Freckle Tattoos 101: What to Know Before You Commit

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We’ve reached peak saturation with the freckle tattoo trend—there are faux freckle filters, freckle makeup and tools that help mimic the natural patches of small brown spots—but all are temporary ways to adopt the look. Now, semi-permanent freckle tattoos are trending big and we asked the experts to share the most important things to know if you’re considering adding them to your face.  

Are they reversable?

Makeup trends come and go, but freckle tattoos are meant to last for up to a year or more. The pigment is placed into the skin with a hand-held tool or a tattooing device. “Current freckle tattoos are semi-permanent makeup akin to microblading,” explains New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD. “Those will start fading and should disappear within a year and half.”

“However, tattooed freckles may not be easily reversible if you don’t like them and may cause scarring,” explains Rochester, NY dermatologist Lesley Loss, MD. “Filters on social media seem to be contributing to this trend, however freckle tattoos are unlikely to look like the filter on a person’s actual skin.”

What are the risks?

“The biggest risk is regret at having the design placed on your face,” says Santa Monica, CA dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD. “Of course there’s also the risk of infection, allergic reaction and improper application.”

Will they fade over time?

Regular body tattoos tend to change shape and color over time and our experts say the same can happen to the ones on your face, even if they are significantly smaller and aren’t meant to be permanent. “They will absolutely change,” says Dr. Shamban. “The body senses tattoo pigment as a foreign body like a splinter and works hard to eliminate it. So, the macrophages, the skin’s clean-up committee, cart off the pigment, lightening the tattoo.”

“They may also become blurry or stretch as the skin naturally ages, and depending on the type of tattoo ink used, they may fade to an unnatural color,” adds Dr. Loss. “Likewise, laser tattoo removal may inadvertently alter the color, which may be distressing.”

Will tattoo removal work if I change my mind?

It can be done, says Dr. Loss, but she stresses it must be done carefully and by a trained laser professional. “Some types of ink do discolor and turn white or pink, but it is unpredictable and no way to know that will happen. I use the Picoway laser, and often do a single test spot on freckle tattoos to ensure no adverse reaction.”

Tattoo removal does often require several treatments, Dr. Loss says most often 6-12, spaced at least two months apart. “The process is long and comes with varying changes to the appearance of the tattoo as treatment progresses. Removal can also trigger hyper or hypopigmentation.”

“As they are healing they are usually red and crusty, and there is a possibility of developing a discoloration or scar in the areas treated,” notes  Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD

“There are also alternatives including chemical spot peeling, freezing with liquid nitrogen and even small punch excisions in rare circumstances,” adds Spokane, WA dermatologist Wm. Philip Werschler, MD. “To me, and I suspect most dermatologists, freckling represents sun damage, and I don’t find it particularly attractive, although fake freckles are pretty harmless overall. If someone is really interested in tattooing, I would suggest they try a temporary one.”

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