We always want what we can’t have right? The same applies to freckles. In more recent years, freckles have become more accepted and even celebrated with new trends such as using a pencil to draw on freckles or even applying rainbow-colored freckles. Something tells me that someone who has never ever had a freckles came up with those bright ideas! Despite this, if you are like me and have had freckles their whole life, freckles can simply be a nuisance.
Freckles, or ephelides, are small, tan or brownish spots in sun exposed areas of the body. They tend to be flat and regularly shaped and are the result of a mutation in the gene MC1R which codes for making melanin in the skin. They become more apparent the more the skin is exposed to UV radiation from the sun. This is why freckles tend to become lighter in the winter and darker in the summer. It is also why you never see freckles in newborns!
People who are predisposed to freckles tend to have the following:
Any exposure to the sun can darken freckles and cause them to seemingly multiply overnight. Did anyone else fantasize that all of their freckles would merge together one day so that you would actually look tan? Yep, that was me. And no, that just doesn’t actually happen.
Since you must come to the realization that you will never be a dark Brazilian goddess basking in the sun in all of your freckled glory, the key is keeping your skin as healthy as possible – i.e. sun damage free. Wearing daily sunscreen whether you are just running errands or hanging out at the lake all day is key to preventing freckles as well as wrinkles.
The sunscreen I like best is the one that you will wear every day. My favorites are titanium dioxide or zinc oxide sunscreens like Neutrogena sheer zinc, but they tend to be thicker. There are thinner options like PCA Weightless Protection SPF and Elta MD as well.
Although staying out of the sun can lighten freckles, it will not completely get rid of them. There are several options to consider.
Over the years, there have been significant advances in the technology of medical grade skin products. Ingredients such as kojic acid, citric acid, tranexamic acid, azelaic acid, hydroquinone, niacinamide, and retinols help to reduce production of pigment and promote an even skin tone. Some of my favorite products include:
A series of chemical peels with ingredients specifically targeted at getting rid of pigment can give your skin the boost it needs to combat areas of sun damage. A series of peels is usually necessary to achieve optimal results. For this, I typically use the PCA skin® treatment protocols with PCA Peel® with hydroquinone and resorcinol. I will often layer this peel with other peel solutions if I am also targeting fine lines and wrinkles or acne. It can also be combined with microneedling to increase the depth of peel and increase new collagen deposition.
A recent addition to our practice is the ICON MaxG™ IPL treatment which uses specific wavelengths of light to break up pigment in the skin. For those who want a quicker solution to getting rid of freckles and sun damage, this is the treatment for you. Freckles can be completely removed with 2-3 treatments. Winter is usually the perfect time for this, since you can’t have unprotected sun exposure at least 4 weeks prior to treatment.
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