Last summer, I couldn’t go anywhere — or look anywhere on Instagram — without seeing freckles. They decorated the faces of models pictured in my favorite makeup artist Susie Sobol’s Instagram feed, Selena Gomez had them in her “Fetish” music video, and, of course, there was Lil Miquela, the perfectly freckled digital avatar–slash–Instagram sensation.
It seemed suspicious that all of these models and celebrities somehow suddenly had authentically perfect constellations of freckles. So I Googled “Are DIY freckles a thing?” and came across an Allure article that confirmed it: Yes, they are a thing, and yes, it was likely that all the freckles I’d admired were expertly drawn on by makeup artists. (Or in Miquela’s case, digitally rendered by a designer.)
Intrigued, I decided to investigate how one creates natural-looking freckles. There are many different ways to achieve the look, it turns out: flicking a slim brush dipped in brown paint across your face, drawing them on with an eyeliner or eyebrow pen, or even going so far as to literally tattoo them (one Atlanta-based tattoo artist claims that she’s been inundated with requests for tattooed freckles since the royal wedding, thanks to Meghan Markle). I went a slightly less permanent route, and attempted to draw little dots across my nose with my brown Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz. Either the color I was using was too dark, or the consistency of the pen just wasn’t right, but either way, it looked like trash: When I met up with my sister right after, she asked why I had so many blackheads. I gave up on fake freckles entirely.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a video of YouTuber Alissa Ashley doing a summer-inspired makeup tutorial. In the video, she couldn’t stop talking about — and praising — a brand called Frek. “Honestly speaking,” she said, “this is the best faux-freckle product I’ve ever used.” My ears perked up. Then she quickly dotted the product across the bridge of her nose, and almost instantly had cute, perfectly messy faux freckles. I was in love.
A week later, I sat in the bathroom, tiny bottle of Frek in hand. The applicator is a very thin, slightly slanted brush. The narrowness of the tip ensures that you get teeny-tiny brown dots, not giant, blotchy brown moles. The instructions tell you not to redip the brush in the product while applying — this way, it says, the drawn-on freckles will be all different shades, which is more natural-looking. Once you draw on a smattering of freckles, blot them gently with your fingertip; this will further dilute the color and make them less perfectly symmetrical and more natural-looking. The longer you leave the product on before blotting them, the darker they’ll be — so if you want superlight freckles, blot them right away, if you want them a little more pronounced, wait a few minutes before touching them. Then apply a sweep of setting powder over your nose and cheeks, and they’ll then stay put all day long.
Strat-approved setting powders to keep your freckles in place
This powder is a super cult favorite, and is beloved by many for its ability to keep makeup in place without flashback and chalkiness. The powder feels super light on the skin, and it never clings to any dry patches on my face.
Another lightweight and easy-to-use setting powder is this one from Charlotte Tilbury. It’s virtually invisible on the skin once applied, leaving not a trace of powder.
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