All Freckles Aren't The Same. Here's Why

As summer nears, you may begin to notice a crop of freckles appear on your skin after you've spent an afternoon enjoying the warmer temperatures outside. These could be freckles that you've had since early childhood that become darker after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, or they could be freckles you're noticing for the first time. You may realize that you have more freckles after spending time in the sun, or that your freckles fade at certain times of the year. You may also find new freckles developing as you enter mid-adulthood.

Freckles are made of melanin, a naturally occurring substance in the skin that creates your skin's pigment, reports Healthline. When your body creates an overproduction of melanin, freckles form. Overproduction of melanin can be stimulated by UV rays, which is why freckles are often associated with a sun-kissed aesthetic (though always remember to wear sunscreen!)

Everyone has a different amount of melanin, which is based on genetics, lifestyle, and other aspects unique to each person, according to Medical News Today. The appearance of freckles can be just as individualized, from their size and shape to their occurrence and composition. Variations in the types of freckles you may have depends on your genes, age, exposure to sunlight and UV rays, and many more factors. Not all freckles are the same, and here is why.

Natural freckles

There are two types of freckles that develop naturally: ephelides and solar lentigines (via WebMD). The type of freckles you have on your body depends on several factors. Some freckles come from your genetic makeup, while others appear because of exposure to sunlight.

Ephelides are freckles that appear in early childhood, usually around the age of 2 or 3 years old, per WebMD. They vary in color but are usually shades of brown or red. Ephelides are usually only one to two millimeters but can sometimes be larger, and they often have irregular borders. Because they are emphasized by sun exposure, ephelides can become more prominent during warmer months when people typically spend more time outside, and they can fade during colder months when being indoors tends to be favored.

Solar lentigines, on the other hand, are freckles that show up as you age, according to WebMD. While ephelides appear during childhood and can fade as a person enters adulthood, solar lentigines tend to appear after 50. Terms you may have heard, like sunspots, liver spots, and age spots, all refer to solar lentigines. While ephelides are often found on the face, solar lentigines can appear anywhere on the body that receives sun exposure (per Mayo Clinic). Solar lentigines vary in color from dark brown to light yellow.

Cosmetic freckles

If you don't have natural freckles, there are ways to create artificial freckles. In fact, using eyeliner to dot on faux freckles has become a popular makeup trend, according to Byrdie.

Semi-permanent cosmetic freckles have also become popular, including freckle tattoos and henna freckles. Freckle tattoos are applied by cosmetic tattoo artists. The initial darkness right after your appointment will likely fade, but the result and can last years with regular upkeep, reports Byrdie

Henna freckles also result in semi-permanent spots, but tend not to last as long as tattooed freckles, according to Allure. When pursuing henna freckles, it's important to choose the right kind of henna dye, especially when applying henna on your face. It's advised to stay away from dyes intended for hair and Black henna, which contains harmful additives (via Byrdie). 

Using the wrong type of henna dye could cause harmful inflammation and skin reactions, per Byrdie. Do your research before pursuing henna freckles, seek out dyes made of natural ingredients, and look for a skilled henna artist in your local area instead of trying to apply henna dye by yourself.

Be certain to check the ingredients in your makeup products to ensure that they don't contain anything that could be harmful to your skin. Always consult with a dermatologist if you have any concerns about the products you are applying to your skin.