Summer is here, and everyone's flocking outside to soak up some sun and relish all that extra vitamin D.
With the return of humid days and sparkling sunshine, so returns another common question you've probably wondered to yourself: Why do some people get freckles when they lay out in the sun, while others tan or burn?
Some people love their freckles, while others tend to feel more self-conscious about the way they look.
Either way, we need answers, and we need 'em now.
Freckles are basically a sprinkling of the pigment protein melanin, which shows up when UV rays come into contact with your skin.
Melanin is what darkens and protects the skin from the damage those UV rays can cause, and melanocytes are the cells that make up melanin.
In some people, melanocytes spread out evenly and look something like a tan or wash of darkening skin.
In other people, the melanocytes group together in bunches or clumps and cause a peppering of freckles.
Freckles are most commonly found on the face (as this is the part of your body that gets the most sun), but they can show up literally anywhere on the skin that's exposed to sunshine.
Interestingly, freckles are also an indication of how sensitive your skin is to the sun.
This is usually (but not always) why paler individuals freckle, and why these skin spots are so common on many natural redheads.
On that note, red hair and freckles are usually controlled by the same gene: MC1R, which is described as a “set of instructions” for balancing the pigments of both skin and hair.
The protein primarily sits on the surface of melanocytes, and it's responsible for the variations in the production of melanin.
People actually have two main pigments: eumelanin, which is responsible for colors other than red, and pheomelanin, which is responsible for red and orange.
But your genes come in two copies and in different versions, so freckles and ginger hair don't always come in a package.
As unique and cool as freckles can look on a person, it's worth nothing that freckled skin is actually more prone to skin cancer.
This is because of the broken-up wash of protective melanin versus the more common "full coat" of tan across a person's skin.
So, sorry my freckled friends, but you'll probably need to layer up on SPF even more than the rest of us.
And, speaking of sun exposure, that's actually the only way in which a person can get freckles -- no one is born with them.
Despite the role your genetics play in determining how your skin reactions to UV rays, no one has ever come out of their mother's womb with a bunch of freckles splattered across their tiny infant face.
Although, come to think of it, that would look pretty freaking cute on a baby, amirite?