Whether you’ve had freckles for as long as you can remember or have collected sprinkles of them with age, the teeny dark spots on your skin are incredibly common. They’re also easy to get more of — all it takes is sun exposure to stimulate the melanin (the chemical responsible for skin pigment) production. Of course, that also means intentionally trying to get more freckles is tantamount to encouraging sun damage, so it’s essential to make sure you're turning to only the safest ways to get freckles in order to keep your complexion's health in check.
You’re not alone if you want to be bespeckled — freckles are totally trending (plenty of beauty brands have even created faux-freckle pencils), which is why you should love them if you’ve got them. It's important to remember, however, that despite their tiny presence on our skin, they can cause or become a big problem if not given the proper amount of attention and care. Most freckles are not dangerous at all, but they are technically a sign of sun damage.
So, how do you get freckles? Technically, these cute spots are your skin’s response to having too much UV exposure, says Dr. Susan Chon, MD, a dermatologist and researcher at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, who notes fairer-skinned individuals with lighter hair or eyes are more prone to developing them. “Freckles are a mark of sun damage and significant sun exposure,” she tells Bustle. So further harm from the sun could result in a freckle changing, as in getting bigger or darker, and that could be a possible sign of skin cancer or a precancerous spot. “If you can decrease the amount of sun damage your skin accumulates, it will help the longevity of your skin and how it appears,” says Chon.
But there's no reason to fear if you take the proper precautions — just turn to these tips for the utmost freckle safety if you’re looking to soak up the summer rays, along with the brilliant way to get freckles without stepping foot outside.
1. Fake Your Freckles
The easiest and safest way to get the cute spots? Fake them with makeup. You can choose to draw on your freckles so you don’t have to wait or sacrifice your skin health. Reach for one of the many freckle-making beauty products that exist — like Freck Beauty’s Freck pencil or ColourPop’s Freckle Pen — and hit up YouTube for a tutorial that’ll give you an adorable constellation in seconds.
2. Be Careful With Exfoliants
If you’re regularly exfoliating your skin (as you should to keep your pores clear), Chon says it’s important to tweak your beauty regimen if you’re going to be exposed to the sun. “Exfoliants take off the dead layers of your skin, which actually help with a little bit of sun protection because it means there are more layers for the sun to penetrate,” she explains. “When people go on vacation, for example, I tell them to stop using exfoliants like glycolic acids or lotions that help to turn over dead skin because it makes you more sensitive to the sun.” That includes any chemical-based exfoliants and face scrubs.
3. Wear Sunscreen
This one goes without saying: Sunscreen is essential to your skin health. A base of at least 20 SPF (or more if your skin is super fair) is easy to apply before you put on makeup for the day. It's a habit you want to get into because just going out for the day means your face encounters enough sun for freckles to come out. Chon recommends opting for a physical sunblock rather than a chemical-based SPF — that means formulas that use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as your sun protectors. “These cover more of the spectrum of UV rays,” she says. “And any sunscreen should be applied at least 15 or 20 minutes before going outside because you want it to set and dry — as soon as sweat forms, it can remove some of your sunscreen.”
4. Set A Time Limit For Sun Exposure
If you're planning a day in the sun, Chon recommends limiting your exposure. “Try not to stay very long if you’re outside in the sun’s rays,” she tells Bustle. Pro tip: Set an alarm on your phone to make sure you’re not over-exposing your skin.
5. Wear Sun-Protective Clothing
Here’s a little-known fact: Sunscreen isn’t going to necessarily give you 100% protection from harmful rays, says Chon. This is why she suggests wearing UPF-protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses to ensure you’re avoiding sun damage. Oh, and shade helps too — be sure to grab your beach umbrella.
6. Mind The Time Of Day
If you're planning a day in the sun, Chon recommends scheduling around the hours the rays are the strongest. “Midday sun has the strongest UV rays, which is around 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” she tells Bustle. Her tip? Go for your morning run earlier or take your walk later in the evening to keep your complexion safe.
7. Moisturize After Being In The Sun
Sun exposure can create dry skin, so it's important to apply a moisturizer after being in the sun in order to keep your freckles (and overall complexion) hydrated. The point is that there are simple things you can do before, during, and after being in the sun to keep those freckles looking sweet — and, you know, to protect yourself from harm.
Gabros, S. (2020). Sunscreens And Photoprotection. StatPearls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537164/
Dr. Susan Chon, MD, a dermatologist and researcher at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
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