Some people love their freckles, but others find that they’re more of a nuisance than anything else.
If you belong to the latter group, getting rid of your freckles is probably one of your top skincare priorities.
It won’t be as straightforward as, say, putting acne cream on a pimple. But getting rid of your freckles is perfectly doable with a little know-how and a lot of patience.
What Are Freckles, Anyway?
Freckles are flat, brown spots that appear on your skin, often in large clusters on broad areas of skin.
Your face, arms, shoulders, back and chest are common locations for freckles, but they can appear anywhere on your body.
Freckles are comprised of melanin, the compound that lends color to your eyes, hair, and skin. Melanin cells, or melanocytes, exist to protect you from sun damage, absorbing harmful UV rays so they don’t reach your more sensitive cells.
Each of your freckles is comprised of melanocytes, which is why they appear more pigmented than the rest of your skin.
You’re more likely to have them if you have lighter skin, as darker skin already contains more evenly-dispersed melanocytes.
Why Do Freckles Appear?
Some people are more genetically-prone to developing freckles than others. But nobody is born with them.
That’s because all freckles appear in response to sun exposure.
The sun activates your melanocytes, causing them to spring into action to protect you from UV damage.
This is why many people notice that their freckles become more prominent in the sun, and why they tend to appear on uncovered areas of skin. It’s also why freckles often disappear in the winter, returning in the summer when the sun’s rays are more powerful.
Sun Spots Vs. Freckles
But wait… aren’t the dots that appear after sun exposure called sun spots? Are they the same thing as freckles?
Freckles are hereditary, developed only by those who carry the MC1R freckle gene. They appear in order to protect you from the sun and are not the result of sun damage.
Sun spots, on the other hand, develop as a result of sun damage and are not dependent on genes. They tend to be larger than freckles and often appear with age, hence their other name, “age spots.”
Unlike freckles, sun spots do not fade during the winter, though they may fade slightly after extended periods (months or years) without sun exposure. They are not harmful, but they do indicate excessive sun exposure in the past.
Moles Vs. Freckles
And what about moles? Are they related to freckles at all?
Moles are large clusters of melanocytes — so large that they begin to protrude from the skin and extend deep down beneath it. They are typically larger and darker than freckles due to the higher concentrations of melanocytes.
Genes are partially responsible for moles, but anybody can develop them after enough sun exposure. Moles can also develop in areas that haven’t been exposed to the sun, and they don’t go away with time.
The biggest difference is in the health risk. Freckles are always benign, but moles can indicate skin cancer, especially if they appear suddenly, grow rapidly, itch, bleed or become misshapen.
How to Remove Freckles Permanently
If you’re sure you have freckles (and sure you don’t want them), try one of these permanent freckle removal methods.
Reveal a New Layer of Skin with a Chemical Peel
One way to get rid of your freckles is to remove the layers of skin that contain the melanocytes that produce them.
And the most popular way to do that is by getting a chemical peel.
During a chemical peel, an esthetician or dermatologist will apply a chemical solution to your skin. The solution typically contains glycolic acid or trichloroacetic acid, both of which work by penetrating down to your middle layers of skin and stripping the outer layers away.
Chemical peels can be painful and require lots of aftercare. You’ll need to avoid the sun for several weeks, apply ointment daily and potentially take an antiviral drug as a precaution.
Try a Topical Freckle Fading Cream
For a less-invasive option, try a cream that contains hydroquinone, a skin bleaching ingredient that is believed to suppress melanin production and thus fade freckles.
Hydroquinone is available over-the-counter in many places, but stronger concentrations are available with a prescription. It’s recommended to consult a dermatologist before using any hydroquinone product to reduce the risk of side effects.
Freeze Your Freckles Away with Cryosurgery
Cryosurgery isn’t surgery in the traditional sense. There’s no anesthesia, no incisions and very little recovery time.
During cryosurgery, liquid nitrogen is applied to your freckles with a cotton swab or spray. Liquid nitrogen is extremely cold, freezing and destroying any cells it touches.
After the procedure, blisters will form and then fall off, revealing freckle-free skin.
In rare cases, cryosurgery can leave scars behind, so you’ll need to be prepared for your freckles to be replaced with marks of a different kind. However, most of the time, there are no lasting side effects from the procedure.
Amp Up Exfoliation with Microdermabrasion
Microdermabrasion is a safe, easy way to thoroughly exfoliate your skin and reduce the appearance of your freckles.
Using a diamond-tipped tool, an esthetician removes the outer layer of your skin and all of the dead, damaged skin cells that coat it. This process also removes the outermost melanocytes that make up your freckles.
Microdermabrasion won’t completely get rid of your freckles, but it will lighten them and make them much less noticeable. It’s a good option for those who need something more powerful than bleaching cream but don’t want to undergo cryosurgery or a chemical peel.
Experience the Power of Light with Laser Treatment
Laser treatment is effective for many different skin conditions, including freckles.
By targeting intense light at your freckled skin, the laser heats up your melanocytes and breaks them into tiny particles. These particles can then be removed during your regular skincare routine.
Laser freckle removal requires multiple sessions and can be painful. Your skin may itch, swell or peel after treatment, and you’ll need to stay out of the sun for several weeks after.
How to Remove Freckles at Home
If you’re looking for a less drastic way to fade your freckles, try one of these at-home methods.
Fade Your Freckles with Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a well-known home remedy for all manner of skin conditions. When used regularly, it can even fade your freckles.
The malic acid present in apple cider vinegar breaks down your melanocytes over time, exfoliating your freckles away. It’s not instant and requires consistency, but be patient and you’ll see results after a few months.
Use a cotton ball to apply apple cider vinegar to your freckles once or twice a day. If you experience stinging or discomfort, you may need to dilute the vinegar with water before applying it.
Try Applying Lemon Juice to Your Freckles
Like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice contains plenty of acid. This time it’s citric acid, which has a bleaching effect on the skin.
Fresh lemon juice works best for fading freckles. Squeeze some into a bowl, then dip a cotton ball into the juice and apply it to your freckles.
Apply the lemon juice once a day for several months and you’ll begin to see results. Avoid getting the lemon juice on your hair or clothes — it will also bleach those over time!
Go All Natural with Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera is great for sunburns, bug bites and other minor wounds. But it’s also thought to be effective at fading freckles.
Two compounds found in aloe vera, aloin and aloesin, have lightening effects. They destroy melanocytes and prevent new ones from replacing them, resulting in lighter freckles.
Just remove some gel from an aloe vera leaf and rub a thin layer over your freckles several times a day. Results may take several months to show.
Bonus: aloe vera is a great moisturizer and hydrator, so you can get even more benefits out of this amazing plant.
How to Hide Freckles
Decided you’d rather mask your freckles rather than remove or lighten them? We’ve got you covered.
First things first: start with a base layer of sunscreen so your freckles don’t pop out when you’re exposed to the sun. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
Next, apply concealer to your bare skin to cover your freckles. You can use a concealer that matches your skin tone or opt for a yellow or orange concealer to counter the tone of your freckles.
Don’t forget to blend the edges of your concealer to reduce blotchiness.
You can then apply your foundation over your concealer. Your foundation should match your skin tone as closely as possible to effectively mask your freckles.