Sun and Skin
Freckles invoke thoughts of youthful innocence, signs of individuality, and beauty. Known as the infamous ”dot on the exclamation point,” and much like a fingerprint or snowflake, the unique patterns and myriad bursts of freckles, or ephelides, adorn the noses, cheeks, and shoulders of millions.
Freckles have been touted for decades as a symbol of beauty and vanity. Freckles grace the faces of internationally renowned movie stars and fictional cartoon characters.
Open a fashion magazine. Porcelain-skinned supermodels decorate the pages with beautiful freckles. For faces lacking ephelides, purchase a freckle-face temporary tattoo. Freckles have long held an interesting cultural stigma and have made their unique pattern-making journey across every type of skin.
Remember the carefree and youthful days when sunscreen was nary a thought? Long summer afternoons. Lazy days on the beach. The face and shoulders in the direct spotlight of the sun.
The polarizing effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays have touched down on the sensitive skin cells of many a sun-worshipping tan aficionado and jump-started a production of freckles. All those who lent their volatile skin to hours and hours of powerful UV rays started creating their special facial individuality.
At the end of the day, thanks to DNA, all skin will freckle, just at varying degrees. But why does skin freckle?
Skin tone in all of its beautiful shades is driven by pigment proteins, or melanin. From the fairest porcelain skin to the warmest, richest, and darkest tones, skin cells called melanocytes produce the melanin which is responsible for the variations in the skin’s complexions. The more exposure to UV rays, the more likely freckles are to exist on the body, similar to how a leaf absorbs light during photosynthesis and appears green.
Besides the combination of sunshine and tanning, other freckle factors that trigger melanin production include genetics, natural selection, and the size of the melanocytes. The amount of melanin and color variation in the skin are determined by a classification system known as the Fitzpatrick scale.
Developed in 1975, the six points on this scale are used to study and estimate the response of different skin types and their exposure to UV rays. Known the world over, the Fitzpatrick Scale continues to be a respected and important tool used in research to understand human skin pigmentation. The results of your skin’s exposure and response to UV rays are classified by 6 the Types on the Fitzpatrick scale. Let’s see where you fit in:
Skin Type – Based on a combination of 3 factors:
Genetics, Sensitivity (exposure), Intentional Tanning Habits
- 1: skin usually burns, no tan, skin tone: pale / lots of freckles.
- 2: skin likely burns, limited tan.
- 3: skin might burn, even tan.
- 4: skin not likely to burn, rich brown tan.
- 5: skin won’t burn, deep tan.
- 6: skin never burns, darkest skin tone.
When Life Gives You Lemons (the fruits)
Clearly, on the Fitzpatrick scale, skin Types 1-3 are more likely to experience the reality of freckles. It isn’t that freckles don’t occur on skin Types 4-6; they just aren’t as obvious. If freckles are embarrassing, and the thought of embracing them as a unique feature, blessing your face, isn’t a reality, perhaps you’ve considered a way to rid your skin of freckles. Got lemons?
- Lemons: If life offers lemons, make lemonade, right? Or, try to remove freckles! Lemon juice as a freckle removal is a popular treatment. Acidic lemon has natural bleaching properties. If it can lighten hair, it should lighten freckles. Lemon juice is natural and contains no synthetic chemicals. The results? Most skin, on average, lightens around the freckles, making the darker pigment more prominent. Lemon juice can irritate the skin, causing burning and stinging sensations and rash. Stick to lemonade.
- Papaya: If lemons aren’t at the ready, consider papaya as a freckle remedy. Papaya juice contains an enzyme called papain, rich in vitamin A, C, and E, which work together as an antioxidant, sunscreen, and skin lightener. Raw papaya juice breaks down proteins, promotes cell turnover, and renews the skin to a more natural healthy state. Papaya scrubs help remove dead skin cells, exposing smoother, softer, more beautiful skin.
The Pantry & Beyond
- Baking Soda: Take the baking soda out of the pantry for a quick DIY freckle fader. Baking soda is gentle enough to use as a skin exfoliator. Mix baking soda with castor oil into a paste. Rub gently onto freckled skin. This long term treatment works great. Use regularly, and for each treatment, leave it on the skin for an extended period of time. Baking soda has shown itself to be a significant freckle reducer.
- Garlic: If you can stand the odor, freshly-mashed organic garlic bulbs pressed into the freckled areas have shown to be an effective freckle remover. Vampires too.
- Cosmetics & Spot Creams: Millions of dollars are spent annually on a vast and competitive retail inventory of foundations, cover up sticks, correctors, and spot fading creams. Major cosmetic brands’ claim-to-fame is that they “remove spots” and whiten and brighten the skin. Do the research. Know what ingredients are being applied to the skin before investing in an over-the-counter skin-correcting treatment.
Nature and Melanin
Every human body and shade of skin has the same melanocytes working to produce the right, balanced skin tone. It’s the pigment proteins that vary. The chemicals in most major cosmetic brands are synthetically formulated. The assumption is that they’ll work on every skin tone. Is it worth taking that chance?
Finding the right foundation shade, or relying on the right formula to perfect and balance and lighten the skin, and actually remove freckles is purely anecdotal. The desire to beautify the skin and remove unavoidable physiology can come at a high price. Trying many different products, with many, sometimes disappointing, results.
Take a Professional Approach
- Laser Treatments: Formally known as laser pigmentation removal, this procedure targets only the cells containing the extra pigment causing the freckles. Laser pigmentation removal involves the laser penetrating the skin and targeting the melanocytes. The cells absorb the laser light. The energy from the laser light energy becomes heat, which causes the cells to restructure and resurface. Within a few days the treated areas form scabs. The scabs flake off, leaving fresh freckle-free skin. The surrounding skin cells or tissues are unaffected.
The physical pain from a freckle removing laser feels like the gentle flick of a rubber band. Laser treatments are budget-friendly. The cost of a laser treatment can range between $150 – $900, and a skin consultation should be included. Allow enough time to heal, and understand any risks associated with laser treatment.
Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion, and do some research. Guarantee a safe treatment. Procedures to lighten the skin, alter melanocytes, or remove hair should only be performed by a licensed dermatologist or certified specialist.
Pro Tip: Embrace the Beautiful (freckles) in Your Face
The enemy of freckles is the sun. Pigments in the skin always react to UV rays. Consider a freckle-free face; make a conscientious effort to stay out of the sun and off the beach. Wear a big hat and long-sleeved shirts.
Sunscreens with a high SPF are effective, but sunscreen is only part of an effective strategy to keep skin healthy. The number on the SPF bottle indicates how many times longer it takes skin to redden and burn. Practice good UV exposure time management. It’s critical, as is hydration.
For a more permanent fix, go live in a dark cave, or never leave the house. Freckles need UV light to survive. Sometimes it’s hard to see the beauty in our own faces. The eyes go right to the freckles and not the sum of all its unique features.
One day the sun might stop shining. Scientists might invent an SPF which reaches new highs and completely blocks 100% of harmful UV rays. The damage and darkening to delicate and sensitive skin cells will end.
But until that day, freckles will continue to bloom on the face and body. The difference between “getting rid of freckles” and the treatments described in this article: freckle removal is a temporary fix.
“I love faces that have freckles. I love faces that have wrinkles. For me, beauty is naturalism, I guess.” – Rachel Morrison