What causes freckles?
Freckles are flat tan, brown or black spots that appear over time on areas of skin that have been exposed to the sun. Freckles are common among those with lighter skin who sunburn easily. Age spots, which appear later in life, are superficial collections of the skin pigment melanin which occur within the top layer (epidermis) of the skin. Freckles and age spots, classified as symptoms of photoaging, are commonly found on the face and hands, or any other part of the body that
has been overexposed to the sun.
The basic cause of freckles is special cells in the skin that produce a pigment called melanin. Melanin is what gives skin its color. Sunlight hitting the skin causes the production of more melanin in order to protect the skin layers underneath. If you have melanin that builds up in one place, it will result in freckles. Sunlight also causes freckles already present to become darker. Dark skin that appears during pregnancy or while on birth control pills is called melasma, or the mask of pregnancy. Sun exposure makes these patches and spots even darker. Flat, large spots on the skin in middle age are caused by sun exposure, and are known as age spots, liver spots, or lentigines. Sun exposure is also powerful enough to change certain skin cells into dangerous skin cancers, leading physicians to recommend protective sunscreen and clothing. These actions can also help slow the appearance of both freckles and age spots. For those who already have any brown, discolored lesions, an in-depth consultation should be scheduled with a physician. He or she will perform a careful examination to determine that these spots are not pre-cancerous. This can develop on the skin causing growths that have irregular borders and strange colors such as black, red or pink. Look for spots that don’t heal, have lack of symmetry, or are of a large size. See a dermatologist if you have any spots on your skin that look suspicious.