Everyone has at least a few freckles somewhere on their body. Some people are covered in them, others just have a few here and there. Some people have freckles all the time, some people develop them during the warmer months from sun exposure, only to have them fade away again in the fall.
According to a tweet that went viral, however, a vast majority of women have one freckle in common.
The left wrist freckle phenomenon
Twitter user Aaryn Whitley posted a photo of hers and a few of her friends’ wrists, claiming that every woman has a freckle in the center (or close to it) on their left wrist. Apparently this resonated with more than a few women, as the tweet now has over 20,000 retweets, 50,000 likes, and over 9000 replies. Women across the twitter-verse are sharing pictures of their own wrists, all with the same mysterious freckle. (1)
But the question remains: Why do so many women have this one unifying freckle? While there is currently no evidence to actually support the claim, it is pretty fun to compare and speculate.
What causes freckles
Mostly everyone has freckles, though they are more prominent on some people than others. Essentially, freckles are little areas where the skin has experienced an overproduction of melanin. Melanin is what gives our skin and hair color. More melanin produces a darker color, less melanin produces lighter colors. (2)
There are actually two types of freckles:
- Ephelides, and
- Solar lentigines
Ephelides are what most people think of when they think of freckles. They are caused typically by sun exposure and sunburn. People with lighter skin colors are most likely to develop this type of freckles. (2)
Solar lentigines are darker patches of skin that tend to appear as we age. The most common group of people to develop lentigines are older caucasian people. (2)
How you develop freckles
Your environment and genetics are the two main players in freckle formation. Frequent sunburns and the presence of the MC1R gene, responsible for melanin production, predict how likely you are to develop freckles. (2)
MC1R, however, acts differently in different people. For some people, it stimulates the production of pheomelanin: These people have less protection from UV rays and are likely to be fair-skinned, have blonde or red hair, burn easily, and of course, have more freckles.
For others, MC1R creates eumelanin: These people have more protection from UV damage, tan more easily, have darker skin, and brown or black hair. (2)
When it comes to solar lentigines, people with lighter skin tones are more likely to be affected than those with darker skin tones. (2)
What do freckles mean
Having freckles is not a bad thing – they are beautiful. So much so that some people use makeup to give themselves freckles! You do have to pay attention, however, because having freckles could mean you have a higher risk of developing melanoma, aka skin cancer. (2)
The important thing to do is to check your freckles and moles regularly for changes. Significant changes in the size, shape, or color of your freckles could be a sign of skin cancer and you should see your doctor straight away. (2)
Try using the ABDCE model when doing your self-checks (2):
- A: Asymmetry. Moles should be symmetrical.
- B: Border: Freckles with malignant cancer tend to be notched, bumpy, and uneven.
- C: Colour: Multicoloured moles are a warning sign of cancer.
- D: Diameter: Most freckles and moles are no bigger than the tip of a pencil, about a quarter inch. If you have one that is larger, get it checked regularly and monitor it extra closely for changes.
- Evolving: If you notice any changes in shape, color, size, or elevation, see your doctor.
Whether you are a redhead with fair skin and plenty of freckles or you have dark skin and only a few here and there, you need to protect yourself from the sun. Natural sunscreen, hats, UV-protective clothing, and avoiding long periods of time in the direct sun key. Not only will you lower your risk of developing cancer, but you will also keep your skin looking healthier for longer. (2, 3)
So while we may have no idea why so many of us have this freckle, it is pretty cool to share a trait with thousands of other women. Though we don’t all look the same, perhaps we are not as different as we think!
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