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The Makeup Maniac

How to enhance (not hide) your freckles with sheer makeup

June 29th 2018 / Anna Hunter / 0 comment

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The Meghan Markle and makeup artist informed guide to wearing makeup to make the very most of your freckles, whether you’ve got just a sprinkle or a full face

Freckles: splatterings of melanin that occur across all ethnicities and give our face and bodies character, but the sudden surge in interest in freckled skin (‘freckles’ as a search term has seen a 31 per cent increase over the past 12 months according to Google) belies that fact that freckles haven’t always garnered positive connotations. Freckles were known as ‘witch’ or ‘demon’ marks in Medieval times (generally a bad time to be a woman, let alone a freckled one), and women (because it’s usually women) are to this day presented with all manner of methods to cover or completely obliterate freckles, from camouflage makeup to laser treatments and cryosurgery.

Natural “cures” abound across the internet, including rubbing a red onion across your face to ‘exfoliate’ away freckles to smothering yourself in sour cream in the hope that the lactic acid will ‘eat up’ your unique pigmentation pattern. Because you’re not a fajita, you shouldn’t endure pain to “correct” what genetics and sun exposure has brought about organically, plus the fact that we’re finally culturally appreciating freckles rather than keeping them down, here are the tips, techniques and products that big up your features without blending away freckles.

Start with an SPF base

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This ought to be how everyone begins the day, but if you have fair skin and freckles, you’re particularly susceptible to sun damage, so prioritise sun protection every.single.morning. Swerve thick, white-out textures for a lightweight transparent sunscreen- Glossier Invisible Shield SPF 35, £20 for 30ml, has a clear, gel formula that hydrates, helps to protect skin from pollution and won’t leave any weirdo residue or odd ghost-like colour behind. For a high protection sunscreen/ primer hybrid new By Terry UV Base SPF 50, £60, shields skin from the sun’s rays while providing a smooth, even and crucially clear canvas for makeup. Which brings us to...

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Keep foundation light but buildable

This is one department in which following Royal protocol could pay off- as has been widely discussed, the Duchess of Sussex chose simple, low key makeup for her wedding day, most notably going very light in the base department so that every single freckle shone through. Meghan’s former makeup artist Lydia F.Sellers revealed to Refinery29 that she always requests “for her freckles to peek through makeup” and that she doesn’t want “a tonne of foundation.”

That doesn’t mean forgoing base altogether forever- one of Meghan’s favourite’s is the featherweight Armani Luminous Silk Foundation, £42, which can be applied in a gossamer fine layer, or built up a little with a Beautyblender or similar to achieve a fuller coverage finish should you wish to knock back redness or a particularly aggro breakout. Shade wise, opt for a colour close to the colour of your skin, rather than the colour of your freckles.

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If your budget doesn’t stretch to a regal foundation, EX1 Invisiwear Foundation, £12.50, offers silky medium coverage that comes off relatively sheer on skin, and the gold pigments within the formula are particularly brilliant if you have olive skin, or yellow undertones, as many foundations are blended with too much red or orange, which can wind up looking mask-like (the last thing you need if you’re hoping to show some skin).

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For all of the above rolled into one, bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Gel Cream, £28, boasts SPF 30, a moisturising fragrance-free formula and shades that not only look convincingly ‘skinny’, but don’t put up a wall of makeup in front of your freckles, as bareMinerals International Makeup Artist SJ Froom explains:

“I’m all about enhancing skin, and not covering up gorgeous freckles. This lightweight formula is super buildable, so it can be applied in very sheer layers as built up as needed. Two layers buffed on thinly would cover any unwanted rosiness and even out the skin’s surface, but it won’t mask freckles in the process.”

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If you only have higher coverage foundation to hand, you can work with that to your freckles’ advantage too, as celebrity makeup artist and Collection ambassador Francesca Neill details:

“A high-coverage foundation will be too opaque and will cover your freckles up, however, if you only have high coverage formulas in your kit, try mixing it with a bit of moisturiser to help to sheer it out.”

