Seemingly affecting only a small group, at 1% of people, vitiligo is a skin condition where patches appear as areas of the skin losing pigmentation. Although vitiligo does not discriminate against those it affects, it is more noticeable in darker skin tones. Those who have vitiligo can suffer great stress psychologically, and some remove themselves from society altogether. There are unknowns about the condition, including a definitive cause of vitiligo. Two things that are known are that it is not dangerous or contagious. However, due to the sharp discoloration patches and challenges associated with this outward appearance, emotional stress often leads to physical ailments. Stress is not a friend of the mind and body, so in extreme situations, those with vitiligo can suffer from physical responses caused by the stress of the condition and seek treatment. It is essential to find a caring skincare professional who can understand, provide support, and suggest effective treatment options while being transparent about risks.
Treatments for Vitiligo
An experienced dermatologist, especially one with special training in darker skin tones, is essential to finding treatments to help reduce the appearance of discolorations. Those seeking relief should see a licensed and experienced dermatologist who has successfully worked with clients with this condition. Lighter-skin patients often use makeup to try to camouflage the patches, but those with darker skin do not have much success with this approach. There are topical treatments that are often the first attempt to address the discoloration and work towards re-pigmentation. This process takes time, so the sooner it starts, the sooner one may see noticeable results. Light therapy is also effective, but it takes time and has possible side effects on the eyes due to continued exposure to light therapy.
There are more invasive ways to address vitiligo, such as surgeries that include removing skin from other body areas and replacing those with discoloration. As with any surgery, the risks of infection are existent. It is critical to understand the different treatments available, the risks associated with each, and find the best one for each person. Treatment is a personal and individual choice, and some choose to do nothing and embrace the condition, recognizing beauty truly lies on the inside. Suppose the condition is causing depression or other emotional issues. In that case, it is recommended to seek counsel and be able to walk through challenges common for those experiencing skin conditions that affect their outward appearance.
Vitiligo Gains Awareness and Acceptance
Due to the unknowns about the condition, there are some people with the condition who embrace it, leading to greater awareness and acceptance of the situation, that for some, is disabling. Model Winnie Harlow is a supermodel whose appearance on popular television series has broadened the world’s view of natural beauty. Her story is about growing up the target of endless bullying from four when her symptoms became predominantly visible. Harlow has openly discussed the emotional toll that living with this condition took on her and, at times, considered suicide.
Thanks to Harlow’s courage and the continued trend for companies to showcase more models in advertising with the condition, the awareness of the condition helps lead to greater compassion for those living with vitiligo. Vitiligo can continue to develop over time, so those with symptoms may experience more significant areas of discoloration as they age. Therefore, seeking treatments early may also provide solutions in the longer term.
Darker Skin Tones Need Black Skin Specialists
Some excellent dermatologists are associated with the Skin of Color Society as part of their professional training, offering those with darker skin alternative and effective treatments. Imagine seeking help from sone who has treated and successfully helped clients with the condition for more than 25 years. If you are in Atlanta, Buckhead Dermatology can help. Dr. Sherrie Straughn is one such dermatologist. Although vitiligo is a skin condition that affects all skin tones, many with lighter skin can cover up and disguise the patches with makeup, tanners, and other cosmetic topical products. Those with darker skin have a very different experience. Light patches on dark skin are much more difficult to maintain coverage of, and these solutions are often not recommended for children due to the chemicals.
Different doctors and dermatologists differ on sun exposure to these areas, so finding a licensed and experienced dermatologist can help explain the different approaches to this, so clients do not risk damaging skin areas affected by this condition. Some professionals believe limited sun exposure may help, but the discolored skin can be more vulnerable to sun damage. Whether or not you are personally experiencing vitiligo, it is essential to understand some of what those who do have it are experiencing. It is critical to offer support and encouragement as they navigate life with this distinguishable skin condition and accept and embrace who they are in totality.