In this article I’m gonna be sharing with you my top five tips on how to make freckles fade.
At the end of the article I will share with you skincare routine tips to reduce the chances that your freckles will darken this summer.
Freckles typically appear in the first three years of life and they’re with you for the long run. People who have pale skin and either blonde or red hair have more freckles typically. It’s also due to your genetics.
Freckles are typically one to three millimeters in diameter. They’re small, brown. They’re not dangerous, they don’t go on to form skin cancers. However, having a lot of freckles is a marker that you are at an increased risk for making skin cancers down the road.
While you don’t have to be worried about your freckles, do know that having freckles means that your skin is likely more vulnerable to sun-induced damage and skin cancer formation.
To be crystal clear, you cannot actually remove freckles. They are with you for life, but they lighten with sun avoidance and they darken with sun exposure.
Table of Contents
Number one thing you have to do to keep your freckles from darkening and to fade the ones that you have is to protect your skin from the sun. You want to use a broad spectrum sunscreen every single day, including when you are mostly indoors to keep your freckles from darkening.
UVA rays that come through window glass can affect the pigment producing cells in the skin and lead to darkening of the freckles. You want to wear sunscreen every single day, but when you’re outside, don’t just rely on sunscreen. You want to wear a broad brimmed hat and sun protective clothing, long sleeves and sunglasses.
Ideally sunglasses that wrap around. One thing people don’t realize is that ultraviolet radiation from the sun comes at you from all different angles. It is reflected off of surfaces, like the pavement, cars that you walk by and onto your face. It’s also reflected off of a metallic sunglass rim. So I suggest choosing sunglasses that do not have metal frames.
Aside from just wearing sunscreen and sun protective clothing, hats and whatnot, make sure that you don’t stay out in the sun too long and that you avoid going outside and spending time outdoors during the peak sun exposure window, typically in the mid afternoon. That’s when the sun’s rays are at their most intense.
Unless you walk around in a cardboard box non-stop, UV radiation from the sun is going to see your skin to a certain extent and those cells that underlie the freckles are really sensitive to UV and that is why you may find that as hard as you try to avoid the sun, they still darken.
The other thing that you can try to incorporate into your skincare routine, provided you tolerate it, is an antioxidant serum.
Antioxidant serums may help in reducing the burden of oxidative stress in the skin that gets generated upon exposure to ultraviolet radiation. That oxidative stress further drives pigment production and that’s going to lead to darkening of the freckles.
You probably want to know what is the best antioxidant serum.
Unfortunately I can’t tell you that because antioxidants in skin care products are not medications, so they’re not regulated in the same way and antioxidants are not super stable.
The devil is in the details as far as the product formulation. Does it actually get into the skin, is it actually able to scavenge free radicals? Because there’s so much variability from manufacturer to manufacturer, it can become challenging. But I do think at the end of the day it is worth considering incorporating an antioxidant into your skincare routine.
Some of my favorite antioxidants include niacinamide, green tea, resveratrol.
How do you use an antioxidant serum to help in warding off darkening of your freckles.
The way to use an antioxidant serum is to apply it first thing in the morning, allow it to absorb fully and then apply sunscreen on over it.
You want to use antioxidant serums in the morning because that way they are on board on your skin as you go throughout the day and are exposed to environmental stressors that would otherwise upregulate free radicals in the skin or lead to production of free radicals in the skin that would drive darkening of your freckles.
So put it on in the morning, allow it to absorb and dry fully and then put your sunscreen on top.
However, if you find that any of these products causes too much irritation for you, you don’t get along well with it, then don’t use it.
Another thing for lightening freckles is hydroquinone.
Unfortunately hydroquinone is no longer going to be available over the counter in the U.S. but you can get it by prescription.
Hydroquinone is a topical skin lightening ingredient that works by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase. It competes with tyrosine, the substrate for tyrosinase, and that is the enzyme that leads to upregulation of pigment production.
Hydroquinone also damages the melanosomes, a little pigment packets within pigment producing cells.
