Do you have freckles? If you don’t, chances are you probably know someone who does. But what are they exactly?

Freckles appear on the skin as small tan or light brown spots. While they usually appear on the face, they can also be found on any skin exposed to the sun, such as the neck and shoulders.

Freckles are natural and not harmful. Even though some people with freckles don’t like them and want to get rid of them, they’re certainly not a sign of any health problems.

Freckles are just skin cells that contain a pigment (color) called “melanin.” Melanin is a chemical made by skin cells called “melanocytes.” Melanin helps to protect the skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays by reflecting or absorbing them.

Freckles are triggered by exposure to sunlight. The sun’s ultraviolet radiation causes melanocytes to make more melanin, which can cause freckles to appear or become darker.

While anyone can have freckles, they are genetic. So if your parents have freckles, there’s a good chance you will, too. People with fair complexions (skin and eyes that are light in color) tend to have more freckles than people with darker complexions.

The melanin in your skin is what makes you look tan. The more melanin you have in your skin, the easier it is to get a tan.

People with fair complexions have less melanin in their skin to start with. When sunlight causes their melanocytes to make more melanin, they often develop freckles instead of getting an even suntan like people with darker complexions.

Some people have freckles that fade away in the winter and return every summer. Other people have freckles year-round. Freckles often tend to fade when people get older.


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    • Good morning, Victoria! Thanks for your awesome comment! We’re pretty sure the girl in the video wrote the song herself. She’s very talented, isn’t she? She may have had help with the musical part, but we are proud of her for her accomplishment! :-)

    • You’re right, Lauren! They’re also genetic, which means if your mom or dad have freckles, you might, too! There are LOTS of friends in Wonderopolis who have freckles! :-)

  1. WOW!!! I never knew that freckles were actually skin cells. My mom told me that if I didn’t want freckles, then I should put on more sunscreen. Then my dad told her that freckles were natural. I didn’t know who was right! I’ll have to tell them that they are both right!!!

    I am definitely going to send you a picture of myself. I have lots of freckles on my face!!!

    Maybe tomorrow’s wonder is about gardening gloves or flowers, I don’t know….

    • Hi, Meredith! That’s AWESOME that you can share what you have learned form today’s Wonder with your parents! We hope you are enjoying your summer! :-)

    • We bet your freckles are AWESOME, Lauren! Thank you so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis and posting your GREAT comments! We’re glad you’re our Wonder Friend! :-)

  2. My mom told me that freckles were parts of your skin that taned unevenly.I guess she was somewhat right.

    Also, now I know that the reason I don’t tan as well as some of my friends is because I have a lighter complexion (light skin and sky blue eyes that sometimes change color). :) Most of my friends tan well and don’t have very many freckles. They have tanner skin and darker eyes.

    I have LOTS of freckles on my cheek bones year ’round. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have freckles!

    • Hello, Grace! We think it’s great that different people have different complexions…variety is the spice of life! Freckles, no freckles, light skin, dark skin, brown eyes, green eyes, blue eyes…we appreciate the differences in ALL of our Wonder Friends! Thanks so much for commenting today…YOU ROCK! :-)

  3. Hi Wonderopolis Friends!
    I am a skin doctor and love the fact that you are interested in and talking about those cute little FRECKLES! Here’s is the deal: they are not harmful but they ARE a result of the sun…and when they pop up they are kind of telling you that you may be getting too much sun…so don’t forget to apply your sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) BEFORE you leave the house EVERY day and reapply it every 2-3 hours if you are active or swimming. While freckles are cute, they are sending you a little message, which is “don’t forget your sunscreen”!
    In fact, its a funny thing that we call them “Freckles” when you are young and “Age Spots” when you are older! But they are the same thing!
    Here’s to healthy skin for a lifetime!
    Dr. Davis

    • Thank you so much for your awesome comment, Dr. Davis! It is really neat to learn that freckles and age spots are the same thing. It’s a super sunny day here in Wonderopolis…we’re going to put on some more sunscreen right now! :-)

    • Ives had freckles all my life no kidding I even have a few in babby pics My moma aleays told me that to and it made me feel special when I was little till I was made fun of for having freckles and kids started calling me a ginger and soulless then I hated them but now I think there super cute

      • Freckles ARE super cute, Camille! It doesn’t make sense why some people make fun of others for having things like freckles, but we’re really glad you have come to like them again! We bet they’re really popping right about now after a summer season of sunshine! :D

    • Hello, Logan! The very creative girl in the video wrote a rap song that was also her book report! She is singing about a book called Freckle Juice by an author named Judy Blume. We thought the video was AWESOME! Thanks so much for commenting today! :-)

  4. I really liked this article. I have freckles, but nobody in my family does, and I don’t get in the sun very often. Why do I have them?

    • Hello, Kirsten! You have freckles because you are YOU! If you have fair skin, it just means that you have less melanin (pigment) in your skin than people with darker complexions. Sunlight causes your skin to make more melanin, and instead of getting an “all-over” tan like some people do, you get more WONDERful freckles! We think that’s AWESOME! We are glad that you visited this Wonder of the Day® today and left us a comment! :-)

    • We’re so glad you liked it, Wonder Girl! Thanks for letting us know! We think it’s cool that you have freckles! :-)

    • We like your style, Love the Planet! Hopefully all of those Wonder Friends with freckles have their very own good luck charms! Thanks for sharing your comment with us! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Inshirah! Thanks for sharing the Wonder with your freckle friend, that is so cool! You’re an awesome Wonder Friend, we are so glad you shared your comment! Have a marvelous Monday! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What causes freckles?
  • What is melanin?
  • Why do some people tan more easily than others?

Wonder Gallery

red headed girl_shutterstock_55577608Vimeo Video

Try It Out

In the classic book Freckle Juice by Judy Blume, Andrew wishes he had freckles. He thinks that if he had freckles, his mom wouldn’t know if his neck was dirty, and he wouldn’t have to wash it! What do you think? Would your mom be fooled by freckles?

Do you have freckles? If so, do you like them? Why or why not?

Each person has certain features that make him or her unique. Some people are tall, while others are short. Some people have straight hair, while others have curly hair. People can have black, blond, brown or red hair. They can also have blue, brown or green eyes.

What makes you unique? Ask your friends and family which features of yours they like best.

You might be surprised to learn what others like about you. Those freckles you might not like all that much might be the feature that a close friend loves the most about you!

When you’ve taken some time to think about what makes you unique, grab a few art supplies, and draw or paint a self-portrait. Be sure to include those features that make you… well… YOU!

When you’re finished, email or send us a copy of your picture. We’d love to see what our Wonder Friends look like!

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Still Wondering

How many people do you know who have freckles? Use Illuminations’ Freckle Face lesson to learn about collecting and recording data.


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