Why do people have freckles? I have freckles all over my face and shoulders, and it feels like I’ve had them my whole life. For as long as I can remember, I have had freckles just explode all over my face every summer whether I wore sunscreen or not, and even in the winter months, they hardly fade. Why do some people have freckles, and other people don’t?
What is a freckle? A freckle is essentially concentrated melanin on the body, most apparent in people with fair skin. A freckle is unlike a mole in that it does not contain melanin-producing cells. Freckles are predominant on the face, but can appear on any area of the body that is exposed to sunlight without sunscreen, particularly UVB rays, which make freckles darker and more apparent by increasing melanin (the darkening of the skin) in these concentrated areas where freckles are apparent.
Freckles, like basically most things about our bodies, are hereditary. If your parents have freckles, likely you will, too. Like me, all all my 4 siblings have freckles all over their faces, and on their shoulders and arms as well. My parents both also have freckles. People with freckles in a hereditary manner typically have a dominant melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) gene that predisposes them to having the melanin normally present in their bodies concentrate themselves in clusters on the face and other areas of the body in the form of freckles.
Freckles are most predominant in people with naturally fair skin, and freckles are made more apparent by sun exposure, as the sun’s rays increase the darkening of freckles and can make more appear on the body. As people age, hereditary freckles can fade, and with use of sunscreen freckles can also become less apparent due to the lack of UV rays making them darker. In some people, their freckles fade almost completely in the winter, since they are out in the sun less.
Freckles on their own are basically harmless, but the accumulation of freckles due to sun exposure poses a risk simply because it is a sign a person is not protecting themselves from the sun’s rays. Even a person who does not have freckles can be harmed from the sun by not wearing sunscreen or protective clothing, but since a person who has freckles typically has fairer skin, they need to take stronger precautions to protect themselves from the sun’s harsh rays.