Freckles have long divided their owners but after Meghan Markle embraced hers at the royal wedding, Stylist’s Ava Welsing-Kitcher reflects on coming to appreciate her own…
In an age of full-coverage foundation, the fact that Meghan Markle refused to cover up her freckles on one of the biggest days of her life was incredibly important to a speckled girl like me. Freckles have been in and out of fashion over the years, but the overwhelming admiration across social media for those belonging to the newly married Duchess of Sussex proved something I’d previously disliked was now coveted.
In the quest for so-called ‘flawless’ skin, there’s always been a stigma around any kind of facial marking. A quick Google search for ‘skincare for freckles’ yields page after page of information on how to lighten or ‘deal with’ freckles rather than cater to them, and a similar search for cosmetics presents a gallery of thick concealers. And yet, post-royal wedding, searches for ‘freckle-friendly make-up’ on Pinterest are up by 117% on last year, signalling that those days may finally be over.
I’m covered in them, but wasn’t born that way. I turned up at every World Book Day throughout primary school as Pippi Longstocking, complete with a smattering of Sharpie’d freckles across my cheeks. Although my mother jokingly warned that my annual faux freckle ritual would eventually lead to permanent ones, I continued for years in the hope that she might be proven right.
Sure enough, the first one reared its head just before I was due to start secondary school – the exact moment that everything you once deemed to be awesome as a child suddenly becomes the exact opposite. Right in the centre of the tip of my nose and too large to ignore, it sat there almost mockingly. I snuck into my mother’s make-up bag and chiselled out a freckle-sized chunk of her Clinique pressed powder, then smeared it onto my nose as if I was plastering a wall. It didn’t work (I hadn’t discovered concealer just yet), and I was left with an unsightly patch of crumbling powder several shades too dark in the middle of my face.
A decade’s worth of Mini Egg jokes later, I have multiple freckles strewn over my face and they’re increasingly popping up on my body. I began to tolerate them when I saw how much model Adwoa Aboah’s were celebrated, and with every compliment and freckle-tattoo press release that comes my way, I appreciate them more and more. I tailor my make-up routine around them – not over them – by choosing lightweight formulas to show them off, and even transform any pimples with an eyebrow pencil.
Whether you embrace them or fake them, a freckle isn’t necessarily a sign of sun damage. “A freckle is an isolated small spot in the skin where melanocytes (pigment-producing skin cells) have produced more melanin than usual as a normal result of sun exposure,” explains Dr Alexis Granite, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic in London. “They differ from moles, which are like little nests of melanocytes. A freckle is just the pigment itself, and doesn’t necessarily signal serious sun damage.”
Mine seemingly came out of nowhere – and I’m steadfastly on my way to having more freckle than face despite religiously applying SPF50 every morning. “People prone to freckles – especially those with pale skin or red hair – tend to have a mutation of the MC1R gene that sits on top of melanocyte cells to provide instructions for making melanin,” says Dr Granite. “This, combined with sun exposure, creates freckles, although you can have a ‘normal’ MC1R gene and still be freckled – and they span across all skintones.”
Want to make sure your freckles don’t fade? “Take care not to overuse glycolic and azelaic acids, and antioxidants such as vitamin C, as these could potentially lighten them over a long period of time,” Dr Granite advises.
Despite previously feeling like I had a ‘sun damage’ sign plastered across my face, I now know that freckles are more than just a tan gone wrong or a fleeting trend. I’m a human Mini Egg and, like the Duchess of Sussex, I couldn’t be happier.
Add these freckle-friendly heroes to your make-up bag to help highlight them…
Glossier Wowder in Rich
For a tinted powder, this is pretty translucent – sweep it over make-up or wear alone to really show off your natural complexion.
Lancôme Custom Sculpting Drop in Bronze Glow
Use these ultra-glowy drops as highlighter or bronzer depending on your skintone – the water-like formula won’t mask freckles.
Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops in Light
For days when foundation feels like too much, add 1 to 12 drops of this tanning liquid to moisturiser for an even skintone without the extra layers.
Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder in 8 Medium
This luminising foundation/tinted moisturiser hybrid is almost undetectable as it melts into skin and blurs only the areas you want it to. Total wonder.
Benefit Precisely, My Brow Eyebrow Pencil in 6
Mask spots or acne marks with a gentle swipe of brow pencil – the ashy shade mimics melanin. Tap a finger repeatedly over the faux freckle to avoid it looking drawn on. Sneaky…
MAC Mineralize Concealer in NC35
Even four or five layers of this lightweight concealer won’t mask freckles.
Giorgio Armani A-Blush in 51
This water-like blush absorbs straight into skin without leaving any trace over freckles.
Main image: Marie Bärsch