How to Get Rid of Freckles?
Medical researchers today agree that the presence of freckles on the skin arises in response to two factors: genetics and exposure to the sun. However, what many people don't yet agree on is whether freckles are desirable to have or not.
Like pretty much every other personal feature, some people love their freckles and others are eager to experience life without freckles. And of course there is no "right" or "wrong" approach - it just depends on what you like and what you want to look like!
If you are eager to find out more about freckles and how to keep from getting more or get rid of the ones you have, you can learn about your options in this article.
Everything You Need to Know About Freckles
In this section, learn more about what causes freckles, different types of freckles and common myths and facts about freckles.
What causes freckles?
Every person in the world has a protein called melanin in their skin. Melanin is responsible for pigment. If your skin has a higher melanin content, your skin will likely be darker. If your melanin content is lower, you may have lighter skin.
If your melanin is distributed equally throughout your skin, your skin may not ever form many freckles even if you love to stay out in the sun (most people will at least develop a few freckles with continuous sun exposure). But if your melanin is more patchy, those tiny patches will turn darker in the sun, producing freckles.
You may have looked at your baby pictures and noticed that back then, you didn't have any freckles. No newborn baby does, because their skin hasn't been exposed to the sun yet.
But then when you look at slightly older pictures, after you began to romp and play outside, you probably see more freckles forming. This is because your skin's melanin is responding to the sun by turning darker in places where there is more melanin concentration.
The link between genes and freckles
While more research is still needed on this topic, scientists have followed the production of melanin, and specifically two types of melanin, eumelanin and pheomelanin, back to a gene they've named MC1R.
It is thought that this gene is responsible for producing eumelanin, the darker of the two types of melanin. People whose MC1R gene is more active will produce more eumelanin, and thus will get more freckles, which are a dominant trait that can be passed on even if only one parent carries the active gene.
Different types of freckles
Freckles come in two different varieties: simple and sunburn. The former tend to be uniform in color, circular in shape and small. The latter tend to be larger, darker, less uniform in shape and can in time become cancerous (skin cancer).
Both are triggered by exposure to the sun, but in some people the number and variety of freckles greatly expands with sun exposure, while in other people they don't have as extreme a reaction.
Myths & facts about freckles
Freckles continue to pose somewhat of a medical mystery, and along the way they have gathered a healthy number of myths as well.
People with red hair always have freckles
For example, many people believe the myth that anyone with red hair will also have freckles. But the truth is that the appearance of freckles relates to the active MC1R gene and the distribution and type of melanin in the skin, not to what color hair an individual may have.
Freckles are signs of skin cancer
Freckles themselves are always benign and harmless. However, skin cancer can initially look at lot like freckles, which is why it takes a visit to a skin specialist (dermatologist) to tell one from another.
Freckles cannot be prevented
Freckles can absolutely be prevented, in the same way that sunburn can be prevented - by staying out of the sun and covering up when in the sun.
How to Get Rid of Freckles
Today's medical science has identified several methods to reduce the appearance of freckles or get rid of them altogether. If this sounds good to you, read on for some of the most effective remedies for getting rid of your freckles.
Concealer makeup can be an effective means of temporarily "removing" freckles by covering them up.
If you purchase a concealer that also contains a SPF (sun protection factor) ingredient, you can enjoy being temporarily freckle-free without fear that any new freckles may form through exposure to the sun.
A chemical peel can be an ideal option for removing freckles, since most peels tend to produce better results for patients who have fairer skin tones. There are three types of chemical peel: surface, medium and deep.
It is important to have a chemical peel done under the supervision of a dermatologic surgeon, especially because for many people, freckle removal will require a medium or deep peel that can take several weeks to heal fully.
Exfoliation can scrub away the outermost layer of skin to lighten, brighten and refresh the skin. However, it will also temporarily make your skin more sun-sensitive, which could inadvertently cause more freckles to form if you aren't careful!
So before you try any over-the-counter facial exfoliation product or have exfoliation done by your dermatologist, be sure to have a plan in place to keep your skin away from the sun while it heals.
Cryosurgery (liquid nitrogen removal)
If you have ever had a skin tag or mole "frozen" off your skin, you already understand the basic concept of cryosurgery. Typically done in a dermatologist's office, cryosurgery uses carefully applied liquid nitrogen to remove freckles.
Since this won't work on all types of freckles, and may not be suitable to remove large quantities of freckles, it is best to consult with a skin specialist first.
Laser freckle removal
Laser freckle removal is fast becoming one of the most popular methods to remove freckles. This is because it is very effective.
The laser light color will depend on what color your freckles are naturally. Green laser light tends to be most effective on brown freckles, for example. The treatment itself is very simple. The laser light is passed over the freckled area. With each pass, it removes more melanin, and with it, freckles.
Skin bleaching or fading
Skin bleaching or fading works best if you have lighter colored freckles along with lighter colored skin. This is because bleaching and fading creams will lighten the whole skin area, not just the freckles themselves.
However, you must stay out of the sun the whole time you are undergoing treatment (whether you have a dermatologist treat you or you are doing it yourself). Otherwise, new freckles will continue to form.
IPL stands for intense pulsed light, which is similar to a laser treatment but not the same, because it just uses light to rejuvenate the skin just below the surface. You won't have any down time, although there will be some temporary redness in the areas where the freckles are being removed.
Some people can have just one treatment to get the results they desire, while other people may need more treatments.
Fraxel stands for "fractionated laser" and refers to a series of laser pulses to reconstruct the skin's surface by generating production of new collagen. This treatment is currently very popular for removing freckles and other blemishes, but it will require at least a week for healing and you will need to continually stay out of the sun to maintain your results.
Retinoid skin creams or gels
Retin-A is the best known of these creams and gels, but there are a number of different products that can deliver similar freckle lightening results. You can buy retinoids over the counter, but the strongest products will require a doctor's prescription.
Microdermabrasion means exfoliation, but it is more gentle than a chemical peel. However, this also means you will likely need more treatments to see the best results. Microdermabrasion uses a small buffer machine that emits crystalized minerals, which buff away skin blemishes and areas of darker pigment such as freckles.
At-home natural skin lightening
If you want to try to remove or lighten your freckles naturally, nature has provided a wealth of options in everyday items you may even have in your kitchen right now.
Here are some natural aids with known skin-lightening properties:
- Lemon juice (combine with boric acid for a stronger effect)
- Sour milk (buttermilk)
- Apple cider vinegar
- Castor/jojoba oil
- Green tea
- Cranberries and strawberries
If you were born with a genetic tendency to develop freckles, you may be keen to see what life feels like without your freckles.
However, before you take action to get your freckles removed it is always a good idea to see a skin specialist just to be sure you don't have any small skin cancer "freckles" disguising themselves amongst your genuine freckles. Once the skin specialist signs off, you should be good to go to proceed with your freckle removal method of choice!
If you have any questions after reading this article, we encourage you to post them in the comments section here so everyone can benefit.