Skin Color and Freckles
Wondering what determines your skin color or skin tone? ---- MELANIN ----
This substance is a dark pigment in the top layers of the skin that is produced to protect you from the damaging effects of sun exposure and sun damage.
So, people with dark skin color have high concentrations of this dark brown pigment. Others with lighter skin color have low concentrations or almost colorless pigmentation that can appear reddish (due to blood vessels beneath the skin).
The Medical Dictionary" defines melanin as "any of various black, dark brown, reddish brown, or yellow pigments of animal or plant structures (as skin, hair, the choroid, or a raw potato when exposed to air); especially : any of numerous animal pigments that are essentially polymeric derivatives of indole formed by enzymatic modification of tyrosine."
Some people (and animals like this albino cat) are occasionally born without any melanin at all and are called "ALBINOS" (or "ALBINSIM"). The result is very light to white hair, skin, and eyes. This is a genetic condition. (Read more about the genetics of red hair on my "Genes" page.)
Your genes, or genetics, determines skin color. Plus, the amount of sun exposure you get will also cause your skin to tan and darken.
Conveniently, a doctor by the name of Thomas Fitzpatrick of Harvard Medical School put together a Skin Type Classification scale in 1975 that lists 6 skin types for humans. These general guidelines are listed below, starting with the lightest:
- Type I: Very fair light skin tone, or “Celtic”. Often and easily burns, never to rarely tans. Usually have freckles, red or blond hair, blue or green eyes. Because of this, this type is extremely susceptible to skin damage and resultant skin cancers.
- Type II: Light skin tone. Usually burns, but will tan a bit. Tends to have light hair, blue/green or brown eyes. Also highly susceptible to skin damage.
- Type III: European white to olive, or “average Caucasian” skin tone. Sometimes burns, usually tans. Tends to have hazel to brown eyes with brown to auburn to light brown hair. Skin damage can also occur for this type.
- Type IV: Dark intermediate, medium brown skin tone, “Mediterranean” or “Olive” tone. Sometimes burns, often tans. Tends to have dark brown eyes and hair. Still at risk for sun damage.
- Type V: Dark or “brown” skin tone. Naturally black-brown skin; rarely burns. Tend to have dark brown eyes and dark hair. Still has risk for sun damage.
- Type VI: Very dark or “black” skin tone. Naturally black-brown skin; burn-resistant. Usually have very dark black-brown eyes and hair. Dark skin is still at risk for sun damage.
!! FRECKLES !!
-- What in the heck are they? --
As mentioned at the top of this page, melanin is what colors the skin.
FRECKLE PRODUCTION is triggered by the sun, so these little tan spots tend to fade in winter with less sun exposure and reappear in with warmer weather and increased sunlight. They sometimes fade with age.
They're just harmless little clusters of melanin bunched together. And since redheads have fair skin, the freckles are very visible! Darker-skinned people can have freckles too but they just aren’t as obvious.
Becky, a visitor to my site, wrote that her dad used to say that a tan for a redhead was "just freckles done grown together" ...!
Heck, anyone can have freckles!...like on this dog's snout...
Yep, we all can have freckles, but of course they seem to be a distinguishing feature of red heads!
Red hair and freckles just go together like cake and ice cream, peanut butter and jelly. One saying I've heard says, "A face without freckles is like a night without stars." -- do you agree?
- Some freckles are tiny and itty bitty
- Some freckles are huge, blending into one giant freckle
- Some people hate them
- Some people love them
- Some just learn to live with them
- Some find them sexy or cute
- Some play games with them like 'connect the dots' or count them
- Some people want to cover them up
- Some people want to show them off
- Some people make fun of them (you were standing too close to the cows in the barn, etc...)
- Some people get 'nicknamed' based on their freckles!
[One reader wrote in: "A redheaded cousin of mine was also called "Daps." I think it derived from dappled or dapples which was not from his hair but from his many, many freckles."]
- Some people write about them: "A face without freckles is like a sky without stars." (Author Unknown)
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OR DO YOU WANT TO GET RID OF THEM? - Sometimes the freckles are so annoying, people will try to lighten or remove them.
Laser freckle removal works by breaking apart the pigmented which is then reabsorbed back into the body. Chemical peels and microdermabrasion also help remove or lighten them.
It's a personal choice.
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-- Medical term for freckles: ephelis (singular), ephelides (plural)
-- Nicknames for freckles:
- angel kisses
- fairy kisses
- sun kisses
....what do YOU call them?
Go to "Skin Anatomy" | See "Skin Cancer" | Go to "Sunburn"
Go to "UV Radiation" | See "Vitamin D"
Leave "Melanin" and go to "Home Page"
Go to "Skin Care Tips" - main page