Much like microblading, freckle tattoos started popping up all over Instagram last year — and boy, did they cause a frenzy. Some adored the idea, but many viewed the whole thing as silly: Why go under the needle for something so seemingly pointless?
For nearly a year now, the desire to have more freckles has lingered in the back of my mind, so I took the plunge and got the polarizing procedure done myself.
If you've been considering freckle tattoos (secretly or not), follow my lead. Here's EVERYTHING you need to know.
First, prepare to not wear any face makeup for an entire week.
All complexion products — highlighter, blush, concealer, setting powder, etc. — worn on the day of the appointment will be wiped right off during tattoo prep. And you're not going to be allowed to wear any of it again until those freckles are healed three to five days after the fact.
If you have any big events around the corner or just can't live without your makeup on certain days of the week, you need to plan accordingly.
Freckle tattooing is a relatively new practice, so finding a reputable specialist in your area might be difficult. I went to see Brooklyn's best cosmetic tattooer, Bethany Wolosky.
Wolosky works at Three Kings Tattoo in Brooklyn, New York. She's been microblading eyebrows for years and recently added the growing freckle trend to her repertoire.
I knew right off the bat Bethany was the right specialist for me because she already worked at a tattoo shop I knew and trusted. She charges $200 per session before tax and tip.
This practice was easier to find for me because I'm in New York City, where there is no shortage of crazy new beauty treatments to try. If you're in another major city, though, you might find luck by searching for "cosmetic tattooers" or "permanent makeup specialists" in your area and seeing if they have any freckles in their portfolios.
As you would when getting a regular tattoo, you need to make absolutely sure your specialist has a sterile, uncluttered space.
It's a good idea to book a consultation to speak with the tattooer and make sure their place of practice is pristine before going under the needle.
Read as many reviews of said specialist as you can — like any other tattoo artist out there, you want a cosmetic tattooer who's not just organized, but patient and professional as well. They are marking your face with actual needles, after all.
There are few photos of healed freckle tattoos online to show as examples to your specialist — there's a reason for that.
Beside the fact that freckle tattooing hasn't really caught on in the mainstream yet, Wolosky told me she just doesn't get many selfies from clients after their freckles have healed completely. I'm sure other cosmetic tattooers have similar issues, and thus, a majority of the photos of freckle tattoos online look really, REALLY dark. They're just too fresh.
This isn't done with a special pencil or tool — just a drugstore eyeliner pencil.
If you're curious to see how fresh freckle tattoos will look on you, grab a Wet N Wild Color Icon Kohl Liner Pencil ($1, Wet N Wild) from your local drugstore and very gently draw a couple dots around your eye and nose area; it's not too far off from the real thing.
At this point, do NOT shy away from saying what you want or don't want.
Just before we got to the actual tattooing, Bethany let me look at the penciled on freckles up close in a handheld mirror, just in case there were any spots I felt could use more or less.
I loved what she'd drawn on so much already that I asked if she could add a few around my brow and forehead. At the end of the entire process, I was VERY glad I did.
Because those freckles won't be there forever, but they will last for a couple years.
Although it's hard to aptly describe them as anything else, freckle "tattoos" are not actually permanent. They're created with the same pigments used for eyebrow microblading, meaning they only last up to two years.
And that's entirely dependent on your lifestyle. Smoking, sun exposure, skin type, and a whole slew of other things can affect how quickly semi-permanent freckles last.
That being said, this procedure is not for those with a low pain tolerance. If you have other tattoos or facial piercings, you'll be just fine.
The best way I can describe the sensation I was feeling in that picture? It was like getting your nose pierced, but the piercer stops JUST before the needle passes through the cartilage. Strange, yes, but not especially painful.
But it's a lot less intense than I make it sound, I promise.
At first sight of your new freckles, everyone in your life is going to look at you like this for a hot minute.
Because you won't be wearing any makeup for a few days, this new facial feature of yours is going to be on display whether you like it or not. And people who are accustomed to your face pre-freckles are going to want to sit up close and stare for a second while they try to figure out what's different about you.
If you're like me and tell literally everyone you know that you're getting freckles tattooed on your face, expect even more attention (plus about a million questions).
Also, be prepared to catch yourself in mirrors for a while like THIS:
It's in a completely good way, though. It's like that feeling when you get a new hair cut or try something new wth your makeup and you absolutely can not stop adoring yourself.
Because, subtle as they are, freckle tattoos make a BIG difference to your face.
The first photo here was taken about an hour before my appointment with Bethany; the second was taken about 30 minutes after. At that point, I was feeling itchy and swollen — when I patted my cheeks, I could feel each little freckle raised on my skin.
Those suckers are going to take three days minimum to heal, and they look DARK right after getting them done.
There are two main reasons for that:
First, all tattoos — permanent or not — are the darkest and boldest when they're fresh because the ink or pigment hasn't been absorbed by the skin yet. They all need time to heal before they look "normal."
Second, on the day of your appointment, you're going to leave with numbing cream all over your cheeks. That numbing cream's job is to stop blood flow, which drains all the skin's color around the freckles. The heightened contrast between the skin and the tattoos make them appear a lot darker than they'll eventually look.
For those of you who worry that freckle tattoos are just too bold to look real, let me show you something to ease your mind.
A mere hour after I had these freckles tattooed, they were already looking a LOT like the natural freckles I had.
That gave me hope they'd be completely unclockable once healed.
Just after the tattooing, you're going to want to scratch your face REAL bad for a couple days — but you probably shouldn't.
I followed the same rule in this case as I had to for my microbladed eyebrows: scratching = premature fading. Instead of giving in to the itch, I patted my face and used a chilled toning spray to calm my skin.
Luckily, everything else about healing freckle tattoos is easy peasy — especially compared to microblading and regular tattoos.
When you get tattooed regularly, you maintain a strict schedule of washing, applying ointments, and moisturizing. When you get your brows microbladed, you also have a strict cream and ointment regimen — but you can't expose the pigment to water for a whole week.
The aftercare for freckle tattoos in FAR simpler: Use a gentle face wash. Don't wear makeup for a few days. Stay away from products with fragrance. That's it.
But your skin will likely feel a little dry and irritated — so moisturize as much as possible within the aftercare guidelines.
The only thing you really need to avoid is fragrance. I slathered on my favorite Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel ($20, Ulta) twice a day, and it worked like a charm.
It honestly won't take long for you to miss how in-your-face they were at the beginning, though.
It's been nearly a week since my session with Bethany, and my faux freckles are still getting more and more subtle every day. They look and feel like they've always been on my face. I LOVE how they look.
And finally, get ready to have your entire attitude towards your own face changed completely — for the best.
Even though I've passed the healing stage, I still haven't worn a lick of concealer or full-coverage foundation since getting freckles tattooed on my face. I haven't really wanted to, even on dates and nights out — and I LOVE piling on makeup just for the fun of it.
It's forced me out of my comfort zone and, honestly, helped me love and flaunt my rosy, bare skin. Was it crazy? Maybe a little. Am I going to do it again? Oh, hell yes.
Learn even more about freckle and other cosmetic tattooing on Bethany Wolosky's website.