Read our comprehensive guide through freckle tattoos and find out everything you need to know: how they’re done, how long they last, risks, cost, and more.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2019. Updated in December 2021.
PMU has evolved so much it now offers a whole range of cosmetic tattooing treatments – one of them is freckle tattoos. Although not strictly a substitute for makeup, freckle tattoos are done in a very similar way to other permanent makeup treatments.
Tattoo freckles have been very popular in the past few years, with more and more people embracing the natural look and seeing beauty in what was once considered imperfections. So freckles became something to be desired, and while the look can easily be recreated with a simple brow pencil, some are going so far as having them tattooed.
Here’s everything you need to know about freckle tattoos.
A relatively new addition to the range of PMU treatments, freckle tattoos are a form of cosmetic tattooing that recreates the look of natural freckles on the face.
They can be done on the nose, cheeks, temples, chin, anywhere on the face.
While most clients want round-shaped freckles that look natural, it’s also possible to get particular shapes, like stars or hearts. Some clients want their freckles placed in a specific pattern – getting your astrological constellation in freckles is something that’s very popular.
The faux freckles are created by depositing a pigment several shades darker than the client’s skin tone into their skin, creating tiny dots that resemble natural freckles. Since the color goes into the skin rather than on top of it, these tattooed freckles aren’t washed off or smudged, and they last up to 3 years.
Image source: Instagram @bren_paintedlady_pigments
No, modern-day freckles tattoos are not traditional body art.
Tattoo freckles fall under the category of cosmetic tattooing, a type of tattooing meant to last a couple of years, gradually fading away. They’re done with pigments rather than inks, which the body can metabolize and fade away the results.
The pigments are deposited close to the skin’s surface, only into the upper dermis, which ensures they look natural and fade away after a certain time, whereas traditional body art tattoos go deeper and are meant to last a lifetime.
The fact that cosmetic tattooing allows fading of the results makes it much more suitable for treating the face – if you ever change your mind about having tattooed freckles, you can just let them fade away.
Here’s what the treatment is like, step by step:
You will have a chat with your artist and tell them what you want your tattooed freckles to look like and where you want them placed. They’ll assess your skin and pick the best shade for your complexion.
Your face is cleaned from any makeup and skincare residues and sebum. It needs to be clean as the skin will be broken and there’s a risk of contamination.
The artist will draw on trial marks on your face and you can decide on the placement of the freckles, as well as their shape and size.
A topical anesthetic is applied onto the area that will be treated. The numbing takes about 15-20 minutes to kick in, and once it does, the needling can start.
Some artists numb first and pre-draw second – it all depends on their preference.
The artist will use either an electric PMU device or a manual tool with a needle to make tiny dot-like incisions on the skin, which are filled with pigment and add up to freckles. They may go over the same spot multiple times to saturate it in pigment.
This can take 20-45 minutes, depending on the number of freckles you want.
Finally, your face is cleaned of the pigment residues. You will be given aftercare instructions, and possibly an aftercare ointment.
Your skin needs 6-8 weeks to heal completely from the first session, during which time the pigments will settle into the skin and light up 30-40% compared to their initial shade. At that point, you should go back in for the touch up.
Image source: Instagram @headchopstudio
The treatment can take up to an hour, depending on how many tattooed freckles you want.
Not really, although it isn’t exactly comfortable either.
The numbing cream will eliminate the pain, but you will still feel pressure, something akin to pinching or stinging, and tattooing over your nose may trigger the urge to sneeze. If you feel pain at any moment, ask the artist if they can add more numbing. If you feel the need to sneeze, warn them in time so that they can move the needle away from your face.
Bear in mind that the skin in different parts of the face varies in sensitivity, so some parts might be more uncomfortable than others.
Generally, yes, if done right.
However, since the surface of the skin is broken, there’s the risk of contamination and subsequent infection if the treatment isn’t done in sterile conditions and with sterile equipment, or if the tiny wounds get contaminated during healing.
There’s also a small risk of an allergic reaction to the pigments or the numbing, so a patch test should always be done beforehand.
