What treatments are available to remove freckles?
Efforts to diminish the appearance of freckles go back centuries. Ancient Egyptians used oil of fenugreek to fade freckles and age spots. In more modern cultures, lemon juice was a favorite home remedy. All of that gave way to modern cosmetics and bleaching agents, none of which have been overly effective. More advanced techniques including freezing, chemical peels, dermabrasion and laser resurfacing may get rid of freckles and age spots, but such treatments can be painful, and
they may damage healthy skin or cause scarring.
Conventional treatments for freckles include cosmetic cover-ups and bleaching creams, neither of which have garnered satisfactory results. Heavy cosmetics need frequent touchups, and are not a good fit for today’s active lifestyles. Bleaching agents attempt to fade the freckles to a color approximating that of the surrounding skin. However, they can sometimes lighten or darken the skin surrounding the freckles, calling even more attention to the spots. Occassionally, bleaching agents cause rashes or chemical burns.
Some people have had success using alpha hydroxy acids on a regular basis, combined with sun avoidance and the use of sunblock. Some dermatologists recommend prescription-strength retinoids for the treatment of freckles. More modern treatments for lightening freckles include freezing them with liquid nitrogen, and the use of strong acid peels or ablative laser treatments which are also used to treat fine lines and wrinkles. Freezing, chemical peels and ablative laser treatments, while more effective than conventional treatments, can damage healthy skin, cause scarring and demand lengthy recovery times.
Most prescription creams used to lighten the skin contain hydroquinone. Bleaches lighten and fade darkened skin patches by slowing the production of melanin so those dark spots gradually fade to match normal skin coloration. Prescription bleaches contain twice the amount of hydroquinone, the active ingredient, as over-the-counter skin bleaches. In more severe cases prescription creams with tretinoin and a cortisone cream are added. These are somewhat irritating to sensitive skin and will take 3-6 months to produce improvement.
There are now several highly effective laser treatments. The q-switched ruby and other pigmented lesion lasers often remove pigment without scarring. A test spot in an inconspicuous place will need to be done as they sometimes make things worse instead of better. Intense pulsed light (Photoderm) has a similar effect. Carbon dioxide and Erbium:YAG lasers vaporise the surface skin thus removing the pigmented lesions. Results are variable but sometimes very impressive with minimal risk of scarring. With superficial resurfacing techniques, there is minimal discomfort and no down-time but several treatments are often necessary. Unfortunately the treatment occasionally makes the pigmentation worse. Continued careful sun protection is essential, because the pigmentation is likely to recur next summer. Unsightly benign skin moles may be removed using traditional surgical techniques (excision biopsy or with a resurfacing laser.
There are also natural remedies to fade or get rid of freckles. Wash your face with sour milk. Lactic acid will provide gentle peeling effect without irritating or drying your skin. Lemon juice is a time proven freckle fighting remedy. It is not necessary to rub your skin with a piece of lemon. Applying the juice with your fingers will do the job. Fruit and vegetable masks (apricots, strawberries, cucumbers, red currant). Sour cream mask. Do not rinse this mask completely, just remove gently with a facial tissue, then apply a moisturizer. For oily skin - use lemon juice before applying the mask. Natural parsley juice (or parsley infusion) mixed with equal amounts of lemon juice, orange juice, and red currant juice under your favorite cream will help you keep your freckles invisible.