If you notice small brown spots over your skin, then get them diagnosed by an expert dermatologist as these spots can be freckles that are caused due to overproduction of melanin because of excess sun exposure. So freckles must be identified and brought up to an expert dermatologist in time. As a holistic treatment comprising aesthetic procedures along with medicines controlling the root cause, are needed.
What Are Freckles?
Freckle is a skin deformity which is caused due to over exposure to sun and they are very common in both men and women . It is typically common with people who spend many hours’ outdoors. This condition could be hereditary and is mostly seen in fair-skinned people. Typically, freckles are harmless, but in some cases, these dark spots could be an indication of a more serious skin problem, such as skin cancer. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a dermatologist whenever you notice more than one pigmented spot on your skin.
Also Read: How To Remove Dark Spots On Face?
Types Of Freckles
Freckles are basically of two types – ephelides and solar lentigines, the former is more commonly known as a freckle, while the latter is usually caused during adulthood. It can be difficult to distinguish between these little brown spots, but they are typically of the following types:
• Ephelides – is 1 mm – 2 mm sized spot, which is slightly reddish to light brown in colour and is typically a result of exposure to the sun. This is more commonly known as a freckle and is fairly common in the fair skinned people with light complexions. Sometimes, this condition is hereditary and runs in the family. A basic sun protection regime can help in preventing/ supressing the appearances of ephelides.
• Lentigine – In comparison with Ephelides, it is a larger pigmented spot, and usually appears in areas with previous sun burns/damage. These spots are darker than a freckle and often are referred to as lentigo simplex or solar lentigo. Occasionally it is caused due to certain rare genetic syndrome, otherwise these spots are typically a result of over pigmentation.
Also Read: How To Protect Your Skin From The Sun?
Symptoms Of Freckles
The following are the possible indications of a freckle that symptomize this condition:
• Change in the colour and shape of the skin in certain areas
• Diarrhoea is often another symptom that accompanies freckles
• Cramps and abdominal pain and/ or sudden weight loss
• Freckles often aren’t just harmless spots, sometimes these are symptomizing skin cancer
• Moles are another common symptom that often appear in the affected area
• There are chances of observing blood or mucus in the stool
What Causes Freckles?
Freckles are a result of genetic predisposition in combination with sun damage caused due to excess exposure to UV rays. Due to absorption of UV rays by the skin, the body produces more melanin than the body needs, which causes pigmentation in patches by cutaneous melanocytes.
Typically, people who are fair skinned, with light eyes and light hair, are more susceptible to the damaging effects of the sun.
In short, a freckle is a spot on the skin made of heavily deposited melanin.
Freckles don’t often get any attention, but, there are several safe methods that are available in the market that can help you lighten or suppress the appearances of these dark spots. In majority of cases, a combination of treatments is used for attaining the best results. The following are the treatments that are available in the market:
Chemical Peels –
Chemical peel is a harmless method used to remove age spots, discoloration, wrinkles, freckles, and fine lines. In a chemical peel, controlled exfoliation is administered by the dermatologist which helps in removing the upper deformed layer of the skin thus clearing the mild to moderate freckles from the skin surface.
1. The dermatologist would first examine the skin type and proceed with a patch test. This would help in identifying any persistent allergies or reactions.
2. Then based on the patch test the doctor would determine the strength and type of acid used for the peel. Several acids like salicylic acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid, tricholoroacetic acid, etc. can be used based on the diagnosis of the dermatologist.
3. The first step would be to cleanse the skin and remove all chemicals, dirt or grime from it.
4. Then TCA or trichloroacetic acid peel is applied gently all over the face with focus on the freckles affected areas on the skin. It is left for sometime and then removed gently.
5. Then cold compress would be given to ensure no side effects or reddening of skin is seen.
As a result, a younger and fresher looking skin is revealed, which is smoother and firmer. With this process the skin’s overall texture is improved as the acid in the peel effectively reacts to the melanocytes (pigment creating cells) to dissolve/remove freckles and show long lasting results.
Laser Treatment –
Laser treatment is one of the most popular method to remove freckles. In this method, laser is used to target the deformed tissues and destroy them from deep within, thus safely eliminate freckles.
Powerful energy from the laser is microscopically concentrated on the affected areas of the skin. This energy is distributed into microscopic patterns that are absorbed by the freckle, resulting in breaking and dissolving melanin in that area, and hence removing freckles in this process.
Cryosurgery uses liquid nitrogen to lightly freeze the spots on the skin in order to treat these freckles. On application to the freckles, this liquid nitrogen forms a blister that effectively lifts the freckle out of the skin and then causes it to fall off. Cryotherapy can be painful and should not be used on the same skin area more than once a week.
Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPL) –
IPL is an easy method for treating freckles. It is a form of facial rejuvenation.
