I’m covered in freckles, and it’s been that way since I was a wee child. While I’ve come to accept them—and to even like them—that wasn’t always the case. My mom told me they were normal (and she’d had them too). My classmates called them “angel kisses,” which I suppose makes them feel special. But to me, they made me stand out. I’d find myself pulling down my sleeves in order to cover my speckled arms so that my classmates wouldn’t judge me (TBH, I also did this to cover up my arm hair, another old foe of mine). It also didn’t help that beauty advertisements and models in magazines were always completely Photoshopped so that not a spot one peeked through their flawless complexions.
To me, this meant that my freckles were something that I wasn’t supposed to have (like pimples or dark circles, but you know, for an elementary school kid). In reality, freckles are genetic (thanks, mama!). But they actually show up after sun exposure (I spent my early years in bright and sunny southern Florida, FWIW). “Freckles are genetic. In the presence of the sun, pigment-producing cells make extra pigment that’s deposited in the skin, causing brown spots,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York. “Freckles tend to get darker in the warmer months because of the effects of UV light, and tend to fade during the winter time.”
With melanoma on the rise, it’s important to note that freckles are usually nothing to worry about. “Freckles, which are typically found in children and those with fairer skin, result from increased melanin pigment within a normal distribution of pigment cells,” explains Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, a Miami-based dermatologist and co-founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare. “This is compared to moles and age spots, both of which have more pigment cells instead of simply more active pigment cells. Freckles aren’t dangerous.” You just have to make sure your freckles don’t change. “As with any skin lesion, if there’s a change in any freckle or one of them gets larger, darker, or oddly shaped compared to the other freckles on that person, a dermatologist should be consulted for evaluation and possibly a biopsy,” she says.
But still, some people want to get rid of them. After a quick Google search scoping out the web results that come from the query “how to get rid of freckles,” there are 5 million-plus queries, ranging from DIY remedies to topicals to laser solutions. But for me, embracing them has been key. Over time, mine have somewhat faded and aren’t as prominent all over my face. That’s probably due to my dedicated vitamin C-retinol-SPF trio, but I’m actually sad that they’ve lost some of their distinction. “Most freckles can be lightened by daily use of an SPF in the daytime and a twice daily application of a high concentration of topical vitamin C,” explains Dr. Ciraldo. But they are very difficult to get rid of altogether, according to Dr. Zeichner. “Even small amounts of UV light can stimulate them. This is different from a sun spot, which can be lasered off and may be gone forever,” he explains.
In a surprising twist, though, fake freckle makeup products have blown up recently. You can actually buy freckle stamps on beauty shelves, and thousands of beauty YouTube tutorials explain how to achieve the look on your own if you’re not graced with them naturally. “I have noticed more people doing the fake freckle trend,” says Molly R. Stern, celebrity makeup artist. “I’ve always been a fan of a real or fake freckle—it’s such a fun trend that adds an element of youth and a playful characteristic.” Her trick if you wanna fake ’em? “Use a shade of eyeliner or eyebrow pencil that either matches your hair or is one shade lighter, and it should be a warm tone,” she says.
Regardless of how you rock them, real or fleeting, freckles are rising above the whole flawless-face look. Over the past year, plenty of celebs have graced the cover of magazines with their au natural freckles popping—from Meghan Markle to Ariana Grande to Christina Aguilera. It’s an era of acceptance, and I for one am here for it. Spots and all.
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