This isn’t about reducing the formation of freckles in a preschooler, but outright preventing the little spots from developing anywhere, especially on their face.
A parent may want to prevent any freckles from forming – not even a few – in their very young child for a couple of reasons.
One, a freckle is a sign of sun damage, even though some people think freckles are cute.
Another reason is that the parent, who may have freckles herself that she dislikes, doesn’t want her toddler or preschooler to be getting them either.
The big question is if freckles can literally be prevented in the very young child.
“I love this question — mostly because I am obsessed with studies that relate freckles and moles density to geography and sun exposure,” begins Erum Ilyas, MD, a board certified dermatologist who performs adult and pediatric medical dermatology, cosmetic dermatology and skin cancer treatment at Montgomery Dermatology, LLC.
“Aside from genetics (skin type, family history), sun exposure and latitude of home (geographic location) play an important role in freckles and moles development.”
Sunblock, full-coverage clothing, sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats will go a long way at minimizing the development of freckles in young children.
But as for prevention of freckles in the literal sense of the word…Dr. Ilyas says, “We really cannot 100% prevent any level of freckling.
“The key here is to understand that sunlight is not the only source of UV exposure. UVA is found in many sources.
“Think of UVB as what most sunblocks target because it is responsible for sunburns and skin cancer. UVA leads to freckling, discoloration and premature aging of the skin.”
Energy efficient lightbulbs may contribute to freckling, adds Dr. Ilyas. So can the lighting in many gymnasiums.
She explains, “There have been reports of sunburns in basketball players indoors as a result of these light fixtures.
“The outer glass is meant to filter out UV, but because these lights are subjected to repetitive bumps and hits from balls, etc., the glass often cracks, releasing UV.”
Though preschoolers and toddlers don’t play basketball in gymnasiums, the point is that light that affects the skin doesn’t come only from the sun or tanning beds. Artificial light contributes.
“This light won’t cause cancer, but it will cause freckles,” says Dr. Ilyas.
Prevention of Freckling May Be Possible in an Unrealistically Controlled Environment
Dr. Ilyas explains, “Sure, theoretically, if you put a zinc or titanium based sunblock on daily from head to toe and reapply constantly – maybe, just maybe, you could prevent them.”
Or, you can keep your young child confined to the indoors (and in rooms minus energy efficient lightbulbs) except when the sun goes down.
“But, we are all human and life still happens and you will miss a spot or a day.”
Minimizing Freckling in a Young Child
• Before they go outside, apply high SPF, water-proof sunblock 45 minutes prior (so that it absorbs).
• Get every part of their face, particularly the cheeks and nose.
• Make this a pleasant experience for them so that they don’t balk.
• Have them wear a wide brimmed hat or some kind of cap that casts a shadow over their face.
A classic sunhat can flop around in the wind or easily come off when the child is running.
It’ll be too tedious for a preschooler to keep it on during active play, so you’ll want to opt for a ball cap type hat that ties in the back.
• Obviously, it’s not practical to cover your child up in clothes from head to toe on a warm day, and it’s not practical to forbid them from ever wearing a swimsuit or summer clothes. But at least follow the instructions for protecting the face.
• Sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection will really help. Very young kids, including toddlers, can wear these when passively outdoors such as when building sandcastles, going on walks or hikes, or just scampering around in the backyard.
• Don’t fret if a few freckles start appearing. It’s just impossible to prevent them 100 percent.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.