Freckle or Sunspot: What's the Difference

July 15, 2019

Summer is all about spending time outside and soaking up the sun. Although a little bit of vitamin D is good for your health, too much sun exposure puts you at risk of developing a variety of things including skin cancer, premature fine lines and wrinkles, sunspots, and freckles. The best thing you can do is stay out of the sun but since we aren't asking you to do the impossible when it's so lovely outside, make sure that you wear a broad spectrum sunscreen.

One of the questions that our patients ask us about sun damage is how to tell the difference between a sunspot and a freckle, and how to tell if they are cancerous or not. Let's take a closer look at a few ways that you can distinguish between the two.

What Does a Sunspot Look Like?

Sunspots, age spots, or liver spots are dark flat spots that can appear all across the skin.

Atypically, as patient ages, they start to get more sunspots because they expose their skin to the sun more and more. Sunspots can appear all across the body including on the face, hands, arms, neck, legs, and back. The great thing about sunspots is that they aren't harmful, but they can make a patient feel self-conscious. With IPL's and other laser treatments, we can usually get rid of sunspots or prevent them from darkening.

What does a freckle look like?

Freckles are small, raised dots that can appear all across your skin. Some freckles may protrude from the surface a little further than others, but they typically are harmless. During monthly skin cancer checks, we encourage patients to look for new freckles and to check their freckles for things like growth, darkening, ridged edges, pain, or itching. If you notice any of these changes with your freckles or moles, contact our office right away to have them looked at. In our book, being careful is the best thing you can do.


Freckles and sunspots are both caused by the sun, but they are two different things. If you want to learn a little bit more about how you can protect your skin or if you want to schedule a skin cancer check, contact our Chevy Chase office and call us at 301-656-SKIN (7546).

Category: Skin Cancer, Skin Care

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