People have always been aware of their personal appearance, but human perception of basic flaws has definitely evolved over the years. Nowadays, if a person gets a minor imperfection on their skin, they usually do not stress out about it as much as people used to in the past. Indeed, skin imperfections were considered both things of social standing as well as sources of superstition.
The freckle is something that was definitely a source of superstition in earlier centuries, as was its cousin, the mole. In times when people were largely uneducated, these little skin pigmentations were considered to be the mark of the devil, and an indication that any person who had them on their body was a witch.
As time progressed, superstition started to fade, and the presence of a freckle on the skin took on more of a social concern. For the aristocracy, especially aristocratic women, it was important to have the palest, most flawless skin possible. Of course, people are usually born with a freckle here and there, so women who were hid them by using lots of powder.
However, they were right in thinking that these little pigmentations on the skin could also be caused by exposure to the sun. Only peasant women who had to toil outside all day were supposed to have tanned and mottled skin. By having clear, pale skin, it was an indication that a woman was in such a privileged position that she did not have to work.
So, in order to shield their skin from the sun, women would wear gloves, large hats, and parasols. Although their discretions were purely based upon their social inclinations, they were actually right in that protecting their skin from the sun resulted in much fewer instances of skin cancer.
How is a freckle caused, anyway? First of all, many people, especially people with fair skin, are born with many of them. The reason simply has to do with the amount of melanin that the skin produces. Since people with fair skin have a low amount of melanin, any areas of the skin on which the melanin pigmentation naturally surfaces become that much more noticeable.
The other way that tiny pigmentations can be caused is, of course, through prolonged exposure to the rays of the sun. These rays, called ultraviolet rays, permeate the upper layers of the skin, thus causing the skin to produce extra melanin pigmentation to protect itself. Over time, with increased amounts of sun exposure, people can end up with prematurely aging skin, as well as, most seriously, skin cancer.
In order to tell if the little pieces of skin pigmentation are potentially cancerous, it is important to look at the color of the freckle. In general, the darker the pigmentation, the more of a chance it could be skin cancer, especially in pigmentation in which some parts of the pigmentation are darker than others. Also, irregular shapes of the skin pigmentation could be an indicator. So, it is important to stay out of the sun in order to maintain proper skin health.