Forget the Myths! Here’s How to Really Get Rid of Freckles

Model with red hair

Photo: Luca Cannonieri/

Growing up, I hated my freckles and wanted so badly to mask them. I’d try every foundation and powder in my mother’s vanity until the entire surface of my face was covered and I resembled Casper the Friendly Ghost even more than my naturally pale Irish skin would normally. Then, there were the old wives tales—namely, that rubbing a lemon or buttermilk on your cheeks would get rid of your freckles. Needless to say, 20 years later, I still have a face full of them. But recently, I got to thinking about the latest technologies and whether you can, in fact, remove freckles. I caught up with some skincare experts who told me the truth behind removing those “angel kisses.” And no, lemon juice wasn’t one of them.

Apparently, a simple way to eliminate the appearance of freckles is through topical products that even out the skin tone. Jeanine B. Downie, M.D., director of New Jersey’s Image Dermatology, recommends a new topical cosmeceutical from Allergan-owned SkinMedica called Lytera Skin Brightening Complex ($125, that contains licorice, vitamin C, retinoic acid, and niacinamide. “These ingredients brighten the skin and even out skin tone,” says Dr. Downie. “I use Lytera a lot in conjunction with laser.” Because freckles are a form of sun damage, she says, they can’t be easily removed with a cream or serum. A laser is really the only way to go.

New York City’s Skinney Medspa offers a photo facial, and, according to them, just one laser treatment removes freckles…some of them, at least. I spoke with founder and laser skin specialist Adriana Martino on what to expect. “A photo facial should completely remove newer sun damage,” says Martino. “Photo facials can sometimes remove freckles completely.”

The facial uses intense pulsed light that goes underneath the skin, gently heating up and stimulating both collagen and elastin. (So it also removes wrinkles and any redness). The laser produces a light pinch of warm heat to the skin. After the treatment, your freckles will actually get darker for the next three to five days as the dark spots are being lifted to the skin’s surface. One session could remove your freckles, but, for top results, they recommend multiple treatments. “Your skin has multiple layers and some hyper-pigmentation can be deep so it is important to come in once every four to five weeks for a series of five to six sessions.”

Of course, new freckles can pop up anytime. To keep them at bay, follow the most important rule of all: Don’t forget the SPF. Martino recommends Elta, MD SPF 41 physical protection. “It’s  broad spectrum, oil-free, tinted, and waterproof,” she says. “It lasts longer than most SPFs out there so you don’t have to reapply it as often.” Freckles are the hardest sun damage to remove—prevention is key.

So there is one option for fellow freckle-masking ladies out there. However, over the years I’ve come to love those little specks, and instead use makeup tips to showcase them. You should always love the skin you’re in, right?

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