It can actually lighten freckles that have darkened with sun exposure. However, it’s a little patchy, you don’t always get even lightening.
You really don’t want to use hydroquinone long term. There is a risk of rebound, worsening hyperpigmentation, it can damage the neighboring normal melanocytes and you only want to apply it exactly to the area of hyperpigmentation, which can actually be challenging in the case of freckles because they are so small.
You don’t want to use it for more than three months without taking a break for at least six weeks.
It is a very evidence-based way to lighten freckles and so it’s something that you could consider.
Retinoids include prescription tretinoin, or over-the-counter adapalene. It goes by the brand name Differin gel.
Topical retinoids can lighten sun-induced hyperpigmentation, whether it be sunspots or freckles.
In my opinion, as far as an active ingredient to actively lighten existing freckles, I think going with a retinoid is actually a better more prudent choice, because you can use it long term.
It has other benefits beyond just lightening the freckle. They remove sun damaged skin cells and they can also control acne. They also can help in improving the visible signs of photo aging.
Unlike hydroquinone, you can use retinoids daily long term. They are safe, you don’t have to worry about skin bleaching or rebound hyperpigmentation or any of that.
If you see a dermatologist they may actually prescribe you something called Tri-Luma or they may have a compounded cream that has both a retinoid as well as hydroquinone plus an anti-inflammatory and it works quite well for fading hyperpigmentation.
See a Dermatologist
There are procedures that we can do to lighten existing freckles, but again, they’re not going to get rid of them permanently. This can be a little costly.
Cryotherapy or liquid nitrogen can lighten freckles. However it does come with a risk of just pigmentation or leading to hypopigmentation to the area treated.
You can also see a dermatologist for laser treatment to fade freckles.
Unfortunately these things don’t get rid of the freckle permanently and with UV exposure they do come right back. So to what extent the investment is worthwhile, I would say not much.
What Freckles Mean?
I want to make it crystal clear in my opinion freckles are attractive. I don’t think that they need fading or need correcting or anything like that.
But I do know that some people prefer to lighten their freckles and so that’s why I’m giving you these tips.
But the most important thing for you to realize is that freckles are a manifestation of sun damage, even though they’re not dangerous themselves.
When they darken, it is an indicator or a symptom that you have gotten a lot of sun exposure and serves as a reminder that you need to be more diligent with your sun protection.
If you find that your your freckles are darkening, don’t freak out. Just use it as an indicator for reevaluating your sun protective practices.
But I want to make it clear that you don’t need to get rid of them or they don’t even need fading. Like I said, in my opinion they are attractive. There are even cosmetics out there that you can buy to fake freckles.
Skin Care Routine
Let’s build a skincare routine for the summer. That will not only help reduce the chances that your freckles will darken, but will also protect your skin from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation.
First thing in the morning, apply an antioxidant serum. Allow it to absorb fully and then apply sunscreen. As you go throughout the day make sure you reapply the sunscreen.
If you are indoors most of the day and not going outside at all, just reapply once or twice. Why? Just to be in the habit of it. Sun does come through, UVA rays come through window glass.
But if you’re going to be outside for a prolonged period of time, make sure you reapply the sunscreen every two hours.
Also as you go throughout the day, take a hat with you, put it on anytime you go outside, take sunglasses with you, put them on, no matter if it’s sunny out or not. Put them on to protect not only your eyes but the skin around your eyes.
In the evening, before you go to bed, make sure you wash your face to remove any dirt, cosmetics, pollutants, and then apply a retinoid to the face, to the arms, wherever it is that you have a lot of UV exposure and your freckles are darkening.
You want to put retinoids on at night time because they are sensitive. Many of them are sensitive to light and degrading in the presence of light.
Those are my tips and practical skincare routine suggestions for reducing the chances that your freckles will darken this summer and lightening existing ones.
Rebecca is a licensed aesthetician and certified laser technician with almost 15 years experience in the dermatology. Her life-long passion is making people look good and happy.