Spot apply

Keep concealing strategic- Francesca explains how to put a spot in its place without blanking out freckles around it:

“Precision concealing is important - be as targeted as possible and use a precision brush for application. You want to avoid covering any of the good skin around a blemish and just keep the full coverage concealer to the spot itself. This will create the illusion of healthy skin overall, without covering the freckles, keeping the rest of the face looking minimal, fresh and clean.”

To ‘seal’ any concealer or foundation you may be wearing, keep powder light and airy too- a translucent loose powder such as Laura Mercier Loose Setting Powder, £29, helps to minimise pores, not freckles, and leaves skin velvety but not blanketed in further coverage you don’t need.

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Colour in

You might be wary of adding colour over freckles, but the right blusher can light up skin and deliver a healthy glow that looks natural rather than competing with your god given pigmentation. As always, a see-through finish is the one, and again Glossier storms it in this department- there’s a dewy gel Cloud Paint, £15, to suit one and all, and it builds believable colour while still showcasing the skin beneath.

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Bronzer can be a trickier area, as it can seemingly blend freckles together if the texture is too heavy. Francesca assures you that you don’t have to skip a swoop of sunny warmth, but a light touch and fluffy brush are your friends:

“If you want to use a bronzer, use a big fluffy haired brush to softly sweep on the colour. This will ensure your freckles don’t end up looking like muddy marks. Apply where the sun would naturally hit the face – across the forehead and across the nose.”

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The generously sized Marc Jacobs The Bronze Bronzer Brush, £52, is pleasingly soft and bushy, and large enough to cater for decolletage and body too, while powder wise the modern classic ‘no makeup makeup’ staple Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Luminous Colour, £40, is a slightly darker take on the original 'beige'. It’s still subtle, but it gives skin a lift without the cakey, chalky effect. If you’re after a smattering of sun rather than a full-on face tan, you're good.

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If you’re not a powder fan, a liquid bronzer can add radiance and is less likely to throw your freckles into the shade- Giorgio Armani Maestro Liquid Summer Bronzer, £42, is a ‘little goes a long way’ situation, and there’s no sparkle to detract attention from your actual skin either.

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Light it up

On the subject of luminosity, highlighter works beautifully on freckled skin- I’m about to say the word sheer again, but a non-opaque glow really is the one to create that ‘lit from within’ thing. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector, £34, is another product that only requires a few drops to make skin beam, and it’s available in seven shades so that you achieve a sheen that ties in with your skintone (again, a fairly rare phenomenon in a beauty pool of tin-foil highlighters). Basically, it’s lustrous, with no coverage or glaring unicorn effect (no need).

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Beware the contour

This is probably a slogan for life no matter your levels of pigmentation, but contouring can prove particularly problematic if you’re freckled- it’s tricky to blend in seamlessly and amalgamates your individual freckles. If you do go there, find the most low key contouring liquid or powder on the market, and dab on sparingly. Your makeup will almost certainly look more natural without it, however.

Bare all

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You don’t need makeup to make the most of your freckles- it’s there should you want it, and you shouldn’t miss out if you love it, but a big cover-up this ain’t. The decline of airbrushing in advertising, emergence of ‘real skin’ in the public sphere (in all of its spotty, stretchmarked, thread veined glory on sites such as ASOS) and movements such as Missguided’s #InYourOwnSkin campaign are helping to erode the image of curated (read: fake) perfection that is so often marketed to us. Sure, the Insta filtering abounds, but flawlessness is not an uplifting ideal for any of us, and you’d be surprised how powerful you feel after stripping things back for all to see, as freckled #InYourSkin ambassador Polly Ellens asserts:

“It’s going to be fine. If hadn’t had tried to fake tan and cover my freckles that way then I wouldn’t know that actually, I didn’t want to do that. I did worry a lot and with that, but now I’d just say ‘do what you want to do, but it will be fine’.”

You’re good enough and the skin you’re in is too. It will be fine.

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