Noticing Skin discoloration? What you ought to know about Vitiligo


By MJ Gonzales│

Glutathione, bleaching or papaya soap, these are just few of the remedies of people who desire to become fairer than their original skin complexion.  But what if you discover that you have whiter skin in only some areas?  Is it just lack of essential nutrients, symptom of vitiligo, and a sign of serious illness?

Though there are speculations that he had skin bleaching to change his former dark skin, the camp of Michael Jackson shared it was because of the rapid spread of his vitiligo.  Meantime, Daily Mail reported that apparently his eldest son Prince Michael (18-year old) inherited his Vitiligo. In a photograph they released in 2010, he had white patches on his arm when he’s doing water activity in a beach in Hawaii.

According to National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) of USA, vitiligo takes place if cells called melanocytes in the skin are destroyed. Vitiligo can appear in any parts of the body including tissues in the eyes, mouth and nose.

“Many people develop it in their twenties, but it can occur at any age. The disorder affects all races and both sexes equally, however, it is more noticeable in people with dark skin,” NIAMS informed through their website. “People with certain autoimmune diseases (such as hyperthyroidism) are more likely to get vitiligo than people who don’t have any autoimmune diseases.”

Credit: Instagram/ Winnie Harlow

Credit: Instagram/ Winnie Harlow

The agency also imparted that it can be inherited and spreads slowly or quickly depending on one’s system. Usually, the body parts that are exposed to sun are prone to this skin discoloration such as hands, feet, face, and lips. But there are also instances that it appears in nostrils, navel, rectal areas, and genitals.   In addition to these, someone who is experiencing physical or emotional stress is also at risk.

If society has wider understanding of people with this skin disorder, it is very rare that persons with vitiligo achieve careers that entail public exposure. Recently, model Chantelle Brown-Young a.k.a Winnie Harlow defies that idea as she even landed on different cover of magazines .  In an interview with Inside Edition, the Cycle 21 of America’s Next Top Model contestant shared what she went through to gain back her confidence and follow her dream despite of vitiligo.

“I first got it when I was four years old, but I don’t think I understood that I had vitiligo until I was like maybe in middle school, and that’s only because that’s when bullying started for me,” she said. “They called me ‘cow, zebra.’ They asked me if they should milk me – all kinds of horrible, horrible mean things that a kid at that age should never have to hear.”

Meanwhile, it’s not only bullying that belittled Brown-Young but also the moments when she lost friends because of wring misconception about her condition.    She shared on Today; the reason why her former schoolmates ceased their interaction with her was because their parents believed that vitiligo is contagious.  But things changed when Tyra Banks’ TV show opened its door for her.

“The only person that can make you feel that you aren’t beautiful is you. You can’t let someone else lower your self-esteem because that’s what it is — self-esteem, you need to first love yourself before you have anybody else love you.”

Meantime,   there are available treatments to lessen the appearance of Vitiligo such as surgery like Micropigmentation (tattooing) and Autologous melanocyte transplants;  and medical therapies like psoralen and ultraviolet A (PUVA and Depigmentation. However for some who may not afford to have expensive treatments, NIAMS shared they can resort to cosmetics and even joining counseling group.  On the other hand, vitiligo can also be a sign of underlying diseases such as Type 1 diabetes.

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