Freckles – how they develop and what helps against them

Freckles - how they develop and what helps against them

Freckles appear on many people when the sun shines in spring and summer. In particular, people with fair skin get freckles quickly. The small spots appear mainly on the nose or the entire face and on the hands, arms and shoulders. They often disappear when the skin is no longer exposed to the sun, so they are usually no longer visible in autumn and winter. Read here how freckles appear and how to remove them.

How are freckles formed?

Freckles (ephelides) are small, brownish pigment spots in the top layer of skin. They are caused by a genetic defect resulting in the pigment not evenly distributed in the skin cells. Freckles develop under the influence of sunlight or UV light.

Usually, the pigment melanin is produced by specific skin cells called melanocytes in response to sun or UV radiation. It is released to the surrounding cells and thus protects the skin from solar radiation. The more sunlight (or UV radiation in the solarium ) affects the melanocytes, the more melanin the skin cells produce and the stronger the skin pigmentation becomes.

The number of melanocytes is not crucial for the skin colour but rather the amount of pigment storage in each cell. Fair-skinned people have about 50 pigment stores per cell, dark-skinned 500. Freckles count as a form of hyperpigmentation.


How can you get freckles?

Whether you get freckles or not is determined by your hereditary predisposition. Therefore, one does not influence their creation. Freckles usually appear on people with light skin, blond or reddish hair and often blue or green eyes – i.e. the Celtic, light-sensitive skin type.

One finds the freckles on the body, especially in the places that are not protected by clothing from the sun, for example

  • in the face
  • on the forearms and hands
  • on the shoulders

Freckles usually appear in childhood, around seven to eight or just before puberty. With increasing age, they can also disappear again since melanin production decreases over the years, and the small dots thus fade.

freckles in pregnancy

During pregnancy, the changed hormone concentration can make freckles and other pigment spots more prominent. However, this “more” pigment usually recedes after pregnancy.


What is the meaning of freckles?

Freckles are harmless skin pigmentations. However, they also have a warning function – those who have them should protect their skin from the sun because they are a sign of particularly light-sensitive skin.

However, the spots are not a sign of damage to the skin and are therefore not dangerous. In contrast to liver spots and birthmarks, freckles do not show an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Freckle or mole?

The skin type particularly prone to freckles is also more likely to have liver spots. Distinguishing a heavily coloured freckle from a mole can sometimes be challenging. However, it is essential for more prominent pigment spots that itch, bleed, or have an irregular edge. Here, an experienced dermatologist should check whether this pigment change is not developing into a malignant skin tumour.

Why do freckles disappear in winter?

Since the colour of freckles depends heavily on the light intensity, they often become much more lightweight in winter and are, therefore, invisible to the naked eye.

However, the same applies in winter: When skiing or other outdoor leisure activities, you should protect your skin from too much sunlight. The snow reflects the sun’s rays, and the skin has to process a similar amount of sun as on a hot summer’s day.

If you spend a lot of time outside in winter, the freckles will increase in intensity again. Even glass does not protect against UV radiation: people whose desks are near the window and who sit in the office during the day but in the sun can see their freckles darken.


What to do about freckles?

Those who have freckles and do not like them often wonder how to get rid of freckles. If you tend freckles, you should avoid direct sunlight. If you use sunscreen with a high SPF and rarely expose the exposed areas to the sun without clothing, your freckles will darken only slightly in the hot season.

A visit to the solarium can also promote the development of freckles, so you should avoid the sunbed to prevent the freckles from darkening.

The colour of freckles can be lightened with various bleaching creams, stronger peelings (usually chemical peelings with fruit acids) or cold treatment (cryotherapy). You can also cover them with suitable make-up. Although freckles cannot be permanently removed in this way, those affected often notice a significant improvement in their complexion.

Laser freckle removal

Freckles can often be easily removed with laser treatment. The pigments and the pigment cells of the upper skin layer are destroyed in several therapy sessions. Laser removal is a medium-term effective method to remove freckles.

After some time, however, new melanocytes and new pigments are formed, so this treatment only promises success if additional exposure to the sun is avoided. Health insurance companies do not pay for laser treatment. Depending on the extent of the freckles, several treatment sessions are necessary, each costing between 100 and 300 euros. Possible side effects include a burning sensation and temporary swelling.

The cell structure of freckles can also be destroyed with a so-called flash lamp (Intense Pulse Light, IPL). A prior dermatological consultation is strongly recommended.

Freckles as a beauty trend

Freckles are harmless to health, and those who want to remove them usually have aesthetic reasons. However, freckles are not considered a beauty flaw: many people find freckles to be pretty, cheeky, and attractive.

Some even want to get freckles themselves. Numerous online tutorials show how to make the so-called “fake freckles” yourself. The small dots can be made up or painted with henna or special “freckle pencils”. Some people even get their freckles tattooed. If you have freckles, you can confidently enjoy them and certainly don’t have to be ashamed.



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