Are Beauty Marks and Freckles the Same Thing?

Reviewed on 9/13/2021
are beauty marks and freckles the same thing
Beauty marks (moles) and freckles may look similar, but knowing the difference can help you understand which to pay more attention to

Beauty marks (moles) and freckles may look similar, but they are quite different.

Common causes of beauty marks and freckles include genetics and sun exposure. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun trigger the production of melanin in the skin by melanocytes. People with blonde or red hair, light-colored eyes and fair skin are more prone to the damaging effects of UV rays.

Table: Beauty marks vs. freckles
Beauty marks (moles) Freckles
Color Black or a bit darker than freckles Brown
Causes Melanocytes growing in clusters or clumps Excess localized production of melanin triggered by sun exposure
Location Face, neck, shoulder, or collarbone area Body parts exposed to the sun
Appearance
  • Oval or round
  • Feels smooth and wrinkled
  • Can be flat or raised
Flat, beige, brown, circular spots that are typically the size of the head of a metal nail
Benign or cancerous Benign but sometimes may turn cancerous Benign
Border Irregular with uneven edges Irregular and well-defined

What are beauty marks?

Beauty marks, moles, or birthmarks are growths on the skin that are usually darker than the skin and may appear black or brown. They are mainly found on the face, neck, shoulder, or collarbone

Beauty marks may be present at birth or be acquired over time. It occurs when melanocytes grow in clusters or clumps.

Beauty marks are usually harmless, but in rare cases can turn precancerous. Be especially careful if they change color, shape, or size or start to itch or bleed.

What are freckles?

Freckles are flat brown spots on the skin that form due to overproduction of melanin and an increase in the total number of melanin-producing cells called melanocytes.

They are formed as multiple spots on skin after repeated exposure to sunlight and are common in people with fair complexions and red hair. 

There are two types of freckles:

  • Ephelides: Most common type of freckles which occur during the warmer months
  • Solar lentigines: Large, pigmented spots commonly seen around sunburns and sun damage

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Are beauty marks or freckles dangerous?

Freckles are completely harmless and don’t have the potential to turn malignant.

Beauty marks, however, while usually harmless, can turn cancerous. Always consult a dermatologist to determine whether you should be concerned about a mole. Warning signs that may indicate skin cancer include:

  • Asymmetrical: One half of the mark is different from the other half
  • Borders: Borders are uneven and blurred
  • Color: Color is uneven
  • Diameter: Diameter is larger than 0.6 cm
  • Elevation: Change in color, size, shape, or symptoms, such as itching and bleeding

How to prevent beauty marks and freckles

The best way to prevent beauty marks or freckles is to avoid sun exposure. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, ultraviolet A, and ultraviolet B +++ when going outdoors. Reapply after every 40 minutes. 

If you are at higher risk of developing skin cancer, monitor your moles regularly. This includes people who have:

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References
Cleveland Clinic. Moles. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4410-moles

Mayo Clinic. Moles. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/moles/symptoms-causes/syc-20375200

WebMD. Moles, Freckles, and Skin Tags. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/moles-freckles-skin-tags

Medline Plus. Are Moles Determined by Genetics? https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/traits/moles/

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