Part of makeup’s appeal is that it allows us to take an otherwise ephemeral aspect of our appearance – a blush, a glow, a good skin day – and ensure we have it at any time. For those who freckle only in the sun if at all, faux freckles are gaining popularity as a way to add dimension and warmth to the face, and plenty of products and procedures are now available to provide the “natural” look.
It isn’t always easy being freckled – throughout history, cosmetic companies have characterized natural freckles as imperfections to be minimized. In some cultures, freckles remain controversial – a 2019 Zara ad featuring a Chinese model with freckles sparked outcry on Weibo for clashing with the country’s prevailing admiration for clear skin. But one person’s affliction is another’s beauty ideal, and these days, many find the freckle’s charm undeniable.
One need look only to social media, where Instagram and Snapchat’s sultry filters often overlay faces with a constellation of freckles, while also providing the standard lengthening of lashes and plumping of lips. On TikTok, everyone from Charli D’Amelio with her girl-next-door style to alternative e-girls with green hair and nose rings mug for the camera, showing off freckles both real and fake.
People have always been able to dot on faux freckles with eyebrow or liner pencils, but in 1995, Chanel released the first dedicated freckle pencil, Le Crayon Rousseur, as a limited-time novelty. A few freckle products have come and gone in the decades since, but faux freckle products only recently began emerging as something like a distinctive product category, with releases from trendy brands such as ColourPop and Lime Crime.
U.S. clean beauty brand Freck Beauty launched its marquee product, Freck OG, in 2017. The faux freckle makeup is a universal liquid formula with a thin brush applicator. Users apply the product in little dots, then “use your finger to copy/paste them, kind of stamp them all over your face,” explains Freck founder Remi Brixton. Applied just so, Freck OG replicates the layers and inconsistency of natural freckles.
Those ready to fully commit can take the step to permanently tattoo their freckles on. Amber Gotzmeister, owner of Toronto’s The Good Geisha cosmetic tattoo shop has offered freckle tattoos for over a decade, though she says the procedure’s popularly has spiked in the last four years, with many clients citing Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle as their inspiration. Now, Gotzmeister tattoos freckles on 20 to 30 people a month, the majority of whom ask for a spray of freckles across their nose and cheeks – a process that takes 30 minutes a session.
“I’ve had a lot of people who say [their freckles] come out in the summer and disappear in the winter, and they just want them to stay all the time,” Gotzmeister says. “My oldest freckle client is in her late 60s, and she says she comes in [to get it done] because it reminds her of her youth.” She adds: “For most people, you just want what you don’t have.”
For those who come by the look naturally, seeing faux freckles become popular can be emotionally fraught. Freck has received criticism on social media from people who were once bullied because of their skin; Brixton’s own business partner was called a “Dalmatian” in grade school for having freckles.
“People are like, ‘Well, I had to fight to accept my freckles and now other people want them,’” Brixton says. She acknowledges their frustration, but hopes Freck is helping reduce any stigma around having freckles. “I get e-mails from parents who are like, ‘I just want to thank you – my kid was being teased at school for having freckles, and then they brought Freck for show-and-tell and gave everybody freckles, and now they all love freckles,’” she says. “I think the conversation is changing with this new generation.”