I basically called my mom for help. Except when I say mom, I mean an esthetician.
Remember when hipster glasses were a thing and suddenly everyone was doing duckface profile pics in Buddy Holly specs? And all the vision-impaired kids who got called Four Eyes throughout their middle school career were like, really?
Well, apparently it's now freckles that are "in." Topshop even makes a specialized pencil for faking a speckled mug. That’s right, friends! After perfecting your skin with various foundations and concealers, you should now go back and draw on some fake sun spots in a flattering, tastefully-spaced arrangement.
It’s a weird feeling to see one of your long-despised attributes suddenly become fashionable.
I’m not going to fling my arm across my forehead and pretend I’ve been persecuted by freckle-haters my whole life. In the hierarchy of Stuff Kids Tease Other Kids About, it’s barely a footnote. I know I got off easy. But neither did it escape me that freckles were a less-than-desirable trait.
Hell, the third Google result for “freckles” doesn’t even try to beat around the bush.
Like most fair-skin-havers whose ancestors were big on bagpipes, my face flushes easily and has always treasonously betrayed every vein, blemish, and scar. So from the first time I smeared a thick, beige-peach foundation across my face, I was hooked. It was like putting on new skin. Smooth, even-colored skin. Barbie skin.
“She just wants to hide her FRECKLES,” the other junior high kids said. “I can still see your FRECKLES, you know!” “Are you covering your face because of your FRECKLES?” “FRECKLES!” (OK, nobody just yelled the word at me, but you get the idea.)
People with the gene variant melanocortin-1 (or MC1-R if you’re casual) are naturally predisposed to these clusters of melanin, which are triggered by sun exposure. Back in the day, freckles were a literal mark of peasantry; they meant you’d been working outside in the sun instead of lounging indoors like a sensible rich person.*
So why are makeup artists so interested in faking a feature the beauty world generally deems unacceptable?
In an interview with ELLE magazine, Stila global executive director of creative artistry Sarah Lucero explained, "Freckles instantly make the complexion look fresh, as if you have no foundation on. It's a beauty trick I use more often than you may think. If your foundation or powder looks cake-y, pop a few freckles on top. It will fool everyone into thinking you just have gorgeous, perfect skin, and that you're not wearing much makeup." Makes sense, right? Freckles aren’t generally visible if you’re all “made up.”
And freckles are admittedly more celebrated these days than they were in my middle school cafeteria. Ever browsed the freckle tag on Tumblr or Instagram? There are some truly stunning be-speckled people of all skin tones out there. Still, admiration seems largely skewed toward those with an adorable smattering across the nose or cheeks but otherwise “flawless” complexion (Gisele Bundchen, anyone?). Maybe I’m just being silly, but my brand of indiscriminately-dispersed-spots feels less than glamorous in comparison.
Honestly, though? I don’t generally think about my freckles anymore (unless the beauty industry broaches the subject). They’re pretty faint if I stay out of the sun (which, I mean, look at me), and they keep fading as I get older. As far as my self-esteem is concerned, they’re a neutral zone; the Switzerland of my facial topography. Sometimes I forget I even have them.
I have to admit, it’s kind of cool that the industry is making products to fake something I already have, for once. And, hey, if it makes even one kid feel better about her freckles, then all that spilled ink (and waxy pigment) trumpeting this “new trend” is more than worth it.
So, what other oft-stigmatized beauty trends chap your hide? Are you tired of people asking if your glasses are “real?”
*Be sure to check out Makeup Museum for more history on the complicated relationship between freckles and the beauty industry.