This treatment involves targeting the light energy on the dermis and epidermis of the skin while focusing on the affected area, without causing any collateral damage. IPL makes use of bursts of high-intensity polychromatic light that is profoundly targeted on the areas wherein overproduction of melanin is found in the skin, and with effective use of light energy these dark spots are destroyed, while allowing the skin colour to go back to normal. A cold gel is used post treatment, to comfort the treated area. The treatment typically lasts 20 minutes with negligible downtime afterward.
Tretinoin is a combination of vitamin A, acid and Retin-A, and, this combination works on the skin and effectively lightens the freckles and helps with skin regeneration when applied for a period of time. You will be able to see noticeable and significant results typically within 12 weeks of use.
Also Read: How To Remove Pigmentation From Face?
Cost Of Laser Treatment For Freckles In India
The cost of laser treatment for freckles in India ranges between Rs. 5000 to Rs. 7000 per session. However the total cost is subjective and varies from person to person based on several factors like; skin condition, type of skin, area to be treated, experience of the dermatologist and underlying health condition.
How To Prevent Freckles?
Freckles are formed because of a combination of our genetic component and because of sun damage. Now, there is nothing much that can be done about our genetics, but you can aim to limit sun exposure and use sun protection to prevent the freckles being caused by it.
• Use a good sunscreen with an SPF 50 or high
• Use wide brimmed hats when heading out in the sun
• Use long sleeved shirts and long pants to cover up your skin when going out
• Avoid sun during peak hours – 10 am to 4 pm
• Seek a shade whenever and wherever possible
It is better to prevent a freckle than go for freckle removal. People with known hereditary tendencies should start sun protection early, as the sun damage due to UV rays often occurs while children are under age 18.
When To See A Doctor?
If you happen to see a sudden discoloration in a certain patch on your skin or mole, then check with your dermatologist. Also, if you observe any unusual or persistent change in your skin, then get it checked before it gets severe. It is highly recommended to consult a dermatologist for any kind of spots on your skin that you cannot explain, as there might be a possibility of these spots being cancerous.
How Are Freckles Different From Sunspots, Moles, Lentigines, And Melesma?
Unusual brown or grey discoloration on your face or body should be immediately checked upon, as these spots can be anything from moles, freckles, melasma or even skin cancer. There is a slight variance in the colour of the spots, but it is too difficult to identify and hence it is important to seek help. So how do we distinguish between freckles, age spots and melasma?
Sunspots vs Freckles
Sunspots are also due to over exposure to the sun, and typically appear after adolescence. If you are exposed to sun for long hours, then despite your complexion, you are bound to get sunspots. And, these spots come in different shapes, colour, and sizes. Sometimes, they appear like red dots, due to a condition that leads to overgrowth of blood vessels into dark brown spots. Unlike freckles, these spots are less regularly patterned. Freckles on the other hand are smaller in size and tend to disappear when your exposure to sun is limited and is controlled.
Moles vs Freckles
Moles and freckles are not the same, although a mole also is a skin lesion and appears to be a dark brown spot on the skin. But, moles are often darker than freckles and are not necessarily caused by sun exposure.
Age Spots Vs Freckles
Freckles are tiny brown spots, which fade over time, and while the age spots look almost similar to freckles, they come later in life. Age spots are typically prominent dark spots near the face and hands, and unlike freckles, these spots are larger in size and are more defined as well.
Melasma vs Freckles
Melasma is the more significant and is a patchy brown, tan, or blue-grey skin discoloration, which typically occurs near the neck, upper lip, forehead, cheeks, eyes, nose, and forearm. And, unlike freckles, melasma is likely to occur more in dark-skinned people who, again, are over exposed to sun, and are known to have a genetic tendency for this condition. So, though all these spots are pretty much the same, there are identifiable factors with which you can differentiate between these.
Freckles are common and harmless, but they hamper our desire of a clear and smooth skin. Talk to your dermatologist to understand the cause of discoloration, patches, or spots on your skin, and identify a suitable treatment for it. Although, freckles are harmless, but they shouldn’t be ignored, as sometimes these freckles are also an indication of skin cancer. It is always recommended to consult an expert on noticing anything unusual on your skin.
There are several treatments available in the market that can help you get rid of these spots easily, such as chemical peels, topical creams, and laser treatments.
Who is suitable for freckles treatment?
Anyone with freckles, dark spots, discoloration, or visible patches on their skin, are suitable for freckle treatment. The treatment is applicable to both men and women of any age.
How many sessions are required?
The number of sessions that will be required for your freckle treatment may vary depending on the results of skin analysis, which will identify the skin condition, number of freckles, and strength of discoloration in those spots. Typically, two to four sessions are often recommended by a dermatologist.
Are there any possible side effects?
There are no major side effects caused due to skin, although, you may notice bruising in the treated area, which will last for three to ten days. Other side-effects include redness and swelling, but, all of these side effects are temporary and does not last more than ten days.