What caught your eye about Meghan Markle as she glided down the aisle at her wedding, last weekend? For some people, it was the dress; for others, the veil. Everyone noticed how calm and happy she looked, this picture of female independence standing at the top of the steps. For me, and thousands of other women, one thing stood out: the smattering of freckles across her cheeks and nose.
Markle has always been proud of her freckles; she ensures they’re not Photoshopped out of pictures or covered in too many layers of make-up. It’s part of her charm, this easy confidence in her looks – even the bits that some people might deem as flaws. It seems strange to term freckles "flaws" – after all, they’re just bit of skin pigmentation, something you’re born with and can’t really change. They should be something we so easily accept and yet if, like me, you grew up with them, then you’ll know that Markle’s confidence in them is something that is hard won.
My freckles, it must be admitted, are not quite as cute as Meghan’s. Rather than a neat flurry across my nose, they cover my whole face, arms and chest. In the winter, you’d hardly notice them, but the slightest hint of sun brings them zinging back and, to kids, they are fascinating.
“What are those spots on your arms?”
“Why is your skin like that?”
“That’s so weird.”
Those were just some of the views my classmates had of my freckly skin growing up. However, all of these were better than the comparison I made of them. As a child, I didn’t just have freckles – I also had the very pale skin and red hair that so often accompanies them. On top of that, I was short for my age and, let’s be honest here, of a rather dumpy shape. All I needed was some pigtails and a boater to look the picture of the spoilt British schoolgirl. A look that’s not exactly appealing at five, but when you still look like that at 15, it’s downright embarrassing.
I hope that we’re entering a time when beauty standards are changing and freckles can be one small, spotty part of that. As we embrace different bodies, skin types and attitudes, how can we leave freckles behind?
Too short, too fat, too pale and definitely too ginger, it felt like freckles were the thing that capped it off, ensuring that I would never be a “great beauty” – I wasn’t sure what a “great beauty” was, but it appeared as a phrase in the Sadler’s Wells ballet books I was so fond of, so I knew it was important. When I was younger, I felt those freckles defined my place in the canon of female attractiveness – at best, I might be characterful, but I simply couldn’t be pretty.
Over the years, though, my view on them has changed. As I’ve got older and they’ve started to fade, I’ve begun to find myself holding my face to the sun hoping they might just reappear. They’re no longer the first thing you see when you look at me and a light covering of foundation can all but take them away. I miss them. There is something joyful and innocent and honest about freckles – they give any woman, no matter her age, a smattering of youthful enthusiasm, and who doesn’t need a little of that in their daily life?
While the freckles on my face have faded, the ones on my arms have multiplied, and I’m glad of it. They remind me of watching my mother’s arms turn brown in the sunshine when I was a child – she’d joke that it was simply all her freckles joining up. That’s what I see mine do now, a reminder of my heritage and the woman I came from.
I hope that we’re entering a time when beauty standards are changing and freckles can be one small, spotty part of that. As we embrace different bodies, skin types and attitudes, how can we leave freckles behind? Years of covering my facial freckles in make-up has left me a little sad for the days when they could have been so joyfully on display, so recently I’ve been taking more of an interest in my skin, trying to get it to a point where it shines without make-up and nothing is hidden.
Apparently, in the wake of the royal wedding, searches for freckle-friendly make-up have gone up. There’s even a market for those who want to fake their freckles. Far from being something to hide, natural freckle owners are now the envy of their freckle-free friends.
But, as someone who’s had them all her life, I don’t want freckles to just be another trend. The problem with freckles being cool simply because our current girl crush says they are is that, in a few weeks, months or years, we’ll have had enough of them and, like every other trend, they’ll be over until the next time. Your face is your face, freckled or not. At some point, we all have to learn to be at peace with it and to be able to say, “Please don’t Photoshop my character out.”
Here are the beauty products I love for my freckles
Freckles need clean, soft skin and this does that better than anything else.
This leaves skin really clear, smooth and glowing, so no foundation needed.
This comes with a little bit of coverage, but not enough to hide your freckles, and has an SPF.
Sets everything, tones down redness and adds a little natural sparkle to your freckles.