Welcome back to the Department of Bodily Oddities.
Summer is here! That can mean only one thing: more fun in the sun. With the rise of sun exposure, we have been investigating an increase in freckles that’ve been spotted worldwide.
During our travels, dots popped up everywhere—from dappled fawns to frolicking Dalmatians and from Appaloosas to ocelots. We met lots of dogs named Spot, but only a few named Freckles. Which begs the question, what makes a spot a freckle?
Freckles emerge more often on people with lighter skin and frequently appear splashed across a person’s face like stars scattered in the sky. As a word of caution, please resist the urge to connect the dots on your friend’s face. Freckle-faced people may run away if you approach them with a permanent marker.
The technical term for a freckle is an ephelis. The plural of ephelis is ephelides (eh-FEL-i-DEEZ). But it may sound funny if you tell someone, “I really like your ephelides.”
While rare on babies, freckles commonly pop up on older children. Some spots form after long-term exposure to the sun. But if your mom or dad has freckles, you’re more likely to develop freckles too.
Research has revealed freckles are concentrated clusters of a dark pigment called melanin. Specific cells in the skin, called melanocytes, produce this pigment in response to sun exposure.
The melanocytes are like little factories that package the melanin in small containers called melanosomes and ship them to skin cells. Those skin cells wrap the dark pigment around themselves like window tinting on a car.
Melanin is a photoprotectant. Although it sounds like something that should protect your photos, a photoprotectant absorbs the harmful radiation from the sun’s rays and transforms that energy into harmless heat.
Doctors recommend that all children wear a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher. To best prevent painful burns, sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes before going outside and reapplied every two hours.
OK, skin cells, put on your hats and sunglasses. Let’s keep those rays away!
When all exposed skin cells wear their melanin, the surface of the skin darkens to form a tan. Freckles are present year-round, but a tan comes and goes depending on your amount of exposure to the sun.
While the sun can cause you to tan, its heat also makes you sweat. Sweating is one of the ways God designed our bodies to cool down when we get hot. Anything that makes our body heat up may cause us to sweat—a hot day, vigorous exercise, even embarrassment.
We have two types of sweat glands—apocrine and eccrine. The apocrine sweat glands are predominantly in the armpits. The eccrine sweat glands are everywhere else. The sweat glands located in the armpits produce a thicker type of sweat, which tends to stink more. These glands become more active during your teen years. That’s why you start using deodorants and antiperspirants as you get older. Hint: Only apply deodorant under your arm and not over your entire body.
Our skin covers a lot of surface area. If it was unwrapped and stretched out, it would cover 15 to 20 square feet. That’s about the size of a tent.
The eccrine sweat glands ooze directly out to the surface of the skin, forming beads of perspiration everywhere. Sweat on the skin’s surface helps cool our bodies as the moisture evaporates. If a breeze comes along, this helps cool us even more. That’s why fans are so helpful on sunny days.
When sports teams practice during hot days, you may see them run through the spray of a misting fan to help keep cool. Amusement parks also crank up their misting “cool zones” in the summer.
Sweating may seem gross, but it’s good for you. And it sure beats panting like a dog—which is how our canine pals cool off.
So the next hot day, set up your pup tent, call your dog Freckles and enjoy the cool breeze under the trees as you both drink lots of water. When no one is looking, you may check that you’re not getting a sunburn, count your freckles or smell under your armpits for an odiferous scent.
Meanwhile, G.O.B.S. (God’s Odd Bod Squad) will comb through what’s currently happening in the world to embark on our next investigation.
But for right now, pass the sunscreen. Mmmm, that smells like coconut!