Why Babies Don’t Have Freckles


Article from Yahoo Parenting, by, Rachel Grumman Bener, published April 10, 2015

There’s nothing cuter than a kid with freckles but have you ever wondered why babies rarely have them?

Freckles are a phenomenon that occurs when genetically predisposed people (often those with fair skin, red hair, and light eyes) are exposed to UV light over time, according to Joyce Teng, MD, director of pediatric dermatology for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. The average age that children develop freckles is between two and four years old. “As kids get older, they start walking [on their own], doing more activities outdoors, and naturally have more sunlight exposure,” Teng tells Yahoo Parenting. This can trigger a smattering of freckles, particularly on children’s faces. While freckles are cute, they’re sadly a warning sign of sun damage.

That doesn’t mean that every freckle is on the verge of becoming skin cancer. “But freckles are a good indicator of how sensitive your skin is to sun exposure and whether you’re at a slightly higher risk,” says Teng.

Although it’s not completely understood why you almost never see infants with freckles, a look at how freckles are created may offer some insight: Melanocytes are cells that produce pigment in the skin, including freckles. “As kids get older, with increased UV exposure, the body starts to make more melanocytes, which work harder to produce pigment to protect [the skin, resulting in freckles in some],” explains Teng. “It’s possible that these cells are not mature enough yet [to produce freckles] in infants.”

Teng also notes that melanocytes only occur at the basal layer of skin, which is the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outer layer of skin). So sunlight doesn’t instantly trigger the formation of freckles. “The light gradually filters through the skin and activates melanocytes to make pigment darker than its neighboring cells—it takes time,” she says.

Bottom line: Sun damage in childhood increases the risk of skin cancer later on in life, so protect your baby. “The most important thing is to try to avoid direct sunlight at [midday] and use physical blocks, like shade and a hat,” she says. Although the general recommendation is to not use sunscreen on infants younger than six months old, Teng says it’s safe to use zinc oxide. “You see zinc oxide in diaper rash creams, and we don’t tell parents not to use diaper cream for the first six months,” she says. “Have babies wear a hat and a shirt and just use zinc oxide on the exposed areas. That amount won’t harm your baby.”

Discover more about Dermatology.


11 Responses to “Why Babies Don’t Have Freckles”

  1. Natalie McMillan

    My daughter is 6 months old now and she was born with a freckle on the top of her right thigh. I have one in the exact same place. I cannot find any information on this so any help would be appreciated. Many thanx.

    • Aubrey

      I’m wondering the same thing. My son was born this July with a freckle by his right eye just like me! All the nurses and my midwife were surprised by it and they did not seem concerned what so ever. I’m curious myself and am on the look out for an answer as well. If I stumble across anything I will let you know. I would not worry though, maybe just one of mama’so traits they inherited:)

    • Jasmine

      Well like they said in the paragraph it’s rare but some babies are born with freckles like yours you have the same dot because its genetic

    • Angela

      It’s possible that it isn’t a freckle but flat mole. My son was born with a dark brown speck that looked like a freckle inside his thigh crease. It gradually got a little bigger over the next year of his life and then slowed down. It began growing again when he was eight and we had a dermatology clinic look at it. It was a mole and they removed it so that it wouldn’t end up getting irritated for causing problems when he got older.

  2. Haritha

    Hi my son is born with brown hair and he he is very fair in colour. He has started developing lots of freckles on his nose which is disturbing him a lot. Even I have the same problem along with heavy tanning. Suggest a good sunscreen for him.

  3. Melissa

    Possibly a birthmark? I have a lot of freckles and one birthmark-it looks very similar to a freckle, but it’s larger and it’s been there since birth so I know it’s not a freckle. My newborn has a birthmark on her elbow-again it looks like a light colored freckle-but larger.

  4. Siobhan Wiles

    I didn’t have freckles until I was 14. I had blonde hair and then it changed ginger. I went to the doctors 6 months ago and when I was blonde my skin wasn’t sensitive and gingers do have sensitive skin.

  5. Kendall D

    My mother told me that I was born with many freckles on my head, is it possible that me being born with freckles has something to do with my medical history?

    • Alex

      Well that depends om your medical history of course, but like some others I was born with pitch black hair, and then it kinda fell out and I had white blonde hair. Some birth traits you lose or develop over time into something different. I don’t have any medical proof of course but I don’t think it’s related to your medical history. It’s just one of those things that is, you know?

  6. Adrian Jones

    It’s great you talked about how younger children–particularly babies–rarely get freckles or other birthmarks on their faces. Seeing these on a baby’s face is usually a sign of skin damage, and could lead to expensive doctor’s appointments if not treated properly. The same would apply to port wine stains, also known to be another variety of birthmarks. While birthmarks are mostly innocent patches of skin, some are known to actually be the cause of certain diseases so it’s important to get them checked up as early as possible. While I don’t have any birthmarks that I know of, getting them checked is always a good idea.


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