In a beauty world where perfect skin is the prize everyone wants, Sophie Cullinane explains her love/hate relationship with freckles
Me and my freckles have always had a little bit of a complicated relationship. I think the problem started – as many do – when I was in the school playground. There I was, merrily minding my own business sitting on some grass making daisy chains when a massive brute of a boy called James sat down next to me and said, “Eurghh, you’re all dirty!” and tried to rub off my freckles with a rubber. The message got through to me loud and clear – my freckles were a blemish that needed to be corrected or, ideally, totally obliterated. That’s quite a strong sentiment to try and shake.
But, despite my own insecurities, freckles have been having something of a fashion moment since Preen sent models down their Spring 2015 catwalk with drawn-on freckles all over the face, neck, shoulders and chest. Since then, a myriad of products have been released to help enhance your own spotty skin (or fake it if yours is alabaster pure). Lancôme, & Other Stories and Topshop have all released freckle pencils to much fanfare and ‘invisible’ foundation that covers imperfections but keeps freckles visible have become stalwarts for most make up brands. Plus celebrities like Emma Watson, Penélope Cruz and Jessica Chastain have all covered magazines this year with their freckles on full display. One hundred years ago, Vogue claimed the beauty ideal was a ‘secluded hothouse heroine’, whose pale skin was ‘untouched by sun’ and ‘neither freckle nor tan’. It may have taken 100 years, but the evidence is mounting that things are actually beginning to change.
The fact that freckles are having a moment can’t be anything other than good news – especially considering how much time I’ve wasted fretting over them over the years.
When I was little, I was told by my (totally clear-skinned) grandmother that freckles were a sign of beauty (probably, in hindsight, because she anticipated me having a problem with them later in life). But by the time I hit my mid-teens, no kind words from relatives could make me see my freckles as anything other than ugly blemishes that needed to be covered up. I would spend hours trying to conceal them with make up or mask them with fake tan. I wanted my skin to be smooth smooth smooth and I felt that freckles made me looked dimpled, like I had cellulite on my arms.
When I was 16, I once even put foundation on my arms to cover them up for a party, which ran all over my white top later on in the day when it started to rain outside. My ‘friends’ ribbed me so hard about my now tango-coloured t-shirt that I left the party in tears. And that was by no means my only incident with body foundation. When I was around 17 I jumped into a hotel pool whilst on holiday in the south of France, forgetting that I’d liberally applied (water-soluble) body make up that morning. When I got out of the pool, I had brown streaks of make up running down my legs and an audience of appalled looking French people. This, I probably don’t need to tell you, didn’t exactly enthuse me to go swimming again that holiday and my confidence really took a knocking.
Although things have improved now I’ve reached my late 20s and I’ve become less self-conscious about my freckles, things can still catch me off guard. A few months ago I was having dinner with a guy I really liked when halfway through desert, he leaned over to try and rub some ‘chocolate’ off my face. Only it wasn’t chocolate. It was a freckle. You can’t wipe those off, no matter how hard you try – just ask James.
I think part of the problem was that all the glamorous models and film stars had freckle-free skin and wore luminous, powdery make up to make their skin look completely smooth. Freckly celebrities always seemed to cover theirs up, or have them Photoshopped out, and if you want any confirmation of how anti-freckle things have been in the past – both Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Kidman are rumoured to have had theirs lasered off. Basically, all that doesn’t really make you want to shout out about all those brown ‘blemishes’ on your skin, does it?
But things have started to change in recent years as a more natural make up look started to become fashionable. Freckly girls like Emma Watson started enhancing them in photo shoots and designers started championing them on the catwalk.
So even though beauty products basically designed to create a natural look with even more make up might seem a little bit counter-intuitive, I really couldn’t be more pleased with the influx of freckle-friendly makeup. Even though I’ve got freckles all over my face, I’d probably use a freckle pencil to pick out my natural ones as a way of combatting that grubby look you get from putting traditional foundation over them.
This is all good news for me because covering them up or worrying about them had become more than a little bit of a bore. Anyway, everyone else seemed to really like my freckles and I just suddenly realised I didn’t know why I was so self-conscious about them any more. I’ve always seen signs of natural beauty appealing in other women, so why had it taken me so long to appreciate my own natural skin tone? It may have taken 27 years, but now I think my grandma was probably right and that freckles are, in fact, a sign of beauty. Plus, I can play join the dots on my own skin when I’m bored. How many of you can say that?