How To Lighten Freckles – Natural Remedies + Treatment Options

by Atulya Satishkumar

You may have noticed the appearance of dark or light circular spots on your face, neck, and arms-on exposure to sunlight. These are freckles. Most freckles are harmless spots that are formed due to the overproduction of melanin (1).

What Causes Freckles?

The development of freckles is primarily attributed to exposure to sunlight and a possible genetic predisposition to developing freckles (2).

Our skin produces melanin on exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning lights. This then leads to the over-deposition of melanin in one spot, which causes freckles. Freckles occur mostly in people with blonde or red hair, fair skin, and light-colored eyes.

Note:Freckles do not form without exposure to sunlight. If you observe their appearance on parts of your body that are not exposed to sunlight, it may be a sign of malignant skin cancer. Seek medical help immediately in such cases.

There are several treatment options available to diminish the appearance of freckles, including skin-lightening creams, pigment lasers, and chemical peels. But if you want to try some home remedies to lighten freckles, you can read about them below.

Do note that the effectiveness of these remedies depends on your skin type and genetics. Also, always do a patch test before applying any of these ingredients to your face.

Note: These remedies are not scientifically proven to eliminate freckles directly. If you are sensitive to certain ingredients, do not go ahead with the recipe.

Home Remedies That May Help Lighten Freckles

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

The malic acid in ACV exfoliates the darkened skin cells (3). This helps in lightening freckles.

You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix the honey and vinegar, and apply on the freckles. You can also apply this mixture to the entire face.
  2. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Rinse with lukewarm water.
How Often You Should Do This

Apply this once every day on your freckles. If you are applying it on your entire face, repeat every alternate day.

2. Lemon

Lemon is a rich source of vitamin C. Vitamin C exhibits photoprotective and anti-pigmentary properties that help protect the skin from the harmful rays of the sun. It reduces melanin production to decrease pigmentation on your skin (4).

You Will Need

  • Juice of a lemon
  • Cotton pad

What You Have To Do

  1. Squeeze a lemon and collect the juice in a bowl.
  2. Using a cotton pad, apply the juice on the area with freckles.
  3. Leave it on your skin for 15-20 minutes and rinse off.

How Often You Should Do This

You can follow this two times a week.

Caution: Do not follow this remedy if you have sensitive skin as lemon juice may cause redness and irritation. Also, ensure you apply sunscreen before you step out in the sun as lemon juice makes your skin photosensitive.

3. Aloe Vera

The topical application of aloe vera gel triggers the production of metallothionein in the skin, which prevents UV-induced damage (5). It can also inhibit tyrosinase activity (6). Thus, it may decrease melanin deposition in the skin, leading to lesser freckles.

You Will Need

Fresh aloe vera gel

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply some fresh aloe gel on the freckles and massage for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Leave it on for 10 minutes and then rinse it off.
  3. You can also leave it on overnight.
How Often You Should Do This

Repeat this every day.

3. Turmeric

Research shows that curcumin, the primary component of turmeric, inhibits melanogenesis (7). This means that it may reduce the excessive deposition of melanin in the skin that causes freckles.

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
What You Have To Do
  1. Make a fine paste of turmeric powder and lemon juice.
  2. Apply this paste on the freckled areas and wait for it to dry.
  3. Rinse off thoroughly with water.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once every week.

4. Yogurt

Yogurt contains lactic acid. Lactic acid inhibits tyrosinase activity, suppresses melanin formation, and reduces hyperpigmentation (8). These effects may help reduce the appearance of freckles.

You Will Need

2-3 tablespoons of yogurt

What You Have To Do
  • 1. Apply yogurt on the freckled areas.
  • 2. Massage in a circular motion for about 15-20 minutes.
  • 3. Wash off with water.
How Often You Should Do This
Apply this daily.

5. Honey

Honey contains phenolic and flavonoid compounds that may help inhibit tyrosinase activity (9). This controls the excess production of melanin in your skin, which, in turn, may reduce the occurrence of freckles.

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh honey
What You Have To Do
  1. Make a thick paste of honey and lemon juice.
  2. Apply this paste on the areas with freckles.
  3. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing it off. 
How Often You Should Do This

Do this two times a week.

