When are freckles on skin something to feel frightened about? We talk pigmentation problems with Dr Emma Cunningham…
Whether you embrace your natural freckles or have taken to TikTok to copy the latest faux freckle trend, freckles are a hot topic. The most common type of pigmentation, freckles are genetically influenced but are also often the first sign of sun damage which develop after UV exposure. Whatever your take on them and whether you have them or not, there’s more to understand about freckles than you might think. It’s important to know the difference between a harmless brown spot and something more sinister. We talk to Dr Emma from Advanced Aesthetics on how to tell if your freckles are to be feared or fine about.
What’s the difference between freckles and pigmentation?
Freckles usually occur in childhood and present as flat, round spots on the skin that are produced because of overproduction of melanin. They’re produced by melanocytes in the skin that are responsible for pigment production and is in direct response to UV radiation. You tend to find that they present mostly in a niche of the population that carry a certain gene that’s associated with red hair and fair skin and who burn easily.
Where do freckles on skin usually appear?
They generally occur on areas of skin that are exposed the most to the sun and they’re more prominent in the summer. As we age, these areas of pigmentation can become larger and develop into something called solar lentigos. These are more prominent areas that don’t fade in winter. They’re also referred to as skin abrasions as a result of an accumulation of pigment over the years in the response to UV damage.
How to fade freckles on skin?
Generally, freckles and solar lentigos are harmless as they are benign. There’s nothing cancerous about them but visually, if people are unhappy with how they appear, there are treatments available which range from chemical peels to cryotherapy using nitrogen oxide. IPL (intense pulsed light) also works.
When does pigmentation become a more serious issue? What are the signs to look out for?
Often the likes of freckles can become indistinguishable from melanomas, which are also flat or brown pigmented lesions with irregular borders. Obviously, melanomas are much more dangerous, and their rate of secondary spread is huge. The most important take home would be that if you have noticed a lesion of this type that’s very slow growing and you’re worried, it’s important to get it looked at, as some may require biopsy. It’s always better to catch it early on.
For more information visit https://dr-emma.co.uk
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Hettie is the editor and co-founder of DOSE. A keen runner, she’s also partial to a blast of high-intensity and hot yoga. A country girl at heart, she divides her time between London and the lush rolling hills of North Devon. When she’s not jetting off on her next adventure, Hettie can be found in a candle-lit alcove with a laptop, a spaniel and a full bodied Malbec.