• Finished result of freckles tattooed on a client at KD Cosmetic Tattoo. (Instagram / @kdcosmetictattoo)Source: Instagram / @kdcosmetictattoo
People are paying to permanently emulate sun-damaged skin.
Erin Bromhead

10 Apr 2017 - 5:07 PM  UPDATED 10 Apr 2017 - 5:07 PM

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pretty scared of the sun and its consequences for as long as I can remember. Since kindergarten, my prowess outdoors has been governed by the cardinal rule: "No hat, no play". Why? Because Australia’s burning hot sun may very well kill you.

Sure, it sounds dramatic, but so are the Cancer Council statistics: two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, with more than 750,000 people treated for one or more non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia each year.

That’s why this new phenomenon of women flocking to tattoo parlours to have permanent or semi-permanent freckle tattoos inked on their face is so perplexing. The recent trend dotting young women around the world has been credited to Montreal tattoo artist Gabrielle Rainbow, who started charging around $250 for freckle tattoo sessions last year. The clientele are predominately young women who either want their existing freckles enhanced or a scattering of new ones created.

There’s speculation we owe this latest faux freckle fad to those ever mindful Jenner sisters, who, along with selfie enthusiast Emily Ratajkowski, Instagrammed themselves with make-up enhanced freckles to their collective 180 million followers. So began the hashtag #fauxfreckles (currently present in 20,200 Instagram posts). Now, in a questionable display of human evolution, young women have progressed to permanent ink.

Fashion and beauty media are mostly raving about the new procedure. Marie Claire, Elle, Allure and The New Daily have all recently run features on the 'cute' new trend. Though, I have to admit, I found Elle’s headline “Not Blessed With Freckles? Now, You Can Tattoo Them On” a little problematic. Labeling sun damage a blessing is a bit of a stretch, surely?

Though most freckles aren’t dangerous, they indicate prior sun damage and thus an increased chance of skin cancers developing from that increased sun exposure. Worse yet, what about young girls who can’t afford or legally obtain freckle tattoos? The cheaper option of course would just be to go out in the sun with no hat and [gasp!] play.

But like every cloud masking a high UV rating, there is a silver lining. Young women who have endured years of schoolyard bullying and taunts about their sun spots (Freckle face, anyone?) now feel body-confident and their once criticised feature is now celebrated in their favourite magazines. No one can deny that positive self-esteem is important. But still, blessed? Stretch.

Darlinghurst Dermatology Skin and Laser Clinic dermatologist Dr Natasha Cook spoke to The New Daily for their report, expressing her concern for the new trend and its implications. On top of the complexities of glamourising sun damage, she said, “It is also more difficult to detect and diagnose cancer which presents underneath tattoos. Laser removal has its own risks as well and it’s possible your skin will never go back to looking as it did."

In Australia, we seem to have made huge strides when it comes to sun protection and skin cancer education. In a 2012 ABS Australian Health Survey, results found 56 percent of men and 61 percent of women regularly check freckles and moles for changes in shape, size and colour.

The last beauty trend that had doctors up in arms was, of course, solarium tanning - and we seem to have done a good job of putting those disastrous days behind us. Fake tanning products are selling through the roof and, for the most part, I really thought we’d finally got the age old memo: no hat, no play. But then came freckle tattoos.

To find out about other tattoo trends around the world, including gang ink in LA and the underground tattoo scene of South Korea, watch SBS VICELAND's docu-series Needles & Pins. New episodes air Tuesday nights at 8:30pm on SBS VICELAND, but you can episodes at SBS On Demand:


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