Freckles are small flat brown marks arising on the face and other sun exposed areas.These are particularly common in persons of fair complexion on upper body skin areas like the cheeks, nose, arms, and upper shoulders. While freckles are due to an increase in the amount of dark pigment called melanin, they are not due to an increase in the total number of pigment cells called melanocytes. Freckles tend to become darker and more apparent with sun exposure, and lighten in the winter months.

There are two basic types of freckles:

  • Simple freckles: Simple freckles are usually tan, round, and small about the size of a construction nail head.
  • Sunburn freckles: Sunburn freckles are often darker, have irregular jagged borders, and may be larger. Sunburn freckles are more common on the upper back and shoulders where people frequently get their most severe sunburns.

Freckles are thought to develop from a combination of genetic tendency and sun exposure in some individuals. Natural sunlight and artificial sun-tanning lights emit ultraviolet (UV) rays.  After exposure to ultraviolet rays, the outer layer of the skin thickens and the pigment-producing cells (the melanocytes) produce the pigment melanin at an increased rate. A freckle is essentially nothing more than an unusually heavy deposit of melanin at one spot in the skin.

Prevention:

The main prevention measures are aimed at sun avoidance and sun-protection including:

  1. Use of sunscreens with SPF 30
    2. Use of wide brimmed hats
    3. Use of sun protective clothing
    4. Avoidance of the peak sun hours of 10am to 4pm
    5. Seeking shade and staying indoors