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What Are the Common Causes of Big Freckles?

By Madeleine A.
Updated May 21, 2024
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Big freckles are typically caused by sun exposure, heredity, and sometimes, hormonal fluctuations. The biggest culprit, however, is the sun. When certain skin cells are damaged by the effects of the sun, the result is freckling. Tanning can exacerbate existing freckles and even cause very noticeable and big freckles. In addition, people with light complexions are more likely to acquire big freckles than those with darker complexions.

Sometimes, freckles fade in the winter, only to come back during the summer, and they also typically fade with age. Freckles can be found anywhere on the body, and big freckles are typically more common on the shoulders and back. Freckles are not usually found on babies, and are generally noticed more on people who have not yet reached puberty. Sun spots, also known as liver spots are a type of freckle that don't fade during the winter, but are present all year round. They are also more prevalent in the aging population.

Certain people find freckles attractive, while others sometimes seek ways to hide them. Freckles can be covered with make-up or concealer, however, hiding big freckles can be more of a challenge. Applying lemon juice to the freckled area can help fade freckles, but results can take time. Fade creams or bleaching creams are also effective in lightening freckles. These preparations are available over-the-counter, however, a dermatologist should be consulted before using a fade cream to determine its safety.

Topical retinoids can be used to fade big freckles, however, results are not typically seen for at least six months. Retinoids are available by prescription, and they may also produce side effects such as skin irritation, redness, and flaking. Staying out of the sun may prevent future freckles from appearing, however, hormonal changes of pregnancy and menopause may spur them on. Other ways to discourage freckle formation are to wear sunscreen, to keep the arms and legs covered when outdoors, and to wear a sun hat.

When new big freckles are noticed, or if freckles begin to change color or shape, or begin bleeding, a dermatologist should be consulted as soon as possible. These symptoms may be signs of skin cancer and will need to be evaluated. Most skin cancers, if caught and treated early, are curable, however, medical evaluation is necessary. Laser surgery can also be an effective means of lightening freckles, however, elective cosmetic procedures are typically not covered under most medical insurance policies.

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Discussion Comments

By candyquilt — On Jul 17, 2013

@donasmrs-- Sunlight is definitely the number one cause of big freckles, but hormone fluctuations, toxins in the form of medications, pollution and unhealthy foods can also cause them.

I developed big freckles during my pregnancy from hormonal changes even though I didn't get out in the sun much.

By ZipLine — On Jul 16, 2013

@donasmrs-- Are your freckles bigger or just darker? I have freckles too but they usually get darker from sun exposure, not bigger. I also get new freckles when I'm in the sun too much.

Your freckles should get lighter/smaller but it will take a long time. It usually takes mine six to nine months to fade. They always get darker in the summer and fade during winter.

If your freckles continue to grow and get abnormally big, you have to see a doctor. I don't think that's normal, there is definitely something wrong in that case.

By donasmrs — On Jul 15, 2013

I have some freckles on my cheeks. I noticed that recently, a couple of them are looking bigger than they were. I was outside more than usual this past week, and even though I wore sunscreen, the sun was very strong.

If I avoid the sun for a while, will my freckles go back to their regular size?

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