Traditionally associated with spunky redheads like Pippi Longstocking and Punky Brewster, freckles can be endearing assets on any face. However, those patients who are immune to the quirky charm of the freckle may be desperate to prevent additional ones from developing while lessening the appearance of those they already have. Common sites for frustrating freckling include the face, shoulders, arms, and décolletage.
Freckles are nothing more than concentrated clusters of melanin in the skin. Usually associated with people with especially fair skin (Fitzpatrick Skin Type I or II), freckles are influenced by genetics, and worsen with exposure to sunlight. For patients hoping to be freckle-free, here are a few tips for a more uniform complexion.
1. Avoid Direct Sun and Tanning
Step one in lessening the degree of freckling is to avoid sun exposure. Patients with a tendency to freckle are strongly discouraged from using UV tanning beds (though the same wisdom applies to all patients, freckled or otherwise). Avoiding sun exposure will decrease the appearance of freckles and keep skin tone more even. UV-B radiation from sunlight triggers melanin production, which darkens existing freckles while promoting the appearance of more sunspots.
2. Always Use Sunblock
People with a tendency to develop freckles usually have decreased levels of melanin, which makes them more prone to sun damage. To decrease the chance of developing more freckles and allow existing ones to fade, patients are advised to use a quality sunblock featuring full-spectrum UV-A and UV-B protection. Sunscreen should be applied liberally and regularly to provide complete protection and lessen the likelihood of damaging sun exposure.
3. Wear Hats for Extra Shade
Hats are a useful additional line of defense against freckles on the face, neck, and chest. Even when avoiding direct sunlight and steering clear of tanning beds, patients with increased susceptibility to freckling should wear hats to shield their skin, especially noses and upper cheeks, from freckle-inducing sun exposure. The combination of avoiding the sun as much as possible, using full-spectrum sunscreen, and wearing hats should decrease further proliferation of freckles and sunspots.
4. Laser Treatments for Existing Freckles
While there are a few topical treatments that may help to lessen the appearance of freckles, the most effective solution for existing dark spots is photo rejuvenation for pigmented spot removal. Patients may see some benefit with the use of creams containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), citric acid, or lightening agents, but laser resurfacing is the preferred clinical approach.
In the hands of an experienced medical professional, concentrated laser light selectively targets melanin in the skin. The combination of focused light and heat breaks up brown pigmentation and makes it easily removable during the skin's natural self-exfoliation processes. These treatments can be accomplished in under an hour in an outpatient medspa setting with minimal downtime required.
For the best outcomes, four to five treatments are required. To preserve freckle-free results, patients are encouraged to be especially vigilant about sun exposure following treatment. In some cases, it is possible to combine laser treatments for freckle removal with other facial laser treatments.
The combination of practicing common sense sun protection against future freckling along with laser treatments typically leads to the best skin clearing and lightening results. It is important for patients to remember that increased tendency to freckle means increased propensity for sun damage, so freckled patients in the Sunshine State should always remember to take extra skincare precautions when out and about.