As a natural redhead, I’ve been covered with freckles basically my entire life. Ever since I was old enough to recognize myself in the mirror, I’ve grown used to seeing my skin covered in hundreds of tiny brown dots, some darker than others
In the winter, they’re definitely more subtle, and are spread lightly across my arms and legs rather than my face. But in the summer--oh boy, do things change. One day out in the sun, and my face, chest, hands, feet and even my eyelids will be almost entirely covered in them. From far away, my freckles blend together and I actually look tan (for once).
When I was a kid, they never bothered me--it was just how I looked. I never thought twice about going out in the sun. As I grew older, however, I began to think differently, and so did my peers.
Kids began to tease me about them in school, saying I looked like I had skin cancer or that I was covered in polka-dots. The fact that my skin wasn’t one pure, single color was quite a talking point for people around me, it seemed. And even if I wasn’t the target of merciless taunting, I always noticed when my friends would prod and sigh at their few skin spots, complaining about how “ugly” they were.
It got even worse as I apprehensively entered the world of makeup and skincare. Everywhere I looked, there were products promising the erasure of “unsightly” skin discolorations and spots; some products would explicitly name freckles as part of that group. Take, for example, this Laser Freckle Removal Machine from Lover's Area or this Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum from Murad. In every ad, smiling faces with clear, even skin tones would look back at me--not one different texture, spot or discoloration in sight.
It’s hard to avoid hating a quality you have when you consistently see it slandered by peers, ads and the media. As I was taught about the Civil War and how to write a thesis in school, the world taught me an additional lesson: that my freckles were ugly, and I should do everything in my power to remove them.
I remember standing in front of the mirror, feverishly scrubbing at my skin with various exfoliators or washes and slathering layers upon layers of full-coverage foundations in hopes of covering up my skin. Even when posting pictures to social media, I would spend hours meticulously editing and airbrushing my freckles away, until all that was left would be a clear, even (and terribly photoshopped) skin tone.
What’s made me feel even worse was the “fake freckles” trend that started a few years ago in the beauty community, in which freckles are drawn on top of foundation with eyeshadow or eyebrow products. Seemingly overnight, my Instagram and Twitter feed was filled with makeup artists and other girls posting beautiful selfies of their sun-kissed skin, with a few penciled dots spread across their cheeks and nose. The pictures would garner thousands and thousands of likes, and comments that were full of praise and admiration. Numerous articles were churned out every day from beauty or lifestyle websites that praised the phenomenon as “the next big thing,” like W Dish, who claimed it as the "hottest new trend," or Allure, who described faux freckles as having a "major impact" on social media. There are even multiple filters on Snapchat that transform the user’s face into a cutesy caricature, with freckles concentrated on the cheeks and nose.
This infuriated me. When makeup artists or simply girls with a lot of followers mimic the attribute that I’ve been teased for my entire life, it becomes “trendy?” Why are these women praised as artists and called beautiful by the media for something I’ve been taught to hate?
I spent years and years hating everything about my skin, asking myself and whatever higher power there is up there “Why did I have to be a redhead? Why am I so pale? Why do I have to look like this?” It was tough--but as time went by, and I began seeking therapy and engaging in mentally and physically healthy habits, the red-hot hatred I built up for years began to slowly edge away.
The recent beauty trend of “body positivity” definitely helped, too. Women with all skin types are slowly becoming more and more mainstream in ads and magazines--I can’t even explain you the joy I felt when I first saw a redhead covered in freckles featured in a fashion magazine.
Now, I sit happily with the realization that my freckles aren’t “ugly” or something I should be trying to erase from existence. They’re just something I was born with--just like some people are born with dimples, dark hair or bowed legs. It’s just how I look.
I’ve even gotten a few compliments about my freckles. Random people on the street and friends have called them “cute” or “pretty” upon occasion, and I’ve even heard a few people say they wish they had them. After all, if faking them has become a trend, they must be desirable to some, right?
It is so incredibly freeing to not care about something that’s plagued you for years. Now, I couldn’t care less if I come inside from a day in the sun and find myself with hundreds of new spots. Sometimes, I deliberately stay outside so I’ll develop more. Instead of choosing filters that blur my skin, I now try to use ones that emphasize my freckles and make them stand out even more. I can confidently say that I now love my freckles. They’re unique, and something I’ll never get rid of, so I might as well learn to appreciate them.
So, I say this to everyone else with freckles or other “skin imperfections”: stop hating yourself for something that you were born with! Forget what the media or beauty community is advertising as “trendy” or “beautiful” this week. Forget all the people that cringed and made fun of your skin. Forget all the products that boast they will make your skin “perfect” by erasing every trace of what makes you you. It’s time we stop hating our “imperfections” and start loving them.