Moles and Freckles

Moles and freckles are small, usually brown, spots on the skin made up of melanin – the chemical that gives skin its pigment (or colour) and which protects it from the sun.

What’s the difference between a mole and a freckle?

Freckles are smaller and flatter than most moles and can be a reddish or beige colour, as well as brown. Moles can differ in appearance from person to person; they can be raised, flat, smooth or rough and can sometimes have hair growing out of them.

What causes moles and freckles?

People aren’t born with freckles; they develop them after exposure to the sun. People can be born with moles but they also often appear during your teenage years, due to all the extra hormones at work in your body.

Freckles are especially common on areas most exposed to the sunlight, such as your face and shoulders.

Are moles and freckles ugly?

You might sometimes feel self-conscious about your moles or freckles, but they are certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

Lots of successful and attractive celebrities have freckles and moles, including actresses Lindsay Lohan, Sienna Miller and Lucy Lu, supermodel Cindy Crawford, actors Matt Damon and Robert De Niro, and footballer Fernando Torres.

We’re all different, and freckles and moles can add character and attractiveness to a face; there’s nothing ugly about them at all.

Are moles and freckles dangerous?

Moles can very rarely turn into a type of skin cancer called melanoma. So if you notice a mole changing colour, size or shape, or becoming itchy or painful, you should make an appointment to go and see your GP to get it checked out.

In the UK, a small proportion of people develop this type of skin cancer and if it’s caught early enough, it is completely treatable.

Freckles cannot become cancerous but, as they occur on skin that has been exposed to the sun, they are a sign of skin damage.

You should make sure that you use sun cream and cover up with a T-shirt and hat in sunny weather, even if you don’t have skin that’s prone to freckles.

Can I get rid of moles or freckles?

Many moles disappear in time and freckles are often only really noticeable in the summer when the skin is most exposed to the sun.

Although lotions and creams are available to ‘treat’ freckles and moles, most are ineffective.

To prevent more freckles from appearing and to protect yourself from skin cancer, cover up in the sun and use high factor sun cream.

Who can help?

If you have a mole that’s changed size, shape or colour, or that has become painful or itchy, make an appointment with your GP to get it checked out.

You can find out more about moles and freckles at BBC The Surgery.

Need2Know also has some useful advice and information on moles and freckles.

Check out NHS Choices for information on the diagnosis and treatment of problem moles.