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I can't remember the exact age that my Vitiligo first showed up but it was around the age of 13 or 14. My Mum noticed a white halo on the skin on my back and I was referred to a Dermatologist who confirmed I had Vitiligo.
Vitiligo is an auto-immune disease which causes the body to attack itself, this leads to a loss of melanin in the skin. This loss of melanin shows up as pure white spots, or patches over different parts of the body.
I was informed by the Dermatologist that there was no cure for Vitiligo, all they could do was have me try some cream (which was useless) or try a UVB light treatment which could result in skin cancer. These were the only choices offered so I chose not to bother and to just live with it, seeing as it was 'incurable.'
The Vitiligo may have started as one small ring but it rapidly spread across all areas of my body. My face had white rings around my eyes and mouth, my spine had white patches the whole way down, my entire neck was white, my armpits were pure white and my arms and some parts of my legs were covered in spots. The Vitiligo also affected my hair! I had white patches at the roots, near my ears and near the nape of my neck.
Looking back at the time I was diagnosed I'm pretty shocked that I wasn't offered any form of Counselling or support for Vitiligo. I was a teenager at the time and I was trying to come to terms with a condition that I had no clue about! I was terrified that my whole body was eventually going to turn completely white and I was continuously receiving comments and taunts and bullying from other kids at school and on the street. I can remember one boy at school saying I was 'diseased' and I also remember being on holiday and a grown man staring at me and criticising me to his child.
Due to having no melanin in my skin, I was informed by the Dermatologist that I had to stay out of the sun to prevent sunburn and skin cancer. I would apply factor 50+ all over my body on holidays and I would sit in the shade, I hated wearing bikinis and summer clothes. Summer was like a curse for me! The sun would not only burn me but it would make my vitiligo show up even more because the remaining pigment around it would tan. I hated wearing skirts, shorts and vest tops and I loved Winter because I could wear scarves and jackets to cover it up. You really don't realise how much you take for granted until you have Vitiligo!
Having Vitiligo definitely affected my mental health - I had no confidence and I hated the way I looked. I felt so ugly and I was convinced that I would never have a boyfriend because no guy was ever going to like someone who had white patches all over them. I did actually have one boyfriend dump me because of my vitiligo and another guy didn't want to see me again after he saw me without make up on. I think having Vitiligo did definitely contribute to me getting depression because I just felt like an outsider all of the time, I would cry about it quite a lot and wish to just look like everybody else.
I decided to start wearing make up to try and cover up the Vitiligo. The British Red Cross offer a great free service where they colour match camouflage make up to your skin and give you a setting powder to keep it in place. This make up was great for covering up my smaller spots but I found that it would take well over an hour to cover my entire neck and I gave up using it. Instead I started wearing fake tan obsessively to cover up the white patches, I would then apply a general foundation all over my neck and it actually worked really well in disguising my Vitiligo!
After a few years of having Vitiligo I had learned to just accept it, I was told it was 'incurable' so I decided to just get on with life and carry on as normal. I had a boyfriend at the time who accepted my Vitiligo and this helped me with forgetting about it. I stopped wearing fake tan and tons of make up and I started to sit in the sun instead of hiding away and I allowed myself to tan all of the time. I slowly started to tell people I knew that I had Vitiligo and I even started to educate work colleagues and strangers on my condition. It was after my holiday to Egypt that I noticed a couple of brown specks had appeared inside the Vitiligo spot on my stomach. I thought it was odd but I didn't really pay much attention.
Over the course of 5 or 6 years I started to notice more and more brown freckles appearing in my Vitiligo spots and in some cases the Vitiligo had gone completely. It wasn't until I looked back at a couple of old photos of myself that I noticed just how much Vitiligo had gone - I was amazed! All of this time I had been told by Doctors and Dermatologists that Vitiligo was incurable yet here I was with my skin re-pigmenting!
I decided to start doing my own research into Vitiligo and was excited to find stories of other people who had cured their Vitiligo. I saw a common theme amongst the people who had re-pigmented their skin - They were on herbal treatment, they were taking vitamins, they had changed their diet, they had eliminated stress and they ensured they got plenty of sunlight!
Around the time of doing this research my best friend actually told me that she had been suffering with a couple of Vitiligo spots. She had an underlying condition and once this was treated her vitiligo also disappeared. My friend was seeing a herbalist and at first I was a bit skeptical about whether herbs would actually work or not (because of how our society treats everything with drugs!) but I decided to give it a go.
