How Do I Tell If a Spot Is a Mole or Freckle?

C.B. Fox
C.B. Fox
Raised skin mole.
Raised skin mole.

There are many types of spots that can appear on the skin. While most of these are benign, some require medical attention because they might be cancerous. Freckles are almost always benign, but certain types of moles can be an indication that a patient has some type of skin cancer. It is important for patients to learn to differentiate between types of skin discolorations so that they can tell if a spot is a mole or freckle. In general, freckles are small brown dots that may darken or fade with exposure to sunlight, whereas moles are dark colored growths that often project out from the surface of the skin.

Flat skin mole.
Flat skin mole.

The first step in determining whether a spot is a freckle or mole is to feel the spot. When examining a spot with the fingertips, the patient can determine whether it is raised or whether it is flush with the skin. A freckle is never raised, so a patient will know, if the spot rises above the surrounding skin, that the spot is not a freckle. Not all moles will protrude from the skin, however, so a spot that is not raised could be either a mole or freckle.

A raised mole.
A raised mole.

Visually examining the spot is another way for patients to determine whether an area of discoloration is a mole or freckle. Freckles are often medium to dark brown in color, but many moles are dark brown or black. As a person ages, however, moles tends to lighten in color and can become medium or light brown. Additionally, freckles are almost always small, round spots, while moles can be small or large and may not be circular in shape.

Woman with a mole above her upper lip.
Woman with a mole above her upper lip.

The location of a spot can also be an indication as to whether it is a mole or freckle. Moles may occur all over the body and are not necessarily any more prevalent in areas that receive a lot of sun exposure. Freckles are often found on the face and arms, where a person is exposed to the most sunlight.

Patients can also examine spots on the body to see how they change over time. Moles do not usually go away on their own. They often grow larger with time, both in diameter and in height above the surrounding skin, and may begin to grow hairs. Freckles, on the other hand, are often seasonal, darkening in the summer months and lightening or disappearing altogether when the skin is not as exposed to sunlight.

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Discussion Comments


@alisha-- Freckles are pigmented skin but moles contain a different type of skin cells altogether. The best way to tell them apart is to get a biopsy.

Sun exposure also doesn't help with differentiation because both moles and freckles can be a result of sun exposure or sun exposure can cause them to increase in number and get darker.

I don't really pay attention to what I have on my skin. What I do pay attention to is their size and color. Growing moles that change color are a sign of a problem. As long as everything is the same size and color, I don't care if I have a mole or freckle.

For example, I have a medium sized mole on my back since birth. Thankfully, it hasn't changed at all. I also have a few freckles on my face, hands, arms feet and legs. Sometimes new ones come up, but they don't change either.


@alisha-- I'm not a doctor but I have several flat skin moles. Flat skin moles are a tiny bit raised from the skin. They're not raised like regular moles, but there is definitely something there. Freckles are completely flat.

Close your eyes and feel the skin where the freckle or mole is. If you can feel that there is something there with your eyes closed, it's a mole. If you can't fee anything, it's a freckle.

This is not a scientific way to tell them apart at all. And if you have worries, you should definitely ask your dermatologist about it. But it can help you figure out what you have.


I'm having difficult telling apart freckles and flat skin moles. Are the smaller ones called freckles and larger ones called flat skin moles?

All of mine are dark colored and flat, it's just that some are like a dot and others are larger. What are they?

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    • Raised skin mole.
      Raised skin mole.
    • Flat skin mole.
      Flat skin mole.
    • A raised mole.
      By: paulandlara
      A raised mole.
    • Woman with a mole above her upper lip.
      By: donatellina
      Woman with a mole above her upper lip.
    • Freckles are almost always small and round.
      By: queen21
      Freckles are almost always small and round.