Freckles are one of the body’s mysteries. They appear most only faces, but they can also appear on backs and shoulders and other parts of the body. Some freckles are intense and dark, while others are light and barely noticeable. But where do freckles come from?

There are several reasons why freckles appear, and a lot of it depends on who your parents are and how much time you spend out in the sun. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about freckles, where they come from, and how you can expect them to change during the year and as you get older.

Before we get too far, you should know: There’s nothing harmful or dangerous about freckles. Some people don’t like them for cosmetic reasons, and that’s just fine. Others like freckles and even find them attractive. Just know that freckles pose no threat. That is, there’s nothing to fear from having freckles.


Melatonin: The Cause of Our Freckles

Melatonin is the dark pigment in our skin, and humans get freckles when melatonin isn’t evenly distributed. People with dark skin have more melanin, and it’s harder for freckles to form (or at least to be noticeable) because of the large amount of melanin.

It’s a little bit different when you have fair skin. Because you have less melanin, it’s harder for the melanin you have to distribute evenly — which is why fair-skinned people are more likely to see freckles appear or grow darker when the sun activates them.


Are Freckles Genetic?

Yes, freckles are absolutely genetic. If your parents have freckles, it’s more than likely that you’re going to have freckles, too.

Which brings up a related question: Why do redheads have freckles more often than others? The answer is pretty simple: freckles and red hair emerge from the same gene (MC1R). Essentially, that one gene controls both the color and tone of your hair and your skin. If that gene is making your hair red, there’s a strong correlation to it making freckles appear on your skin, too.


Do Freckles Change Over Time?

Freckles can change over time, though there’s no guarantee that yours will. Many see freckles emerge in the summer when spending more time in the sun, while the freckles begin to fade as winter begins. That said, some people have freckles year-round, and they never really same to grow more pronounced or to fade.

Freckles do start fading as people get older. Don’t get freckles confused with sun and age spots, which can grow more pronounced as individuals get older. The typical human will see more sun and age spots but less freckles as he or she gets older.


Are Babies Born With Freckles?

No, babies are not born with freckles. Freckles are only activated by sunlight. If you have freckles and you expect that your child will have them, too, you won’t see your child’s freckles appear until between ages 2 and 4. It’s during that age window that most children are active enough and spending enough time outdoors to see freckles appear.


Final Thoughts on Where Freckles Come From

While freckles are not harmful in and of themselves, they do indicate how sensitive a person is to sunlight. If you have lots of freckles, you need to wear lots of sunscreen and limit your exposure to the sun — because it’s going to be easier for you to burn.

What do you think about freckles? Let us know in the comments below, or send a message using our contact page.