Freckles and mole are often considered the same, but they’re not. Finding the key differences is crucial for knowing their causes and the best treatment options. Ultraviolet rays of the sun, environmental toxins, genetics, and unhygienic skin care are the leading causes of these skin problems. Differentiatiation can be done based on the texture, color, size, or shape of freckles and moles. Although, usually these skin issues are benign and perfectly safe, but several symptoms call quick attention to prevent future complications.
Let’s look at the complete guide for freckle vs mole including similarities, differentiation, causes, and prevention tips!
Freckle Vs Mole: The Key Differences
What are Freckles?
Freckles are primarily small pigmented pale brown patches on your skin pertaining to a higher level of melanin than the surrounding cells. They may develop on any skin type but fair skin people are more likely to have freckles. Infact, fair-skinned people may develop these spots at a very early age. They are generally harmless and can be caused by excessive exposure to the sun rays or certain genetic factors.
Also read: Causes and Treatment of Hyperpigmentation
What are Moles?
Mole or nevus is the type of skin lesion appearing as tiny dark brown, tan or black spots. A mole is characterized by the accumulation of melanocytes (cells responsible for giving skin its color) existing alone or in clusters. Their shape varies from oval to round. These marks can be congenital or might develop in 25-30 years of your age. With time they might darken in color or change from flat to bumpy skin growths.
What are the Differentiating Factors of Freckles and Moles?
Some key points are mentioned here to indicate prominent differences between freckle vs mole based on the following factors:
The size of a mole or nevus is almost 6mm or 1/4th of an inch which is almost equal to the size of a pencil eraser. Freckles are even shorter than moles in diameter as their size is less than 5mm.
Freckles, mostly have a color range depending upon the skin color of the person having them. They are usually light or dark brown, red or black.
Moles on the other hand, appear as tiny dark brown spots on skin but they might darken in color or completely lose it over time. They can also be reddish-brown, tan, or flesh-colored. Moles darken in response to various factors like environmental changes, pregnancy, and aging.
Freckles always appear in the form of flat spots on the skin but, he texture of moles is either smooth or wrinkled. Sometimes they are flat-surfaced, while at times, they appear bumpy with hair emerging.
Freckles may appear on your face, neck, chest, or arms; however, moles can be formed anywhere on the body. A mole may also form on your scalp, armpits, genital areas, fingers, or other places.
Freckles have well-defined edges and are irregular in shape. Moles are dome-shaped, round, or oval without distinct boundaries. Moreover, freckles usually appear in the form of groups, whereas moles grow individually.
Cancerous or Non-Cancerous
Freckles are non-cancerous and never change to melanoma.On the other hand, Moles are benign and harmless skin lesions, but if their cells get damaged, they might change to melanoma.
Types of Moles
Congenital Moles: They are present since birth and are quite common in occurrence as every 1 in 100 people have them. They have a greater tendency to become melanoma or cancer.
Dysplastic Nevus or Atypical Moles: This type is considered abnormal as they have uneven boundaries and surfaces. Dysplastic moles are relatively bigger (more than 6mm) and sometimes appear colorless. Unlike other mole types, atypical moles consistently change their shape, size, and color. Moreover, becoming extremely itching can be a warning sign of the severity of dysplastic moles.
Acquired or Common Moles: They develop on your skin right after birth at anywhere on your skin. Usually, fair-skinned people often develop 10-40 acquired moles on their skin which can be increased later in life due to multiple factors such as unprotected exposure to sun rays and environmental pollution. They aren’t cancerous, but if their number exceeds 50, you need to consult a doctor.
Spitz Moles or Melanocytic naevus: They’re are rare, non-cancerous skin growths that usually develops below 35 years of age. These reddish-brown to pink-colored, bumpy, and dome-shaped moles are hard to differentiate from melanoma without a biopsy. They may fade away over the course of few years by getting careful medical monitoring.
Types of freckles
Ephelides: These reddish-brown or tan-colored freckles are mainly genetic or might be due to cumulative sun exposure appearing first in your childhood. Their size is mostly 1-2mm and they lack borders. These sunspots fade away with the onset of winter or completely vanish with age. ephelides are mostly seen on the neck, face, arms, and chest.
Solar lentigines: They’re also known as age spots (as they appear after you turn 50) or liver spots (as they might indicate some liver malfunctioning). Lentigines are light yellow to brown in pigmentation and rarely fade away. Their edges are quite distinct and they exist in any body part that gets exposed to the sun.
How to Get Rid of Moles and Freckles?
Procedures for Mole Removal
- Freezing involves using liquid nitrogen for non-cancerous moles to be removed from your skin. This process takes 1-3 weeks to heal your skin and return to normal
- Burning is characterized by the use of an electric current to burn the skin right where the moles are. It might take several sessions for you to get rid of moles completely.
- Shaving is used to rip the mole off your skin using a surgical blade. It’s the most common way to get rid of moles with raised surfaces.
- Excision involves the ripping off of the entire mole and the cut goes deep down to the subcutaneous fat layer. The skin is then properly sutured and the mole is examined for potential cancers.
Procedures for Freckle Removal
- Laser Treatment: 1064 Q-Switched Nd YAG laser is considered the most effective procedure to remove freckles as it reportedly lightens these spots up to 50%.
- Cryosurgery: entails the use of extreme cold attained with liquid nitrogen to destroy abnormal skin cells. This is done without anesthesia and requires minimal recovery time. It might cause bleeding or blistering but rarely leaves any scars.
- Topical Fading &Retinoid Creams: Fading or bleaching Creams that contain 2% hydroquinone are useful for freckle removal as this component hinders melanin formation and fades the dark skin areas. Retinoid is a vitamin A compound that heals skin damaged by the sun and fades freckles. Studies reveal that retinoid ensures photoprotection by absorbing UV-B.
Can Freckles Turn Into Moles?
Freckles can’t be converted into moles, or vice versa, as the cause of both skin problems varies. Freckles mostly appear due to long-term sun exposure, while moles develop due to the accumulation of melanocytes, so they can’t be modified.
When to Visit Your Dermatologist?
If you notice any unusual changes in the structure or appearance of freckles and moles, you should immediately visit your dermatologist. Generally, the size above 6mm, pain, inflammation, or bleeding can be worrying signs that must be addressed as soon as possible. Early checkups can help you easily treat the problem and can also be essential to relax your mind.
Knowing freckle vs. mole differences can be tricky as the distinction can be minute. However, once you point out the difference and possible causes, it becomes easy for you to eliminate these skin problems efficiently.