I am a 40-year-old Indian housewife with freckles. Are they hereditary and how can I get rid of them?

Freckles are a result of sun damage to our skin. They are areas of increased pigment (melanin) in the skin giving small, flat, pigmented spots. They vary in colour from red to tan to brown. Freckles are not present at birth; they develop as a result of sun exposure. They tend to be inherited and are most common in individuals with fair skin and blond or red hair.

They develop on upper-body skin areas like the cheeks, nose, arms and shoulders. Hormone abnormalities can cause freckles as these over-stimulate pigment-producing cells when exposed to sunlight. To stop more appearing, protect your skin by wearing sunscreens with SPF 30 or above, sun-protective clothing, a hat, and stay in the shade or out of the sun altogether. Freckles may fade when sun exposure is reduced or eliminated.

Include egg yolks, milk, carrots, tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, broccoli, spinach, citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, salmon, legumes, almonds, leafy vegetables, olive, whole grains, soybeans, mushrooms etc in your diet. Try regularly applying a face pack of red sandal powder mixed with water; also try applying kumkumadi thailam* after washing off the face pack.

Vinegar, milk, potato juice and cucumber juice are good for removing a tan. Apply to the affected area; leave for 10-15 minutes and wash off. These suntan removers have a drying effect on the skin so if you have dry skin, make sure you use a moisturiser after this treatment. Mix yoghurt, potato juice and honey in equal proportion and apply this on thedark areas. Leave it on for a minimum of one hour daily or you can even keep it on overnight.

* Available at shops selling herbal products.

If you have a question for Dr Shyam, send a mail to Wellbeing, Friday, Gulf News, PO Box 6519, Dubai, UAE, or fax 04 3421039. You may also email friday@gulfnews.com