Do you have freckles you wish would disappear? Those scattered little skin spots are a byproduct of living on Planet Earth. They’re evidence of sun damage — they collect over time due to prolonged and repeated sun exposure.
Here’s how it happens: Deep in the skin, cells called melanocytes produce pigment, then travel up to the top layer of the skin (the epidermis) to feed that pigment tokeratinocytes, the skin cells that act as a barrier to the sun. The pigment-producing melanocytes can only perform for so long before the sun damages the skin permanently. At this point, freckles are produced. Freckles are really collections of leftover melanin stains that sit on the very top layer of unprotected skin.
Freckles are harmless, and some people even think they’re cute. But if you’d rather they didn’t polka dot your nose and shoulders, here’s some good news for you: Freckles can be prevented, minimized and even eliminated.
We’ll tell you how on the next three tips.
Freckles are caused by sun exposure, and people who are more susceptible to sunburn are more likely to accumulate freckles. For example, because their genetic makeup gives them pale skin, redheads often have freckles. If you’re someone who tends to collect freckles, after you do away with them, you’ll probably accumulate replacements unless you change something.
Vitamin C not only prevents germs from infecting you and making you sick, it also prevents the sun from adversely affecting your skin. It literally prevents pigment from clustering into freckles. Make sure to consume at least the daily-recommended U.S. Department of Agriculture amount of vitamin C, either in foods or as a supplement. Similarly, vitamin E is thought to gradually equalize pigmentation. In other words, it makes your skin more uniform in tone.
And, of course, wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15 whenever you’re going to be out in the sun for even a short amount of time.
Retinol, or Retinol A, sounds like a chemical, but it’s really just a clinical name for vitamin A. It’s an anti-inflammatory agent, making it suitable to treat freckles, which are tiny inflammations of skin cells.
Here’s how it works: Skin care products, cosmetics and topical creams contain Retinol at a level hovering near 0.5 percent. That Retinol is absorbed into the skin, where the vitamin increases the rate of skin regeneration. In other words, it drives the body to shed the top layer of skin, which is where freckles live, revealing deeper levels of skin — notably the ones that are freckle free.
Topical agents with Retinol have to be applied consistently and regularly for full freckle-diminishing power, and one side effect is that it may lighten the skin around the freckles in addition to the freckles themselves.
3. Laser Treatment
If you’d like to eliminate your freckles the high-tech way, lasers will do the trick. Freckles are melanin, and melanin absorbs the spectrum of laser light. The laser light negates the freckle, leaving just the keratinocyte cells beneath. Generally, a doctor (usually a dermatologist, cosmetic surgeon or general practitioner) will use a ruby- or green-colored, low-powered “Q-switched” laser light to blast away each freckle. This process is called fractional resurfacing, or it’s know by its brand name, GentleLASE.
Since freckles are located at the very top level of the skin, the procedure is not invasive, and the laser won’t damage any tissue on its way to the freckles. However, since it’s a laser burning things off your skin, the process may cause irritation. After-effects include crusting and minor bruising. Your doctor may apply a topical cream to minimize discomfort.