Why Do People Have Freckles?

We’ve all heard about the ever-increasing power of the UV rays pelting down on us from the sky and what we need to do to avoid being harmed by them. Options include: slathering on a 60+ SPF sunscreen the second our feet hit the floor in the AM, sporting a whole suit of protective clothing while at the beach, or staying indoors or in the shade during peak hours.

But for those of us who unconsciously, or deliberately, expose ourselves to the sun, our skin will react differently depending on our genes, the intensity of the UV rays and the amount of time our skin is exposed. Maybe some of you get an ‘80s-inspired golden gleam, while others hit insta-lobster status in a matter of minutes.

Some of us might even develop a fresh crop of freckles after we’ve been out and about. This could be an Anne Shirley-esque sprinkle, or so many that when the freckles join and become one, we can trick people into thinking we’ve gotten a permanent tan. But what exactly are freckles and why do we get ‘em in the first place? And how come some people might only get one or two, while others get all the rest?

avemario / Shutterstock.com
avemario / Shutterstock.com

What Is Skin For?

To start, it’s probably wise to get a better understanding of the skin in regards to what it is and what its role is in the human body. Get ready for your next fun party factoid: the skin is actually an organ, and it’s the largest one in the human body! Its coverage extends to approximately 20 square feet and it has three main functions: protect the inside of the body from our outside world, regulate our temperature via fat insulation and sweat, as well as to allow us to feel and sense things through its extensive network of nerves.

The skin isn’t just what you can see on the outside; it’s actually made up of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis and the hypodermis. More on these layers on the next page…

turlakova / Shutterstock.com
turlakova / Shutterstock.com

The Skin’s Layers

Working from the inside out, let’s start with the hypodermis, also called our subcutaneous tissue. This layer contains collagen and fat tissues and its main role is shock absorption and temperature regulation (which is the excuse we can give in the winter: we need our fat to stay warm). It also attaches the skin to the underlying muscle and allows for movement.

The next layer is the dermis, which is pretty darn busy. It basically holds us all together with collagen and elastic fibres, contains our nerves, blood vessels and oil glands, as well as hair follicles and sweat glands.

The third layer, the epidermis, is the layer you can see on the back of your hand, your leg and the tip of your nose! It is pretty tough and is actually waterproof due to the natural oils produced by the layer below! It’s also our first line of defense against bacteria and viruses and has a direct line to our immune system should we get a cut and that protective barrier is compromised.

Elen Bushe / Shutterstock.com
Elen Bushe / Shutterstock.com
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