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Freckles

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Freckles facts

  • Freckles are flat small tan or light-brown spots on sun-exposed skin.
  • Freckles are more common on the face of red-headed, less-pigmented individuals.
  • Common freckles themselves are quite harmless and never develop into skin cancer.
  • Most freckles are produced by exposure to ultraviolet light and typically fade in the winter.
  • Unusual-appearing freckles may become malignant skin cancer.
  • Peculiar appearing or symptomatic colored or pigmented spots should be examined by your dermatologist.
  • Treatments are available to help lighten or eliminate bothersome freckles.

What are freckles?

Freckles are flat, beige, brown circular spots that typically are the size of the head of a common nail. The spots are multiple and may develop on sun-exposed skin after repeated exposure to sunlight. These are particularly common in people with red hair and a fair complexion. They may appear on people as young as 1 or 2 years of age.

Most freckles are uniform in color. On different people, freckles may vary somewhat in color -- they may be reddish, yellow, tan, light brown, brown, or black -- but they are basically slightly darker than the surrounding skin. They may become darker and more apparent after sun exposure and lighten in the winter months. Freckles are due to an increase in the amount of dark pigment called melanin and an increase in the total number of pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. The word freckle comes from the Middle English freken, which, in turn, came from the Old Norse freknur, meaning "freckled." (Some speakers of Old English and Old Norse must have had a tendency to develop freckles.)

What types of freckles are there? Freckles vs. lentigines

Ephelides (singular: ephelis) is the Greek word and medical term for freckle. This term refers to 1 mm-2 mm flat spots that are tan, slightly reddish, or light brown and typically appear during the sunny months. They are most often found on people with light complexions, and in some families, they are a hereditary (genetic) trait. People with reddish hair and green eyes are more prone to these types of freckles. Sun avoidance and sun protection, including the regular use of sunscreen, help to suppress the appearance of the freckles.

Lentigines (singular: lentigo) comes from the Latin word for lentil and is the medical term for certain types of larger pigmented spots most commonly present at the site of previous sunburn and sun damage. Lentigines are often darker than the common freckle and do not usually fade in the winter. This kind of spot is referred to as lentigo simplex or solar lentigo. The number of melanocytes and melanosomes (cellular structures that contain melanin pigment) are normal in number and appearance. Although occasionally lentigines are part of a certain rare genetic syndrome, for the most part they are just isolated and unimportant spots.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/14/2017

Source: MedicineNet.com
https://www.medicinenet.com/freckles/article.htm

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