When you think about freckles, what do you think of? Fair-skinned children whose mothers slather sunblock on them? Bright, shocking red hair? Maybe even Pippi Longstocking?
As a beauty feature, freckles are commonly associated with fair-skinned people, leading to the question: “Can black people have freckles?”
The answer is yes—there are many black people with freckles, as well as people with other skin tones who have freckles, too.
In this article, I’ll break down what causes freckles and who has them. I’ll also provide images of black people with freckles to demonstrate the different skin tones that have freckles.
Can Black People Have Freckles? 3 Examples of Freckles on a Black Person
Check out these three images to see examples of how freckles look on a black person.
What Are Freckles?
Freckles, also known as ephelides, are clusters of melanized skin. Freckles have melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) that overproduce melanin granules which change the color of outer skin cells.
What does that mean? Basically, freckles are bunched-up clusters of melanin-producing cells. When UV rays hit these bunched-up clusters of cells, they’ll darken in color, changing the pigment of small parts of your skin. Freckles are triggered by sunlight, meaning that they develop as you grow and expose your skin to the sun.
Because freckles appear after exposure to sun, many people associate them with sun damage. However, freckles are actually not related to sun damage at all. Freckles can, though, disguise lentigo, or sun spots, which can be a sign of cancer. Regardless of your skin tone and the presence of freckles, you should always protect your skin with a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or higher.
Not just anyone can have freckles. In order to have freckles, you must have a variation of the MC1R gene. People of all heritages and skin tones can have this genetic mutation.
Why Are Freckles More Commonly Associated With Fair Skin?
If there are black people with freckles, why are freckles so predominantly associated with people with fair skin? Why aren't there many examples of black people with freckles?
The answer lies in genetics.
The variation of the MC1R gene that causes freckles is passed down genetically. People of Celtic heritage, who typically have very fair hair and skin, are more likely to have this genetic mutation than other groups. However, people of African, Mediterranean, Asian, and Hispanic descent can also have freckles. The genetic mutation simply isn’t as common in these groups as it is in groups of Celtic descent, so you don't see as many Asian or black people with freckles.
Can Freckles Disappear?
Just as freckles appear in the light, they can fade in the lack of sun exposure. Many people whose freckles appear during the summer often watch those same freckles fade over the winter.
On the other hand, there are plenty of people whose freckles stay year-round after they first appear. Every person’s freckles are slightly different.
4 Tips for Taking Care of Skin with Freckles
While freckles aren’t associated with skin damage, they can make you more prone to getting other, malignant types of skin conditions. Follow these four tips to take care of your skin if you have freckles.
#1: Always Wear Sunscreen
Both fair skinned and black people with freckles (and really everyone) should always wear sunscreen. Look for a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or higher.
If you’re trying to limit the appearance of freckles, sunscreen will help guard your skin from the UV rays that cause freckles to appear. Sunscreen will also help prevent dangerous skin damage.
#2: Visit a Dermatologist
If you freckle easily, your skin will also be more prone to skin cancer and sun damage. You should visit a dermatologist at least once a year to receive a skin cancer screening. Some types of skin cancer look like freckles, so it’s important to visit a doctor who can help you tell the difference.
#3: Perform Monthly Self-Examinations
Just like women should perform monthly breast self exams, people with freckles should perform monthly skin exams.
You don’t have to do anything fancy for a skin exam—simply make note of the freckles, moles, and other skin markings you have. The more aware you are of your body, the more likely you are to notice when something has appeared or changed.
Exfoliating helps remove dead skin cells and allows for healthy skin turnover. Exfoliating will help remove dead, dull-looking skin and help your other skin care products, like sunscreen and moisturizers, work better.
Recap: Can Black People Have Freckles?
Freckles are caused by a variation on the MC1R gene—and anyone, with any skin color or heritage, can have them.
Freckles are clusters of melanin-producing cells that appear when exposed to UV rays. If you have freckles, it’s important to take good care of your skin by using sunscreen to prevent from sun damage.
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