The Anatomy of a Freckle and its Impact on Society

If you go to any art museum, you will most likely see at least a couple of paintings featuring pale, aristocratic ladies. Having pale skin in those times signified the height of being fashionable, but nowadays, the opposite is the case, with people flocking to tanning salons whenever the weather does not permit them laying out in the sun.

The effects of sun damage can be at first as subtle as a freckle. Indeed, that was the reason for those women having pale skin. It was their goal to have not one visible freckle. What was their reasoning? Having blemished, tanned skin was something that was associated with those in the working class, specifically people who had to work outside all day. Those with pale skin were making a statement that they were rich enough to not have to work.

In times where there was no such thing as an SPF, women shielded themselves against the effects of the sun by wearing large hats, gloves, and parasols. Of course, this does not mean that they did not still have a freckle or two. They merely covered it up with powder.

So, what exactly is a freckle? It is a small irregularity of pigment on the skin, produced by an increase in melanin. Melanin is what determines the skin color of a person, which, over time, has evolved because of their geographic location and heritage. Melanin is meant to protect the skin, which is an organ within itself, from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays. This explains why, for example, people from Africa have very dark skin.

Although the pale skin of those historical women might now be considered unfashionable, it was definitely healthier, because it protected the women against those dangerous ultraviolet lights. Having little spots of melanin on the skin is not necessarily dangerous; it is when the spots become irregularly formed that skin cancer might result.

When did tanning really become fashionable, anyway? It is thought that it all happened because of one woman in the early part of the 1920s, socialite and fashion designer Coco Chanel was photographed on a vacation with a tan. Almost instantly, various women began to emulate her style, and tanning remains popular. Many women cite the fact that a tan gives them a leaner appearance as being their main reason for getting one.

When tanning booths were invented, women (as well as men, by the way) would be directly subjected to high amounts of ultraviolet lights. So, irregular skin pigmentation started occurring, with instances of skin cancer becoming more and more prevalent.

So, what kinds of things can be done to prevent irregular skin pigmentation? First of all, it is very important to wear an SPF of at least 30 when out in the sun for prolonged periods of time. Also, it is equally important to properly moisturize the skin so that it does not become subjected to premature aging. If you happen to have skin pigmentation that you are concerned about, it is very important to consult with a dermatologist.

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