Caution: Do not follow this remedy if you have sensitive skin as lemon juice may cause redness and irritation. Also, apply sunscreen before you go out as lemon juice makes your skin photosensitive.

6. Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil is an essential oil that is widely used for its pharmacological properties. Eucalyptus oil inhibits tyrosinase activity and melanin synthesis, which helps reduce hyperpigmentation (10). Thus, it may help in reducing freckles.

You Will Need
  • 2-3 drops of eucalyptus oil
  • A few drops of carrier oil 
What You Have To Do
  1. Dilute two to three drops of eucalyptus oil with a carrier like sweet almond oil.
  2. Apply this on the freckled areas and leave it on for about 20 minutes.
  3. Wash off using a washcloth.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once every day before going to bed.

Note:Do not try this remedy if you have hypersensitive skin.

7. Pomelo Essential Oil

Pomelo oil is known to exhibit anti-melanogenic and antioxidant properties (11). This means that it decreases the synthesis of melanin and may reduce the appearance of freckles.

You Will Need
  • 2-3 drops of pomelo essential oil
  • A few drops of carrier oil
What You Have To Do
  1. Take two to three drops of pomelo essential oil and dilute it with a carrier like sweet almond or jojoba oil.
  2. Apply this on the freckled areas.
  3. Leave it on for 20 minutes before rinsing off with water.
How Often You Should Do This

Repeat this daily before going to bed.

8. Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter contains bioactive compounds, including polyphenols, that offer photoprotection and can reverse the effects of UV-induced skin damage (12). Thus, it may prevent the development of brown spots caused by freckles.

You Will Need

1-2 teaspoons of cocoa butter

What You Have To Do
  • 1. Take one to two teaspoons of cocoa butter.
  • 2. Apply on the freckles and massage it gently into your skin.
  • 3. Leave it on overnight and wash off with a cleanser the next morning.
How Often You Should Do This

You can repeat this every night before going to bed for 2-3 weeks.

9. Shea Butter

Shea kernels have been found to inhibit melanogenesis (13). Shea butter may help decrease melanin synthesis and reduce the occurrence of freckles.

You Will Need

1-2 teaspoons of shea butter

What You Have To Do
  1. Heat one to two teaspoons of shea butter until it is warm.
  2. Massage it gently into the areas with freckles.
  3. Leave it on overnight and rinse it off in the morning.
How Often You Should Do This

Repeat this every night for 3-4 weeks.

10. Eggplant

Eggplant is rich in bioactive compounds, such as vitamins, phenolics, and antioxidants (14). These compounds exhibit photoprotective properties that may help prevent skin damage on exposure to UV rays of the sun (15). This may help reduce freckles.

You Will Need

1 fresh eggplant

What You Have To Do
  1. Cut the eggplant into slices.
  2. Rub these slices on the freckles in a circular motion.
  3. Let the juice from the eggplant be on your skin for 15 minutes.
  4. Wash thoroughly with water.
How Often You Should Do This

Repeat this once every day.

11. Banana Peel

Banana peel contains bioactive compounds that can inhibit melanogenesis and, thus, reduce freckles (16).

You Will Need

A ripe banana peel

What You Have To Do
  1. Rub the peel of a ripe banana on the freckled areas of your skin.
  2. Leave it on for 20 minutes.
  3. Wash it off.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once every day. 

12. Kiwi Fruit

Kiwi fruit contains flavonoids like quercetin that may inhibit tyrosinase activity (17). This may lead to a reduction in any skin pigmentation, including freckles.

You Will Need
  • 1 kiwi fruit
  • 2-3 strawberries
What You Have To Do
  1. Make a thick paste of the two fruits by blending them.
  2. Apply this fruit pack on the areas with freckles.
  3. Leave it for about 20-25 minutes before rinsing it off.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this two times a week.

If you would like to take the medical route or want to lighten your freckles quickly, check out the medical treatment options listed below.

Medical Treatment Options

  • Alpha hydroxy acid toners can help ameliorate the signs of photodamage, thus reducing the chances of freckle formation (18).
  • Chemical facial peeling is an effective method for treating pigment disorders, like freckles (19).
  • Laser therapy can facilitate the formation of new collagen, thereby eliminating the older epidermal cells and resulting in clearer skin. However, laser therapy might include complications like mild texture changes and hyperpigmentation, which can be resolved within 2-6 months. A study showed >50% improvement in freckles with negative recurrence (20), (21).
  • Along with the daily application of sunscreen, sunspot removal can be aided by retinoid creams, hydroquinone, chemical peels, and dermabrasion (22).

