While plenty of people wear freckles as beauty marks, these dark spots are also proof that the sun’s harmful rays aren’t scared to strike. Ahead, four skin experts on the dos and don’ts for maintaining sun-kissed specks and preventing dangerous spots.
Know Your ABCs
If you’re performing your routine, at-home skin check, Glenn Dale, MD dermatologist Valerie Callender, MD stresses, “Remember the ABCDEs of melanoma: asymmetry, borders, color, diameter, and evolving. If your freckle is lopsided, ill-defined, multiple shades of brown, greater than the size of a pencil eraser, or becomes elevated on the skin, call your board-certified doctor for a more in-depth check. Early detection is key!”
Get a Full-Body Skin Check Once a Year
While checking at home is important, an annual visit to an expert is wise. “Having a physician look at areas that aren’t visible to the eye is the best way to quickly catch something suspicious,” recommends medical aesthetician Jennifer Derry, who explains that anything scaly, continuously dry, peeling, unable to heal, or constantly bleeding should always be removed by a doctor. If the freckle is just unwanted by the patient, Derry performs an IPL laser treatment in the office or recommends a prescription 4-percent hydroquinone to help with skin lightening. “That can help with some pigment control, but sometimes if you were born with a freckle it might want to stay with you your entire life because they are a little bit harder to remove for cosmetic purposes. Sometimes, it’s important to have the patient embrace their freckles and understand it’s a part of them and makes them special.”
Palo Alto, CA facial plastic surgeon Jill L. Hessler, MD also likes to treat unwanted freckles with a BBL (broad band light) laser from Sciton, which she says is a “highly effective treatment for freckles and other pigmented areas of the face and body.” Fraxel is another treatment for freckles that she says can treat fines lines and wrinkles at the same time.
Confront the Sun During Prime Hours
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, experiencing five or more blistering sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 increases your risk for melanoma by 80 percent. “To avoid burns, protect your skin from the sun by wearing sunscreen that protects against UVA, UVB and infrared rays such as one with titanium or zinc,” says Dr. Hessler. If you live in a sunny place, she recommends “avoiding the sun in the mid-afternoon during its prime hours, or wearing a hat if you need to venture out.”
Forget To Do Your Research
Mt. Pleasant, SC plastic surgeon Thomas Hahm, MD says the doctor you should visit for freckle removal is biopsy-dependent. “If your results show a non-melanoma skin cancer, like a basal or squamous cell, then visiting a dermatologist or plastic surgeon for treatment—you may need what’s known as a Mohs procedure—would be the optimal choice. If you have a freckle that’s not cancerous, but promoting insecurity on the face or body, you can visit your doctor to have it safely removed.”
While Dr. Hahm is a proponent of seeing a doctor to ensure your freckle is safe, he says people should know the biggest warning sign of a dangerous freckle: if it’s completely black like a chocolate chip. “If you have a very dark chocolate chip-looking freckle and there’s a history of melanoma that runs in your family, I definitely think either consider taking it out or have it evaluated every year,” he says. “It can be hard to tell if it’s getting darker so it’s always good to come in and get it looked at.”