If you look at my childhood drawings, even the plants and and dogs have freckles,” says Remi Brixton, founder of makeup brand Freck Beauty, explaining how far back her obsession with the small brown dots goes. “I couldn’t understand why kids on the playground got teased for having freckles. I just admired them so much and thought that they were the most beautiful, unique part of somebody’s face.”

Brixton’s views would have been out of step in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when freckles were considered ugly and unsightly. (They’re a sign of sun exposure for people who carry the freckle gene, known as “MC1R.” Though they’re not dangerous, those who get them are more susceptible to UV damage.) Beauty advertising at the time targeted them as something to rid oneself of—sometimes calling them “homely spots”—and marketed vanishing creams that purported to do just that.

freck beauty freck noir

Freck Beauty Freck Noir, $28

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By the mid-1950s, freckles began to be associated with a life of leisure out in the sun and were even deemed attractive, especially when, during the ’60s, the likes of Twiggy and Jane Birkin made no secret of theirs. The tide turned so much that in 1995, Chanel launched Le Crayon Rousseur, a limited-edition pencil for drawing freckles on, and it was followed by Lancôme’s Freckle Crayon in 2003, also available only for a short time. By the mid-2000s, models like Maggie Rizer and Devon Aoki and celebrities like Lucy Liu were normalizing them. Meanwhile, makeup artists like Charlotte Tilbury and Gucci Westman were adding them to models’ faces at fashion shows to convey everything from sportiness to a ’60s or ’70s retro vibe. They were all using either eyeliner or a brow pencil to create the dots.

 

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The fact that no makeup product existed for the sole purpose of painting on freckles wasn’t lost on Brixton; by the time she was in college, she wished there was one that did. So in 2017, encouraged by a “diehard freckle-loving community” she had found online, Brixton launched Freck OG, a tiny tube of pigment with a little brush-tip applicator. (The brand has since launched a larger size, Freck XL, and a darker version, Freck Noir.) As part of its product lineup, which is designed to mimic how your skin looks after a day at the beach, Canadian brand Saltyface offers Freckle Paint. The existence of these products has made those who have freckles naturally feel encouraged by it. “People reach out and say ‘It’s so cool to see freckles being celebrated,’” says Saltyface co-founder Bethany Menzel. “I always saw them as a flaw. I always felt like I should cover them up.”

Saltyface Freckle Paint

Saltyface Freckle Paint, $26

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Instead, freckles are now out front and centre and even being etched on in more permanent ways. When Meghan Markle ensured hers weren’t covered on her wedding day in 2018, it resulted in a surge of freckle tattoos. Shaughnessy Otsuji, tattoo artist and co-owner of Studio Sashiko in Vancouver, used to draw on her own freckles until she got certified in cosmetic tattooing and inked them on herself about nine years ago. When she posted a before and after on Instagram, it blew up. Since then, freckle tattoos have only continued to grow in popularity.

“It kind of goes through waves, even with the seasons,” says Otsuji, noting that many clients will visit at the end of the summer to darken the freckles they’ve acquired over the past few months. Some who book in are those who’ve previously had them lasered off. Others are people who find their natural freckles have dimmed over time and miss their youthful appeal.

The dots are tattooed on using diluted ink. “I find that makes them look more realistic,” says Otsuji. “Some I’ll dilute more than others, varying the levels of opacity.” She also likes to switch up the shapes and sizes by using different needles. “The more different, the better. Basically, the more random they are, the more realistic they look.” She places them across the nose and cheeks. “I also like having the odd random one on the chest and around the shoulders.” They do fade over time, lasting about two to three years, since the ink is watered down and due to the use of exfoliants and skincare ingredients like retinol.

The desirability of freckles shows no signs of waning anytime soon; they continue to be an essential part of model Emily Ratajkowski’s signature look, and Hailey Bieber made them key to the “strawberry-girl makeup” trend she kicked off last summer. And in Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, makeup artist Jo-Ann MacNeil was asked by the director to ensure that actor Cailee Spaeny’s skin, including her freckles, was always visible through her makeup to help keep a sense of innocence about her.

More than a mere beauty fad, the dots can even be senti- mental, hearkening back to a more carefree time. “Whether people ever had them or not, I think freckles are tied to memories and experiences for so many,” says Menzel. “I think they have a place in people’s hearts.”

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