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June 2016

Purity in the Eye of the Beholder—Home Remedies for Freckles

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Miami Miller, School of Medicine, Miami, Florida
JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(6):690. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.5140

In ancient Rome, the poet Ovid mentioned in his Medicamina Faciei that Pharian fish and crocodile intestines and dung were used as cosmetics to brighten the complexion and remove freckles. In the late 1800s, an extract from the white lily-of-the-valley flower, common throughout England, was prescribed to rid the skin of the unsightly spots. Early do-it-yourself recipes from the 18th century were toners, cleansers, and other homemade apothecary cures to diminish the presence of freckles. Honey and rose, which are skin-softening agents common in many lotions, were used in combination with cream of tartar. The latter ingredient is an acidic substance, as is the citrus wash suggested to finish the treatment.1 The instructions hinted at the origin of freckles: “these yellow spots…are found to be the product of fuliginous vapors, and like smoke, molest those most who have the fairest skins, as if Beauty, jealous of being outlived by too clear a complexion, did bestow that yellow livery on others, which she rather deserved to wear herself.”1

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