How to get rid of freckles with clinically-proven ingredients

Most freckle removal treatments are easy, affordable and can be done at home.

Written by
Kaitlyn Wilson
Medically reviewed by
min read
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As far as beauty trends go, freckles are having their moment in the sun right now. However, some people still might want to say farewell to theirs.

Most freckles are harmless, however, it's understandable if you'd prefer to fade the appearance of your freckles. And, the good news is that this is possible with the right skincare ingredients.

In fact, most freckle removal treatments are easy, affordable and can be done at home — no need for expensive visits to a skin clinic. With this in mind, let's dive into all things freckles and how to get rid of them.

What are freckles?

Freckles are dark spots of pigment. These small brown spots can be flat or raised, clustered or spread and are commonly found on the face, neck and shoulders or other areas that are frequently exposed to the sun.

There are 2 types of freckles, these are called ephelides and solar lentigines. Ephelides are the typical small darker spots of pigment that come and go on their own.

Solar lentigines, on the other hand, are spots that develop throughout our lives and these include sun spots, age spots and freckles. While the 2 types look similar, they have different causes [1].

What causes freckles?

Freckles are caused by an overproduction of melanin, the pigment cells responsible for giving colour to your skin, hair and eyes.

Melanin works by producing skin cells known as melanocytes that absorb and reflect UV rays to protect your skin from sun damage [2]. Freckles form when melanin builds up underneath the skin.

There are 2 types of freckles:

Ephelides freckles

Have you ever noticed that your freckles seem to become lighter and darker depending on how much sun you get?

These freckles are ephelides. These are most common in people with fair skin and typically fade on their own with time.

Depending on your genetics and heritage, you will be more prone to developing freckles of this sort.

If you have a genetic predisposition to higher levels of melanin synthesis, you will be more likely to get ephelides freckles and these are more common in those with lighter skin.

Solar lentigines

These are also known as liver spots, actinic lentigines or age spots. They are yellow, red or brown spots with clearly defined borders.

Solar lentigines are mostly seen in adults over 40 years old. They are caused by excessive sun exposure throughout your lifetime. They don't change colour or shape and won't go away on their own.

Should I be worried about my freckles?

It's true that if you have a lot of freckles or moles, you're at a higher risk of skin cancer. But generally, you don't have to worry about your freckles unless you notice that they are:

  • Growing
  • Changing shape
  • Changing colour
  • Bleeding
  • Ulcerating

Get into the habit of regularly checking your skin, and if you notice any changes, tell your doctor as soon as you can [8].

Can freckles go away with age?

Yep, freckles (the ephelides kind) can disappear with age [3].

And, in addition to that, you generally get fewer freckles the older you get; it's due to the fact your skin doesn't respond to sun exposure the same way [4].

But as you know, the other kind can come out as you get older if you're not careful about sun damage.

Is it possible to remove freckles?

Yes! There are multiple treatments that can make removing freckles and skin pigmentation easy, effective and painless [5].

While some freckles need to be removed if they are suspected to be cancerous, it's also understandable if you want to get rid of freckles for purely aesthetic reasons as well.

Luckily freckles can be permanently removed using a variety of at-home and in-clinic skin treatments but in general, laser treatments are the go-to freckle removal treatment for a number of reasons.

What's involved in using laser treatment for freckle removal?

Laser treatment to remove freckles uses intense pulsed light (IPL) to improve the appearance of skin and lighten pigmentation.

The light emitted from the laser is absorbed by the darker pigment on the skin. It heats up and 'shatters' the spot, which is then absorbed back into the skin without harming the surrounding tissue [6].

There are several different laser treatments for pigmentation removal, such as red or blue light as well as different wavelengths. Your dermatologist or aesthetician will help you decide which treatment is best for your individual skin needs.

Laser treatment requires very little recovery time and is relatively painless except for some minor stinging and tingling during the procedure.

And, it doesn't generally require multiple treatments, with most people noticing a significant reduction in freckles after their first treatment.

Are there any side effects to laser freckle removal?

There are minimal side effects associated with laser freckle removal, with one of the only side effects being an increase in the photosensitivity of the skin. This means your skin will become more sensitive to the sun while undergoing treatment.

This is nothing to be concerned about though, you might just want to slip, slop, and slap a little more while you're getting your laser — that means slathering sunscreen on your face every single day.

You may also experience drier skin and a little flaking but this is temporary. And, eventually, your pigmentation will darken before it finally falls off.

But, if skin zapping isn't for you, luckily laser isn't the only way to remove freckles.

How can I remove freckles?

Treating freckles can be done in a number of ways [7]. A few of the most effective methods for fighting freckles are:

Chemical peels

Chemical exfoliants reduce the appearance of freckles by peeling off layers of damaged skin.

A moderate chemical peel will contain ingredients such as glycolic acid or trichloroacetic acid, which penetrate the skin's surface, removing the damaged layer and allowing for new skin to form.

Topical retinoid creams

Packed full of vitamin A, retinoids not only improve sun-damaged skin and lighten freckles but can also help absorb UV rays and prevent new freckles from forming.

Prescription pigmentation creams

Not all freckle-fighting formulas are created equally.

Enter: Software's pigmentation treatment.

This personalised formula uses medical-grade ingredients like niacinamide for skin brightening, azelaic acid to fade acne marks and reduce inflammation, and a prescription fading ingredient to lighten dark spots.

And, it's perfect for lightening freckles. Simply take our text-based consult and our Australian health practitioners will create a custom formula based on your individual skin concerns so you can even out your skin tone and reduce the appearance of your freckles.

While it might be tempting to try and fade freckles through DIY treatments — like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or turmeric powder — it's best to rely on proven treatment methods for skin pigmentation.

Does vitamin C remove freckles?

Vitamin C, a "plentiful antioxidant" is widely used as a depigmentation agent. It helps to prevent melanin production and lighten skin discolouration, whilst having a brightening effect on the skin [8].

In fact, vitamin C is recommended as adjuvant therapy for people who undergo IPL treatment for their freckles [9]. Consider adding a vitamin C serum, like Software's Vitamin C + Ferulic Serum, to your skincare routine to brighten skin and fight dullness, dark spots and discolouration deep within the skin.

How to prevent freckles

Preventing freckles is possible and it all begins with protecting your skin from the sun — limiting sun exposure is one of the best ways to stop new freckles from forming [2].

This means:

  • Wearing sunscreen daily. Apply SPF50+ sunscreen to all exposed skin, every day, regardless of the weather. Swimming or you're sweating? Reapply every 2 hours. (Actually, if you're swimming, reapply every time you're dry after a swim) [2]. Software's Daily Sun Defence SPF50+ is a broad-spectrum sunscreen formulated with UVA and UVB filters, which may reduce the risk of photoageing, sun spots and some skin cancers.
  • Continue with the next steps of slip, slop, slap, seek, and slide. Slip on a shirt, wear a wide-brimmed hat when outside, seek shade where you can and wear your sunnies. As a bonus: this helps with protecting against skin cancer [9].
  • Avoid being out in direct sunlight during the peak UV hours.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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