Here’s Why Some People Have Freckles And Others Don’t
Love ’em or hate ’em, freckles cover many of our cheeks and shoulders during the summer months when our sun exposure is high. But why do some people seem to have thousands of these “angel kisses” sprinkled across their bodies when others maintain a perfectly smooth tan?
It all comes down to our genes and how they react with the sun’s rays. We all have melanin in our skin, which is the pigment protein responsible for protecting us from UV ray damage, typically darkening the skin in the process. In some people, melanocytes (or the cells that produce melanin) are spread out evenly throughout the skin, but others have melanocytes gathered in clumps, leading those spots to darken faster than the rest of the skin, thus creating a freckly appearance.
Because melanin reacts to sun exposure, the areas of the body that tend to get the most sun are the areas that tend to have the most freckles, like the face and shoulders. Along that same line of thinking, freckles can also be a visual indication of how sensitive skin is to sunlight, which is why it’s common to see paler individuals with more freckles.
This reliance on sunlight for the skin’s reaction also means that no one is born with freckles (which we never actually noticed before). It’s not until you absorb some rays that your skin can begin to naturally spot in this way.
Many people associate a face full of freckles with a head full of red hair. Red hair certainly doesn’t cause sun sensitivity or freckling, but red hair and spotty melanocytes are controlled by the same gene called MC1R. Put simply, the MC1R gene is a set of instructions for the body in making the MC1R protein, which sits on the outside of melanocytes. Its primary function to make sure the body has a balance of pigment in both hair and skin.
Now, because freckles correlate to skin’s sun sensitivity as well as an uneven distribution of melanin protection, it’s safe to say that freckled skin also presents a higher risk of skin cancer. Those who freckle should be screened carefully and frequently by their dermatologist. And no matter who you are, you should always load up on that SPF before venturing outside on a summer day (even the cloudy ones).
Whether you want to embrace your freckles or despise them until they begin to fade in the wintertime, know that they are a part of who you are down to a genetic level. As long as you spend time in the sun, freckles will be a unique aspect of your appearance. And believe it or not, there are plenty of people out there who are envious of your natural makeup.
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