age spots vs freckles

Are Age Spots and Freckles Harmful?

If you have been noticing some brown spots suddenly appearing on the skin for the past few weeks, there’s a chance that those might be age spots or freckles. 

“BUT, uh which one is which? They look similar! How do I differentiate them?” 

For those who have been experiencing the same and are still confused between these two, here’s some fact check for you: 

Generally, age spots and freckles are two different skin conditions that become more prominent as we age, but in some cases for the latter, it may have developed at a young age, due to our genetics. 

Here’s what you should understand and how to differentiate between these two: 

Age Spots 

age spots on a face of old lady

Age spots or also known as liver spots are dark patches that often appear on areas that were highly exposed to the suns such as our face, hands, shoulders, and arms. Because of the excessive sun exposure, our skin produces melanin to protect the skin; resulting in the exposed area to turn brownish in colour.

Age spots are more common in the elderly (those over 40 years old), but we can still get them early if we spend a lot of time outside and didn’t use proper protection such as sunscreen.


freckles on the face

Similar to age spots, freckles often appear in the areas that get frequent sun exposure. Freckles are small brown spots that form as a result of the overproduction of melanin.

To ease your concern, freckles are harmless. It is not a sign of a health problem. Instead, freckles are just pigment cells that are usually tan or light brown, flat, and very small. Sometimes they do overlap which makes them look larger. 

Now that you know the definition of both, you might (still) be confused between these two as they somewhat, look similar? Yes, while they might all seem similar, there are some key differences. 

Let’s find out the differences and how to differentiate them! 

Age Spots VS Freckles 

SIZE/APPEARANCETypically larger in size (.2-2.0 centimetres) because it involves multiple pigmented cells lumped together. Small dark spots are usually less than 5 mm in diameter.
COLOURSBrown, grey or black on the skin.  Most are uniform in colour but vary depending on the skin tone. It can be red, tan, light brown, dark brown, black and others that is darker than the skin colour.
AREAS Usually appear on areas exposed to the sun – face, hands, shoulders and arms.Predominantly on the face, and on any skin that is/are exposed to the sun such as the arms and shoulders.
PREVENTIONUse a good quality sun cream with UVA and UVB protection and avoid sunbeds. Put on sun cream regularly and generously to prevent skin damage and accelerated ageing.

Are Age Spots and Freckles Harmful?

  • Age Spots

For age spots, they don’t require medical attention. However, it is recommended for you to seek for doctor’s advice if you notice the spots are black or have changed in appearance. It could be signs of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer. 

  • Freckles 

Freckles are neither harmful nor a sign of health problem. Moreover, most people who got freckles due to genetics and they think freckles are just “cute” and are proud of it – which is lovely

If you notice, there have been trends for faux freckles such as make-up tutorials, photo filters, and more!

How to Remove Age Spots and Freckles? 

how to remove age spots and freckles

If you aren’t happy with the spots on your skin, below are some of the ways to treat and zap them both away! 

Age Spots 

The age spots can be treated to lighten or remove them. And these include:

  1. Proper skincare and sunscreen: There are creams, lotions and serums that can help to fade and lighten the age spots such as products that contain hydroquinone, glycolic acid, or kojic acid. However, you need to use these products regularly for up to several months before you can notice the results.
  2. Medication: Some medications such as bleaching creams that contain hydroquinone can be applied along with retinoids to fade the spots over several months of usage. However, these ingredients may cause irritation to your skin.
  3. Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion: These two procedures sand down the surface layer of the skin to a smoother appearance. Dermabrasion is more aggressive than microdermabrasion. Please note that you may need a series of procedures to get a modest, temporary results.
  4. Chemical peel: As the name suggests, this method involves applying a chemical solution to remove the top layers of the skin. If you have sensitive skin, it may cause irritation, scarring, and infection to the skin.


Aside from some of the home remedies that you’ve been applying to treat your uneven skin tone, which over time helps to fade the appearance of freckles as well, you may try one of these treatments:

  1. Laser Treatment: This method is one of the most effective ways of removing freckles. Many freckles especially the new ones are often removed after one session, but you may need more treatment to remove the rest. Do note that long term, new freckles can appear if you do not use sunscreen generously.
  2. Chemical Peels: Similar to the one mentioned for age spots, chemical peels can also help in removing or significantly lightening freckles. Over time, this method also reveals a younger-looking and rejuvenated skin as it peels off old and damaged skin.
  3. Serum and sunscreen in your skincare routine: Choosing a proper serum and sunscreen AND using these two regularly can help to lighten our freckles. And these two do not just help with freckle reduction, but it helps in pigmentation and uneven skin tone as well.

All in all, please make sure to protect your skin from the sun as frequent and repeated sun exposure without generous usage of sunscreen can trigger these two skin conditions.

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