The difference between freckles and sun spots
As we reach the tail end of a hot summer spent enjoying long sunshine-filled days outdoors, you might find yourself with a few extra sun-induced friends scattered across your face.
As a dermatologist, I see patients with freckles and sun spots all the time (particularly post-summer) in my clinic. These patients are always looking for ways to remove these marks and create a more even-toned, clear complexion, because of course it’s our uneven, pigmented skin tone that makes us look older than our years, rather than wrinkles.
Yep you heard that right people: even skin tone is the single most effective goal to achieve if you want to look younger and healthier !!!
So how can you tell if your marks are freckles or sun spots? Is there even a difference? And how do we treat them? Keep on scrolling to find out.
ARE FRECKLES AND SUN SPOTS THE SAME THING?
Not at all - they’re actually quite different!
WHAT ARE FRECKLES?
Freckles actually aren’t a sign that your skin has been damaged. These are small spots (less than 5mm) where your skin cells have produced extra pigmentation (aka melanin). Whether or not you have freckles comes down to your genetics, however they are activated by sun exposure. If someone has the freckle gene (MC1R), they must spend time in the sun in order to produce freckles. These people tend to be pale skin types with light coloured eyes.
That also answers the question you are NOT born with freckles.
But a person without the freckle gene will not produce freckles, regardless of if they are in the sun or not. These tend to be the darker skin types.
If you are prone to freckles, applying an SPF like my Concentrated CC+ everyday will prevent sun damage and more freckles from cropping up. Try and avoid the sun as much as possible.
Prevention is ALWAYS better than cure.
WHAT ARE SUN SPOTS?
Sun spots are typically larger than freckles (about 0.5-2cm wide). Most commonly found on the hands, face, shoulders, back and arms.. They are larger because they are comprised of multiple pigmented cells lumped together as well as increased melanin (aka pigment). In contrast freckles are pigment ONLY, so easier to treat than sunspots.
Sun spots commonly start to form from our mid-30s and increase as we get older. They are a delayed reaction to sun exposure in your teens and twenties. So entirely preventable if you are good with sun protection and sun avoidance in your formative years.
The sun spots can fade with time if you stay out of the sun - however you need treatments to get rid of them. Usually lasers like BBL and erbium resurfacing for the more stubborn larger ones. Them maintaining with great at-home skincare that stops the reaccumulation of the spots using the Concentrated Clarifier, Concentrated Illuminator and The Concentrated Spot Destroyer and Concentrated Micropeel.
HOW TO REMOVE SUN SPOTS
My DrNC range has been formulated specifically for Australian skin to fight the damaging effects of our extra hot sun, as we have some of the harshest UV conditions in the world, which in turn leads to a major increase in freckles, sun spots and pigmentation.
This product both prevents future sun spots while correcting any existing marks. The perfect everyday brightening serum packed with 10% vitamin C (a powerful yet gentle sun spot-fighting ingredient), along with 10% niacinamide/vitamin B3, as well as vitamin E, hyaluronic acid and peptides for an extra soothing hydration boost. Layers perfectly under sunscreen and makeup for added protection.
There’s a reason my clients call this powerful cell-renewing exfoliating serum “The Bomb”! The combination of AHAs (lactic, glycolic, mandelic and tartaric acids) and salicylic acid eats away sun spots and fades pigment to create a more even, smooth skin tone. And it’s gentle enough for everyday use.
This little sachet delivers the powerful punch of a salon-facial, all from your own bathroom! Featuring a high concentration of AHAs and BHAs including salicylic, lactic, glycolic, citric & malic acids, this formulation breaks down sun spots and pigmentation to reveal radiant, glowing skin. With more than 3ml worth of product in the sachet, you can treat sun spots on your chest, arms and hands for the ultimate at-home treatment.
When it comes to sun spots, prevention is always better than a cure! My SPF30+ contains physical-only UV blockers zinc and titanium dioxide, along with 5% niacinamide/vitamin B3 for an added skincare boost. The skin-perfecting formula blocks out the sun all day, preventing pesky unwanted new spots from forming.
THE FACE BAR TREATMENTS
There is nothing quite as powerful as an in-clinic treatment to deal with sun spots. Try :
Intense pulsed light treatment (IPL) in combination with the LaseMD. These can be used ANYWHERE on the body. Ablative Erbium may be needed for the larger more stubborn Sun spots.