Whether you had freckles or not as a child, you may have noticed that you get more of them when summer rolls around—and they’re not something you tend to grow out of. Many people do have freckles all year round, but they are most common in the summer, and those who get them are often displeased with how they look for the few months they are present or especially plentiful. So are there ways to prevent or treat freckles, and how do they relate to long-term sun damage?
Why do Freckles Form?
Freckles are a byproduct of the body’s natural methods of protecting the skin from the sun. Melanin, a brown pigmentation in the skin, is produced by the body to help shield the skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays that are given off by the sun, leading to sunburn and sometimes, skin cancer. When evenly distributed, melanin presents as an even tan, but freckles are concentrated spots of melanin, most often found on the face, arms, and other areas of high sun exposure.
Who Gets Freckles?
While anyone can get freckles, they are far more common in people with fair skin, which is highly sensitive to the sun. Fair skin has a harder time protecting itself by producing even melanin for tanning, and instead gets burned easily and develops dense freckling. Fair-skinned people are also much more susceptible to skin cancer and need to be especially diligent with sun protection.
Can they Be Prevented?
The best way to prevent freckling is to be vigilant about your sun exposure. Give in to the advice to use sunscreen regularly. It may seem like a hassle to put it on every time you intend to be outdoors for more than a minute or two, but it will pay off in the long run. Don’t forget to protect yourself if you’re sitting near windows for an extended period of time, such as while driving.
Protective clothing, such as hats and sunglasses are good ways to help prevent summer freckling as well. Other than that, there is not a whole lot you can do to prevent extra freckles from forming, especially if you have fair skin.
Freckles are technically a form of sun damage, and damage starts the moment your skin starts coming into contact with the (UV) rays produced by the sun. It doesn’t even have to be sunny for sun damage to start up, and the effects are cumulative. If you don’t take precautions to keep your skin protected early in life, you could be looking at early skin aging, skin cancer, or both.
Aside from causing collagen in the skin to break down more quickly, resulting in wrinkled, dull, and sagging skin, your skin’s natural responses to protect itself can result in larger areas of unwanted brown pigment and discoloration. Over time, freckles can turn into “age spots”, larger areas of hyperpigmentation that can make the skin appear aged and mottled.
Skin Resurfacing and Other Solutions
If you’re not having any luck preventing freckles and sun damage, then it might be time to consider professional treatments with a plastic surgeon. There are a number of different skin resurfacing and sun damage treatments to choose from, depending on your needs. Some popular treatments that can improve freckling include:
- Chemical Peels
- Laser Resurfacing
- IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) Treatments
Different treatments involve various benefits, costs, and recovery time, so choosing a treatment plan is highly individual and depends on a variety of factors that must be assessed by a plastic surgeon.
Discuss Your Options
If you are suffering from the effects of sun damage and routine aging, then you may want to seek expert help and slow down the process of aging with minimally invasive skin treatments. There are options to suit almost any patient’s needs, and a skilled plastic surgeon can help you decide which treatments will work best for you. You should do your research when choosing a plastic surgeon, and only consult with board certified facial plastic surgeons, as these providers are the most knowledgeable and skilled.
Dr. Edward Buckingham is an ethical and talented facial plastic surgeon who is always on the cutting edge of anti-aging technology, emphasizing gentle, effective procedures that help patients look younger and feel great about themselves. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Buckingham and see if he can help you reach your goals, call Buckingham Center in Austin, Texas at 512.401.2500 today.