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I got freckles tattooed on my face, here’s how it went

WORDS By Jonti Ridley

“Be prepared for the fact faux-freckles will elicit a wide array of reactions from friends, family and, yes, strangers.”

If you take a quick look in my general direction, it doesn’t take long to realise I’m a big fan of body modifications – tattoos in particular. Since getting my first tattoo at 19, I’ve found tattooing to be a cathartic and creative means of both expressing myself and reclaiming autonomy over my walking meat suit – repurposing it into a questionably decorated gallery of oddities.

Freckle tattoos have fallen in and out of favour on the internet, with a wide assortment of techniques and final outcomes. If you’re familiar with my particular brand of bullshit, getting face tattoos isn’t a particularly large leap from my regular scheduling of poor impulse control, but I surprised myself with my less-than-chill reaction.

What type of face tattooing is right for you?

Before making a commitment to this kind of face tat – or any kind, for that matter – it’s important to know the difference between cosmetic tattooing and regular tattooing. The primary difference being cosmetic tattoo inks are designed to significantly lighten over time, to the point of intending to disappear within eight to ten years.

The degree of lightening and speed at which it happens is influenced by everything from sun exposure to skincare ingredients to genetics. If you want your freckles to be very dark and very intense forever, that’s cool, however if you’re looking for a more ‘natural’ effect I would suggest booking with an artist who uses these kinds of inks.


We like nosy people. Don’t be shy, head to our Beauty section for more. 


The tattoo method may also differ from your regular appointments, particularly if you’re receiving microblading (common in eyebrow tattooing). For my appointment, my artist used a combination of very small and very sharp needle cartridges specifically designed for cosmetic tattooing, which attach to her electric pen machine.

Microblading, however, uses a flat tray of tiny needles fused together, which artists traditionally pull through your skin manually. Needles in and around your face and eyes is enough to make anyone squirm, and it certainly didn’t tickle. Numbing cream can be applied prior to your appointment or by your artist, but my best suggestion is to ask what they prefer.

Numbing cream can affect the elasticity of the skin, which can make the process of depositing ink a little harder. It’s likely not a dealbreaker for them, but it’s just nice to let them know ahead of time in case they have a particular brand they’re familiar with which will yield the best results for both of you.

I had the incredibly talented Savannah (@ink.bat) do mine, and I couldn’t recommend her enough. Although she doesn’t do cosmetic tattooing full-time anymore, having worked on projects with her before, I knew her skill level and eye for detail made her the perfect artist to execute my freckles.

 

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Obviously spontaneous tattoos can be a lot of fun, but I would implore you to do thorough research before choosing your cosmetic artist. After all, it is your face – one of the areas you need to look at every single day. You want to be sure your artist knows exactly what you’re after.

Do you want them to appear artificial with heavy clusters all over, or are you after a semi-transparent speckle across a particular area? Most importantly, are you confident the artist can execute what you have in mind? Clear reference photos, realistic expectations and a thorough consultation will always get you where you need to go. Also, healed photos are a must.

I’m not going to lie, out of all the tattoos I’ve gotten, this is the one that really spooked me. Both pre and post, despite having the appointment booked months in advance and my artist was with me throughout the process – even colour matching my inks. So why the panic? Well for one, it’s my face. Two, it’s my face.

Self-esteem aside, modelling has been a primary contributor to my income for a while now, had I just inked that part of my life away? Facing two weeks of itching with strictly no makeup was one thing, but having to adjust to their sudden appearance on my face while they were at their absolute darkest admittedly took a toll for the first fortnight. But like most things, you just need to trust the process (having housemates on hand to enthusiastically reassure you when doubt creeps in is also a huge help).

Aftercare for face tattoos

In the first week I’d say I saw a ten per cent reduction in darkness, and four weeks out I’d say they’d be close to 40 per cent lighter than when they were fresh. The final-ish product will be at approximately six to eight weeks, after my skin has completed a full skin cycle.

All the freckles themselves have remained, but as my face has refreshed itself the ink has ‘fallen out’ slightly in the process, making them less dense and opaque.

As far as taking care of them for the first month, I had to completely redesign my skincare routine, switching to an extra gentle, soap-free wash for cleansing, pure witch hazel for toning and a fragrance-free moisturizer. In terms of aftercare balm, you’ll want something light and hydrating, that isn’t going to trap potential nasties to avoid potential infections.

For the freckles themselves, I used Stompy’s Snake Oil which comes out later this month, however, a pure jojoba oil or rosehip oil is a great chemist go-to if you need something in a hurry. In terms of aftercare, you want to focus on hydration without clogging your pores.

Generally speaking, don’t use Bepanthen on new tattoos, especially on your face. Yes, even the ‘tattoo’ branded one (which has the same ingredients at a higher price point, btw). I know Bepanthen is an old-school classic, however, its formula’s purpose is to create a thick moisture barrier on rashy skin to prevent nappy friction and relieve itching.

That dense moisture also creates the perfect environment for bacteria to flourish and breed. The thick cream is also known for causing whiteheads around the area due to congestion. It’s not inherently incorrect but, simply put, it’s a product for chafing, not healing an open wound. Why invite puss to the party?

 

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Before proceeding with your own freckle tats, be prepared for the fact that faux-freckles will elicit a wide array of reactions from friends, family and, yes, strangers. Face tattooing in general isn’t for everyone, and the concept of artificial freckles may give them the ick due to their own beauty ideals or prior life experiences.

The opinions of others shouldn’t hold you back from making informed decisions for your own existence and appearance, however like anything, developing a tolerance to unwanted and uninvited opinions can take a little practice, I find it can help to be prepared for the bullshit.

A month post-appointment, I am simply obsessed. As someone with skin comparable to a porcelain toilet bowl with a ginger gene in my blood, I was always prone to freckling in the summer.

Unfortunately, as I got older and realised the long-term effects of skipping sunscreen, I had to say goodbye to the sprinkle of spots I looked forward to every year. Having the privilege to revisit and recreate my childhood grin brings me a lot of joy and, thanks to the incredible talent of Savannah, I get to have my sun-safe cake and eat it too.

You can find out more about cosmetic and facial tattooing here.

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