Finally, there’s a small risk of permanent scarring in case of improper technique or overworking the skin. This is especially the case if you’re generally prone to keloid scarring.
Image source: Instagram @stellarcosmetictattoo
Yes. As with any PMU treatment, freckle tattoos are not safe for:
The most important step in prepping for the treatment is finding a good artist who is experienced and whose work you like. Research the artists in your area carefully and look through their portfolios.
There are some things you should avoid in the weeks and days before your appointment:
Yes, but it’s nothing complicated. It comes down to protecting the area from contamination and avoiding certain activities in order to prevent premature pigment fading.
You need to:
Once the area completely stops flaking, you can discontinue the aftercare routine, but it’s a good idea to keep avoiding direct sunlight exposure, as it can fade pigments.
Not immediately, no.
The treated area is essentially covered in tiny wounds, and applying makeup to them can cause irritation and infection. You need to wait about 10 days before you can wear makeup again.
In terms of eyes or lips, you can wear makeup during this time if you must, but be very careful when removing it – no products or makeup residues should come into contact with the treated area.
It takes 6-8 weeks for your skin and the tissue underneath to heal completely, but the micro-wounds will close up much faster than that.
The symptoms of healing will only be present for about 10-14 days.
The freckle tattoo healing process is not as intensive as with some other PMU treatments. It does entail some minor immediate side-effects, and a few days of scabbing, and then flaking.
Here’s an overview of the freckle tattoo healing process:
You can expect your freckles to fade 30-40% by the time the healing process ends, so if they look too dark right after the treatment, just be patient.
Image source: Instagram @mandicolorshair
The first touch up appointment is booked 6-8 weeks after the initial session, once the skin has had time to heal completely. It’s mandatory, as it serves to replenish pigments after the healing process and ensure the longest retention possible.
As freckle tattoos fade over time, you have to get them refreshed every once in a while if you want to keep them. Most clients need a touch up annually, but it all depends on how fast your tattooed freckles are fading. Essentially, you can get touch ups as often or as rarely as you want.
Image source: Instagram @lauramakespretties
Depending on your skin type and lifestyle, they can last up to 3 years.
However, some factors can speed up the fading of tattooed freckles:
As with any procedure involving breaking the skin surface, there are certain immediate side-effects and the most common are:
These are all normal and to be expected, and they should subside within 48 hours after the procedure. If the symptoms persist, however, you may be dealing with an infection or an allergic reaction. In that case, contact your artist as soon as possible.
A more serious issue is long-term effects, i.e. how your freckle tattoos age. A common scenario is for the freckles to turn ashy or grayish after some time. This can happen if the pigment used was formulated for eyebrows rather than specifically for freckles, so you should never go to an artist who doesn’t have experience with tattooing freckles.
Essentially, yes, but it’s a complicated process which can be quite long and uncomfortable.
Since the pigments used are the color of the skin, a common ingredient found in them is titanium dioxide, a type of white pigment. When touched by a laser beam, titanium dioxide changes color and darkens into a gray. Obviously, this makes removing tattooed freckles from your face impossible. There are certain types of laser machines which can work around this issue, but techs who work with these might be hard to find.
Saline and glycolic acid removal are better options, but not many PMU removal techs have experience removing freckle tattoos.
The best option is to just wait for them to fade and cover them up with foundation until they do, unless they’re completely botched and you can’t live with them.
Image source: Instagram @browsbysage
As we mentioned, titanium dioxide can’t be touched with a laser beam. So if you have a freckle tattoo, you won’t be able to get any laser treatments in the area – not for anti-aging purposes nor for hair removal.
The price of a freckle tattoo treatment ranges from $80 to $350, depending on the artist and the area treated. The price is usually set based on how many freckles you get.
If you really like the freckled look and you draw on your freckles with makeup, freckle tattoos are a great option. They’re a relatively simple procedure, but you should be aware that sometimes, they don’t age very well. So you should be very careful when choosing an artist and make sure they work with high-quality pigments formulated specifically for freckle tattooing.
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