I have now been seeing my herbalist for a couple of years and she discovered that I also had underlying conditions:
All of these problems were caused by stress! It could have been all of the emotional stress I went through as a child, it could be the physical stress I went through with Osteomyelitis and the antibiotics, it could be the digestive stress my body went through when I was barely eating anything, it could be the mental stress I've been through, or it could be all of this combined!
I paid to have private blood tests carried out and these bloods tests showed my stress levels to be as high as a mouse that was being chased by a cat all day long! The stress was not just affecting my hormones, adrenals and skin but it was beginning to affect my pancreas. Hearing this was so scary to me and I have made a conscious effort to stay away from stress and to change the way I think.
Whenever I am stressed my pituitary gland prioritises managing my stress levels over re-pigmenting my skin (This gland is also responsible for the melanin in the skin.) Hence the reason I am making such a big effort to stay away from stress!
When I started seeing a herbalist all of my health problems and symptoms started to go away, however the Vitiligo wasn't re-pigmenting any faster than before. I have found that since I've changed my diet, started taking vitamins & supplements and drinking a blend of superfoods, that my skin has now started to re-pigment much faster! This tells me that a lack of nutrition definitely played a role in my Vitiligo.
My face no longer has any Vitiligo other than one spot, my arms don't have any vitiligo, my leg only has two spots which have almost completely filled in, my arm pits are no longer fully white as they're re-pigmenting, the spots along my spine have shrunk by over 50% and my neck is slowly but surely re-pigmenting. The spots that are left are also no longer white, they are a fleshy colour which tells me that my pigment is slowly coming back. Yay!
Life today is good! I accepted my Vitiligo many years ago so I will go out without make up on, I go swimming and don't care about my Vitiligo showing and I will happily sit in the sun. I also have a very supportive partner who doesn't care about my Vitiligo either, he actually helps me put make up on my neck if I wear it ha ha ha! Other than Vitiligo my health is back to normal and I have no problems.
The person I am now is so different to the person I was as a teenager. I'm grateful for having vitiligo because it allowed me to find out and resolve all of my underlying health problems. (Vitiligo is always secondary to another health problem) Having Vitiligo has also made me strong - If someone was to criticise my looks it really wouldn't bother me much anymore, I am much more likely to be offended by someone who is criticising me as a person, not for my looks.
I have accepted every physical flaw I have but I have also seen how much more to life there is than your looks - I don't care about having boob jobs, or botox, or fake lips, I don't even wear make up most days! Haha. I appreciate the more important things in life like my partner, good friends, my health and my family's health.
Vitiligo has allowed me to see how nature heals us all through herbs and I am very clued up on natural foods and natural beauty products, I can now live the rest of my life as healthy as possible and for that I am so grateful.
If you are suffering from vitiligo then please don't lose hope! Doctors will tell you that it isn't curable but it is, please have a read of these success storiesand stay hopeful. Stress is known to be one of the main triggers of Vitiligo so it is important not to stress or to think negatively about your vitiligo, (easier said than done, right?) but in all honesty there are much worse things we could have than Vitiligo. In order to help those of you struggling with confidence I am thinking of doing a make up tutorial on how to cover up large areas of vitiligo, such as your neck, so if this is something you would like to see then please let me know in the comments. People can be cruel but people are also ignorant! When they don't understand something they treat it as abnormal, especially kids and teenagers, so own your vitiligo and educate people. If you're really not bothered about vitiligo then other people won't be either.
I tell most people I meet about Vitiligo because the more people who understand Vitiligo the better. I talk very openly about Vitiligo and I try to help the sufferers I come across. I don't have many photos of my Vitiligo as I used to hide from photos for years, but I have attached a few in this post. You can also see some of the spots filling in, in these photos! I am very much looking forward to seeing my skin re-pigment even further over the coming months and I will write updates throughout the year. :)
I am now using my own experience with Vitiligo and Mental Health to try and help others by creating a new Vitiligo jewellery range. Each item features positive affirmations and quotes as a reminder to yourself everyday that you are strong and worthy. 10% from each sale will be donated to the charities 'MIND' and 'The Vitiligo Society' who both do a brilliant job at raising awareness of and supporting those with Mental Health issues and Vitiligo. You can take a look at this range here