Along with following these home remedies and medical treatments, it is also good to know what kind of freckles you have to treat them more effectively. Check them out below.

Different Types Of Freckles

  1. Ephelides: These are the common type of freckles that are observed in most people. These freckles are flat and dark brown. Although they are genetically determined, they can also be induced through sun exposure (23).
  2. Solar Lentigines: These freckles are characterized by a dark brown patch on the skin. They develop in adulthood as a result of sun exposure and can be categorized as aging spots and sunspots (24).

It is also a good idea to know the risk factors of freckles and when to seek medical attention. Scroll down to find out more.

Risk Factors Of Freckles

Some studies show that a particular gene and frequent exposure to the sun work in tandem to develop freckles (25).

It also depends on the type of melanin:

  • Pheomelanin: People with this type of melanin have a lighter skin tone and red or blonde hair. Their skin does not tan well. Pheomelanin does not protect the skin from UV radiation and increases the risk of developing freckles (26).
  • Eumelanin: This type of melanin is found in brown and black hair. People with eumelanin have darker skin tones and brown or black hair. Due to this, their skin tans easily and is usually protected from skin damage by UV radiation (27).

The risk factors of solar lentigines are slightly different from those of the common freckles, and they include (25):

  • A darker skin tone, which directly translates to a higher capacity of tanning and solar lentigines.
  • History of developing freckles
  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Current intake of oral contraceptive or progestogen treatments

How Can I Prevent Freckles?

  • Always wear sunscreen before you step out in the sun (28).
  • Wear protective clothing like full-sleeved tops and full-length pants.
  • Use wide-brimmed hats or caps.
  • Stay indoors during the peak hours of sunlight.

These simple remedies and prevention tips can help you tackle freckles. If you feel what you have does not fit the description of common freckles, consult your dermatologist and understand the cause of the pigmentation on your skin.

When To See Your Doctor

Freckles, by themselves, are harmless spots of melanin deposition. It could be that you have mistaken a mole for a freckle. Moles, however, pose the threat of skin cancer.

If you see any change in the size of the freckle or mole, consult your doctor immediately. Other signs include asymmetry in the shape, border, and diameter of the mole. If you see that the mole has different colors as opposed to a uniform shade, seek medical help immediately.

Freckles are a sign of beauty in some cultures and not really a cause of medical concern. But if you still want to reduce their appearance, you can try some of these home remedies. However, it is best to consult a doctor who will guide you on the most appropriate method to tackle freckles.

Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions

How long does it take to get rid of freckles?

The time taken to get rid of freckles depends on the treatment option chosen. If you opt for laser therapy, you can see results in one or two sessions. If you opt for natural methods, it might take a few weeks to see the results.

Can Asians have freckles?

Yes, they can. Freckles can occur if you have a genetic predisposition to them or stay out in the sun for long periods on a regular basis.

What are the differences between freckles, moles, and sunspots?

Freckles Vs. Sunspots Vs. Moles

Freckles occur in the form of small brown flat spots on your face. Sunspots are also known as age spots as that tend to show up much later in life. They occur due to regular exposure to sunlight on areas that are regularly exposed to sunlight. Moles are dark lesions that have a raised surface. They make their appearance at birth or soon after birth.

Are freckles permanent?

No, freckles are not permanent. They usually fade away if your skin is not regularly exposed to sunlight and through laser treatments.

What do cancerous freckles look like?

Cancerous freckles will not have a symmetric appearance, diameter, or border. They may also grow in size over time. In such cases, you must seek medical help immediately (29).

29 sources

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Atulya Satishkumar

‘Techie by day, writer by night’ is how she described herself before embarking on the journey of writing. Her strong belief in the magic of the written word, coupled with a very keen eye for detail, helps her guide her team to create quality content. When she is not editing beauty, fashion, and lifestyle-related content, she writes prose and poetry, plays her ukulele (and/or guitar), and pets floofs.
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