What’s The Difference Between Freckles And Age Spots?

Know more about what’s the difference between freckles and age spots? what causes freckles on the face? what is the treatment for dark spots and freckles?
AuthorBy Wendy Gould

Last Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Freckles And Age Spots - Image/Shutterstock

One of the most common skin issues is skin discoloration on face and other body parts like the neck and arms.

Especially as we grow older, our skin becomes more prone to damage due to excessive sun exposure.

This, along with practices or foods that cause skin inflammation, may lead to the abnormal darkening of the skin. Some symptoms of red skin or rosacea could also arise.

As with any skin issue, hyperpigmentation skin conditions come in many forms.

These include freckles and age spots. Although these two seem similar, the causes and treatments are somehow different.

There are also various ways on how to fade freckles and age spots.

To know the actual difference between the two and the best way to get rid of spots, continue reading this article!

What Is Hyperpigmentation As a Skin Disorder?

Melanin is the pigment on our skin that gives its color.

Melanin is produced by the skin cells as a protective barrier against the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

When the skin is exposed to the sun, and these rays activate the pigment, tanning, and dark spots appear to protect our skin from overexposure, and possibly even skin cancer.

This skin darkening reaction is called hyperpigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation results from the overproduction of melanin.

It is one of the major causes of dark spots on the face.

Upon exposure to UV light, melanin is produced, resulting in tanning.

Sometimes, melanosomes, or the part of the cells that produce melanin, tend to form clusters and the melanin produced forms deposits that we see as dark patches or spots on the skin.

These hyperpigmentation spots may take different forms that appear on the face, neck, and hands.

What Are Freckles And Age Spots?

Freckles and age spots are two of the forms of hyperpigmentation on the skin.

Age spots, also known as liver spots or lentigines, are flat, harmless, and painless discolorations that range from 2mm to 30mm in diameter and can be light brown, dark brown, grayish, or black.

These are caused by sun exposure over the years.

Causes Of Skin Darkening And Age Spots Include:

  • Old age
  • Old Age Dark Spots On Face

    Old Age Dark Spots On Face – Image/Shutterstock

  • Overexposure to UV light or the sun’s rays
  • Overexposure To UV Light Or The Sun’s-Rays

    The Sun’s-Rays – Image/Shutterstock

  • Frequent use of tanning beds
Frequent Use Of Tanning Beds

Frequent Use Of Tanning Beds – Image/Shutterstock

Freckles, on the other hand, are flattened red, reddish-brown, or dark brown spots also known as ephelides.

These usually appear on the face, especially in the area of the nose and cheeks. They may also appear on other body parts such as the neck, back, and shoulders.

Typically, freckles only appear during the summer or sunny seasons and disappear or fade towards winter.

Related: 5 Must Have Skin Care Products For Spring To Get Glowing Skin

Causes Of Freckles On Face And Other Body Parts Include Any Or a Combination Of This Two

  • An inherited genetic trait of people with fair skin.
  • Exposure to the sun that may lead to or darken freckles.

Who Get Freckles And Dark Spots?

Age spots or dark spots are common in adults and become more evident as we age. By 60 years old, 90% of all people will have age spots.

To also answer the question, “When do age spots start?”, they usually appear on people 35 years old or older.

Freckles, on the other hand, may form early in the childhood of people with fair skin, naturally red or blonde hair, and light-colored eyes.

They affect all ages but typically become darker or more pronounced in adulthood.

At What Age Do Freckles Appear?

On average, freckles start to develop in children between two to four years old. Due to increased sunlight exposure throughout adolescence and adulthood, freckles become more apparent.

What Is The Difference Between Freckles And Age Spots?

The following list summarizes the main difference between age spots and freckles:

  • Age spots, although they may appear as brown spots that look like freckles, do not usually fade or disappear during months with less sunlight.
  • Age spots also show microscopic changes in the area between the two skin layers: the dermis and epidermis. According to some studies, these changes are not present on the skin of people with freckles.
  • Some studies also show that on skin with age spots, there are increased numbers of melanocytes or melanin-producing cells while there is a normal melanocyte population on freckled skin.
  • Age spots are also considered signs of aging while freckles may appear on young children and even babies.
  • Age spots may also affect people of all skin tones and colors, but freckles are almost exclusively found on fair skin.
  • Freckles are also a lot smaller than age spots.

Both freckles and age spots also differ from other similar-looking hyperpigmentation skin disorders like melasma and melanoma.

Melasma is characterized by spots due to hormonal imbalances or irregularities.

Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, may start like age spots but progressively develop into raised, darker, larger, mole-like formations on the skin that are asymmetric and irregular in shape.

Related: Skincare After Microneedling: What You Need To Know

What Can Be Done As Treatment For Dark Spots And Freckles?

While age spots and freckles are both generally harmless, you may find them embarrassing or annoying and want them removed. Knowing the difference between the two will also help you to identify potential treatment methods.

Some of the common ways to remove age spots or freckles include:

  • Wearing sunscreen at all times.
  • Wearing Sunscreen At All Times

    Wearing Sunscreen At All Times – Image/Shutterstock

  • Skin lightening products with vitamin C [1], vitamin A [2], kojic acid, licorice root extracts, and other active ingredients.
  • Using products that contain hydroquinone.
  • Light chemical peels.
  • Microdermabrasion.
  • Microdermabrasion

    Microdermabrasion – Image/Shutterstock

  • Trichloroacetic acid or TCA chemical peels.
  • Fraxel Laser Therapy. However, if you have melasma, this is probably not the best treatment as it can worsen the condition.
  • Fraxel Laser Therapy

    Fraxel Laser Therapy – Image/Shutterstock

  • Cryotherapy is a cheaper, more reliable, more specific method to remove age spots with minimal side effects. However, it is not the ideal method to remove freckles.

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More Spotless Skin Tips:

  • Minimize sunlight exposure or the use of tanning beds.
  • Use protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and a wide-brimmed hat during outdoor activities.
  • Keep your skin hydrated and moisturized.
  • Choose makeup and other cosmetic products with built-in SPF protection of at least 30.
  • There are also some advantages of skin whitening products in removing or reducing age spots and freckles.
  • Try home remedies like natural masks and scrubs with vegetables, honey, vitamin E, and fruits like lemon to reduce dark spots and lighten freckles. Some of the fastest skin whitening foods that you can use on your face and skin are potatoes, kiwi, citrus, tomatoes, papaya, soybeans, milk, bananas, nuts, and berries.

Related: 5 Unknown Facts Everyone Should Know About Skin Discoloration


Que: Can freckles go away?

Ans: Freckles that fade away almost completely in the winter and return in the summer.

Que: What are age spots on the face?

Ans: Age spots are small, flat dark areas on the skin.

Que: What deficiency causes age spots?

Ans: Vitamin E deficiency.

Que: How can I remove dark spots on my face naturally?

Ans: 7 Natural Remedies To Get Rid Of Dark Spots:

  • Drink Plenty Of Water.
  • Lemon Juice And Yogurt Face Mask.
  • Buttermilk.
  • Aloe Vera.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Papaya.
  • Honey.


Overall, the best way how to prevent getting moles and freckles is to minimize your exposure to sunlight.

However, in cases when you cannot avoid the sun. There are several treatment methods and tips to remove dark skin patches that you can try for beautiful, spotless skin!

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