In the briefest of terms, freckles are caused by the sun. We all have pigment-producing cells in our skin called melanocytes, who feed this pigment to keratinocytes (the normal skin cells that form the outer barrier of our skin.) This barrier protects us from environmental damage and the sun's powerful rays - this is why we often tan when exposed by the sun, as it's our bodies natural way of protecting itself. (Technically speaking tanning is a bad thing and a sign of damage, even though we associated a sunkissed glow with health and radiance.) When our melanocytes become damaged by the sun, we produce abnormal collections of melanin pigment in the skin: freckles! These sit in the top layer of skin and will become more prominent with exposure to the sun - as our bodies will produce even more melanin, causing them to appear darker.
Although genetics do have some impact on the likelihood of developing freckles (paler skintones are much more likely to see them popping up,) they're not the only factor. Sunscreen can help reduce the number and severity of freckles, so being as sun safe as possible will keep them at bay. Although there are treatments available to remove freckles (laser light therapy being the most common,) the majority of creams claiming to reduce freckles only 'bleach' the skin and cause the surrounding area to be affected too. My personal opinion is that freckles are absolutely gorgeous and really bring character to a face, but for many they're seen as an imperfection they'd rather see the back of. As we step into the warmer weeks it's more important than ever to stay sun safe, so make sure you're applying those facial SPFs regualarly (check out my personal faves here,) regardless of whether you're freckle free or not.
Are you a freckly beauty? Do you love or loathe your freckles, or don't they bother you at all?
*image taken from a beautiful selection of freckled lovelies here.