Are Freckles Sun Damage? What You Should Know

Are Freckles Sun Damage? What You Should Know

What do you know about sun damage and whether or not it causes freckles? You can read about it in this detailed overview.

When you were a kid, your parents told you your every freckle was an angel's kiss. As you grew older, you learned a more harrowing truth: those "kisses" might actually be sun damage. Worse, upcoming skin cancer.

Ask someone what freckles are, and they'll give you one of those two answers. It's hard to be proud of freckles when they could be early evidence of life-changing melanoma. So which is it, beautiful birthmarks or a future tumor removal in the making?

Read on to find out whether freckles are a cute genetic decoration or a troubling warning sign.

What Are Freckles?

As with all things, it's important to look at the etymology of a word. Freckles is actually slang originating from Old Norse. You can find it being used as early as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales as a simple description of skin features.

The lesser-known medical name invites comparisons to the sun: ephelides. The Greek root "helios" here means sun, i.e. a literal "sun spot" on the skin. People have identified the link between freckles and sun exposure for hundreds of years.

The truth, however, is a bit more complicated. It bears understanding how they function in your body.

How Do Freckles Form?

Freckles can appear anywhere on the body. Even where the sun doesn't shine--ignoring what that phrase usually means. They're little spots of increased melanin production arising in early childhood and fading with age. 

Most people who have them tend to be Caucasian. Darker-skinned people can have them too. They simply appear more noticeable on lighter skin.

Freckles are, by definition, small. Anything larger than about 3 mm is not a freckle, and may instead be a mole. Moles aren't worse, they're just different.

To make things more complicated, freckles darken when you spend time in the sun. This leads people to the false conclusion that they develop freckles from sun exposure -- and therefore sun damage.

While UV rays "activate" freckles, they don't necessarily "create" them. You need specific genes for them to form at all. That's why sun activity, plus the right genes, equals more freckles.

Are They Symptoms of Sun Damage?

What is sun damage if it's not freckles, then? It's when UV rays damage the DNA of your skin cells. Damaged DNA is the primary cause of cancer, which is abnormally reproducing cells that multiply uncontrollably.

Freckles on their own are not a symptom of sun damage. Remember, UV rays cause freckle-oriented people to get more when under the sun. In addition to this, people who do have freckles tend to be more sensitive to UV radiation. 

It's likely for this reason that people get the false impression freckles equal skin cancer. After all, dermatologists tell freckled folk to be mindful of the UV index and lather on sunscreen. 

So What Causes Sun Damage?

We've established that freckles are not a sign of sun damage. They're a sign of sensitivity to it. That begs the question: When do you know you've gotten sun damage?

Unfortunately, sun damage is a bit sneaky. People who get melanoma usually won't identify it until it's too late. It's subtle, usually a change in the size or shape of a mole

You will get sun damage if you spend more than a few minutes in the sun without sun protection. A sunburn is just a very, very early warning sign. Even a light red after an hour outside is not something to shrug off.

Take it from people who get melanoma. Nearly half of them wish they had taken the extra effort to protect their skin. Once it's too late, it's too late.

Other Consequences of Sun Damage 

Even if you don't get skin cancer, there are other reasons to wear protection. Increased sun exposure can lead to the following:

  • More wrinkles
  • Drier skin
  • Poorer skin elasticity
  • More scaly spots

Being out in the sun is great, make no mistake. It helps your body produce vitamin D and makes you happier. Remaining cooped up inside isn't the answer.

Sadly, though, the sun's rays always produce UV radiation. UV rays cause skin damage and skin cancer, period. The solution is to be proactive about skin protection.

Protecting Your Skin

Having a skin routine and staying in the shade is not enough. Let's discuss ways that you can protect your skin from harmful UV radiation. 

Always Wear Sunscreen

An increasing body of research is coming to the conclusion that we need more sunscreen, not less. For too long, our society has treated it as optional. Most people only wear it on vacation or a particularly sunny day.

In truth, you should wear sunscreen anytime you go outside. That includes when it's overcast. Some experts even recommend wearing it indoors.

Most people neglect sunscreen because it's a pain to put on and a pain to wash off. So, make it easier for yourself. Buy a high-quality, non-oily sunscreen that doubles as lotion.

Spray-on sunscreens take only seconds for proper application. It's an added expense and an added inconvenience to be sure. But it's well worth it for your skin health. 

Wear UV Clothes

It may come as a surprise that much of your clothing is not UV-protective. Most people never wear sunscreen under clothes. We all assume that clothes block UV radiation.

Sadly, UV rays can penetrate more fabrics than you realize. This could explain why you get seemingly unexplained burns beneath your clothing after a weekend at the beach. 

UV-blocking clothing comes in all shapes, sizes, and styles. Swimwear, tops and bottoms, and even sun dresses. They are proven to block harmful UV radiation and have testimonials to back them up

So, save some money and reduce your sunscreen usage. Buy UV clothes to protect yourself.

Find High-Quality UV Clothes

For many years, people have likely told you that freckles go hand-in-hand with sun damage. The reality is not so simple. More accurately, freckles suggest increased sensitivity to the sun, necessitating sunscreen and UV clothes.

Bloq UV is your source of UV clothes for the whole family. Drop by our clearance sale and get our proven UV-resistant wardrobe at a discount.