“John Mark, why do you like posting awkwardly creepy things on your WhatsApp stories? The other day you posted a picture of a girl with freckles, that freaked me out, you also shared another photo of a young boy with Heterochromia iridium, and now you want to show us a lady that has vitiligo? Get your shit right!”
This is what a friend of mine, whose name I won’t mention, said.
What was wrong about sharing photos of the undeniably beautiful Winnie Harlow? Did I offend anyone with those photos?
If you find these question invalid, please quit reading!
Well, let’s continue, if you don’t mind. We all have something, be it a character, a habit or a condition that is refreshingly unique about us and it always makes us feel proud about having it, like Winnie, she has vitiligo and guess what, she’s a super model who once featured in Tyra Banks’ show, America’s Next Top Model, she boldly embraces her rarity, she is a representation of the few people that have enough courage to accept what they have and flaunting it.
It is through Winnie Harlow that I learned about vitiligo, how it affects people both psychologically and emotionally. I also learned about the World’s Vitiligo Day that is celebrated today (June 25th) in honour of all those 65-69 million people living with this unpredictable skin condition. This day is also meant to spread awareness and raise funds to assist in the research that will help find a solution to this skin condition.
Did you know that Michael Jackson, also suffered from vitiligo from 1986 until his death which occurred on June 25, 2009?
I’m sure you didn’t know about that, because all we knew about this sensational musical star was his dance moves and his nose, let’s not talk about his nose, shall we?
As the world marks its 6th celebration of World Vitiligo Day, I’m pretty sure that there are some questions that you have concerning this condition.
These questions and answers are provided courtesy of Skin specialist and cosmetic plastic surgeon, Angelica Kavouni.
Q:What is vitiligo? Who is affected by it, and why?
A: Vitiligo is a skin disease where pigment cells (melanocytes) don’t function properly, or die. All skin types are susceptible to this condition – there doesn’t seem to be one skin type that is more susceptible than others. The main symptom of vitiligo is depigmentation, which is most prominently found on the face, hands and wrists. It tends to become more obvious on dark skin and patches often start small, before growing in size over time. New patches can also form too.The causes of both remain uncertain but we believe that the patchy loss of skin pigmentation is due to immune attacks on the melanocyte cells. It is thought that some sort of defective gene is most likely the cause. Vitiligo is sometimes also associated with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, when ultimately the melanocyte cells become inflamed and die.
Q: Can anything be done? What can help?
A: Treatment expectations need to be handled carefully as the patient is unlikely to regain full pigmentation of affected areas. If you are a vitiligo sufferer then it’s probably best to consult your GP who will then refer on to a dermatologist. Steroid cream can often be helpful – sometimes combined with ultraviolet light (UVB) therapy. ‘Younger’ lesions (less than three years old) stand a better chance of a speedy response and changes can be seen within a few months whereas older patches can be more resistant. Some patients report that their lesions improve with combination therapy of vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements with exposure UVB light. Personally, I have found the Obagi Medical Skincare range (including their chemical peels) offer a way to blend the patches making skin colour more uniform.
Q: Is there anything else that can be done? What do you recommend?
A:Sufferers can be stigmatised for this condition because it’s seen as ‘different’ and often need psychological support, so it’s important to be open with family and friends, who can help when you need it. Camouflage makeup is very useful and, with the wide range of mineral makeups on the market, coverage can often be easily achieved and maintained – for both men and women.Lighter skinned sufferers should avoid tanning the affected areas as darkening the surrounding areas will make the lesions more noticeable. There is always the option to depigment the whole unaffected skin to make the lesions less noticeable, but this is a dramatic option which brings with it huge life-long sun safety issues.
Happy World Vitiligo Day 2017!