How Freckles Are A Natural Sunscreen

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By Ashley Moor/Sept. 9, 2021 12:06 pm EDT

While people can’t simply attribute their freckles on red hair (especially since many people other than redheads freckle), they can trace them back to their parents. According to Insider, freckles appear as the result of genetics and sun exposure. Simply put, the darker your skin is, the more melanocyte cells you will have to protect your skin against the sun (though even those with the darkest skin still need to slather on sunscreen). As you might have guessed, these melanocyte cells are responsible for producing “dark pigment melanin,” per Insider. 

Generally, those with lighter skin are more prone to getting freckles because those melanocyte cells, instead of being dispersed equally across the body as they would be in those with darker skin, are scattered throughout the body in clusters. Once these clusters of melanocyte cells are exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, they produce larger amounts of melanin that appear as freckles, or brown spots, on the skin.

A large amount of freckles indicates that your skin is more sensitive to the sun’s rays and that you’re at a higher risk of contracting skin cancer, according to Marie Claire. As it turns out, though, these brown spots can actually protect your skin from further damage from the sun.

This is how freckles work as a natural sunscreen

Apart from simply making you upgrade your concealer and foundation routines, freckles also darken your skin in order to protect it from harsh UV rays. In fact, freckles actually work to protect these UV rays from reaching “deeper layers of the skin,” according to Center Aesthetic Dermatology. Despite this nature layer of defense against the sun, dermatologists still warn that freckles are a sign that your skin is especially sensitive and needs to be slathered in sunscreen daily. “They are still a risk factor for skin cancer because they’re caused by ultraviolet light, so if you make a lot of freckles, you should be very vigilant about your skin health and get your annual skin check,” Rachel Nazarian, a board-certified dermatologist, told Marie Claire.

Those with lighter skin complexions are also more likely to get sunspots, which differ from freckles in the fact that they appear more on older people and tend to stick around for longer. While some people without freckles are so envious of them they’re even getting freckles tattooed onto their faces, those with them may not love them as much. Not the biggest fan of your freckles? According to the Mayo Clinic, freckles tend to fade with age (though the importance of applying sunscreen never minimizes).

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