
- You should wait six to 12 months between peels
- Possible side-effects include skin irritation, redness, and swelling
Chemical peels won’t completely remove freckles, but they can lighten them.
Laser surgery sends a pulse of light to the freckles, which breaks them up so that the skin can reabsorb the melanin cells.
- Uses green laser light to break up clumps of melanin cells
- Requires a local anesthetic and protective eyewear, especially if applied to the face
- Requires at least three visits for successful results
- Side-effects include pain, burning, skin irritation, swelling and redness
In most cases laser surgery can remove the freckles or, at the very least, reduce their appearance.
Fade Creams and Freckle Removal Cream
Fade creams are basically mild bleach solutions that lighten the top layer of your skin. Fade creams are usually marketed to “even” your skin tone by lightening dark patches. In reality, they can lighten all areas of your skin, including the parts without freckles. Some things to know about fade creams for freckle removal include:
- Creams are the cheapest and most accessible method, and often available over the counter
- Are not as effective as medical methods because they only work on the top layer of the skin
- Side-effects include skin irritation, swelling, and redness