What’s happening across the vitiligo landscape? We’re taking a global look at the trends coming out of 2018 that will define and shape the vitiligo community in 2019.
Brands embracing models with vitiligo
As messages of diversity and inclusion sweep the beauty industry, vitiligo is increasingly thrown into the spotlight as brands embrace vitiligo models in their campaigns and advertising. Amy Deanna was named CoverGirl’s first model with vitiligo this year, in addition to Winnie Harlow becoming the first model with vitiligo to walk in Victoria Secret’s Fashion Show. Bianca Schönhofer also grabbed media attention by appearing in a commercial by Gillette Venus, and Lexus Morgan was featured in Aerie’s new lingerie campaign. These high-profile mentions not only raise awareness for vitiligo but inspire a new wave of confidence in those living with vitiligo day to day.
Personal acceptance and self-love
“I’m loving the skin I’m in.” “I’m happy being me.” “I wouldn’t change a thing.” Five years ago, statements like these were rare. Today, there’s a new narrative of self-acceptance emerging in the vitiligo community as an increasing number of people wear their skin with pride. Hashtags like #VitiligoPride and #VitiligoBeauty has each reached more than 20,000 uses on Instagram, and the Beautiful Both Ways Campaign recognizes the beauty of those with vitiligo both with and without makeup. In fact, the narrative is so strong that one man with vitiligo doesn’t want his vitiligo to disappear.
A vibrant social media presence
The vitiligo community is growing online – especially on Instagram and Facebook. Today the hashtag #vitiligo has more than 252,000 uses on Instagram. The Instagram account Vitiligo Beauty, which exists solely to share images of those with vitiligo, has reached more than 23,000 followers. Facebook groups are increasingly becoming a ground for patient to patient support in the vitiligo community, with one group reaching more than 20,000 members. Vitiligo projects are also gaining popularity on social, like Brock Elbank’s Vitiligo Series and the Pigment Painter’s portraits.
The role of mental health in treating vitiligo
There are an increasing number of conversations around the importance of treating vitiligo holistically, with the one of the biggest areas being the role of mental health. According to Amit Pandya, dermatologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, “studies have shown that mental stress may be related to the activity of vitiligo through chemicals called neuromediators and cytokines.” Traditional pillars of treatment for vitiligo have included phototherapy and topical treatments among others, but now doctors are considering another pillar: psychosocial intervention. By helping patients reframe social interactions and overcome social anxiety and stress, therapists could increase quality of life for those with vitiligo – and possibly decrease the effects of vitiligo.
Global collaboration among advocacy and research efforts
Also critical to the future of vitiligo is the increasing collaboration among vitiligo researchers, doctors, patients and advocates to coordinate advocacy efforts and share the latest findings about vitiligo. Spearheaded by the Global Vitiligo Foundation and conferences like the Vitiligo International Symposium and World Vitiligo Day, the work being done in the vitiligo community is being increasingly streamlined, increasing chances of finding a cure and raising awareness.
Conversations about how we label vitiligo
Is vitiligo a disease or a condition? This past year has seen a swell in conversation around how we describe vitiligo – and why it matters. For those advocating for a cure, describing vitiligo as a “disease” and narrating the suffering of those living with vitiligo is key to obtaining the necessary funding to roll out new treatments and research. For those living with vitiligo, calling it a “condition” can be easier to accept psychologically and emotionally. While both terms accurately describe vitiligo, there are strong opinions on either side that have sparked international conversations among patients, dermatologists and scientists.
New options for treatment and clinical trials
In the past 5-10 years, researchers have come to understand the genetics of vitiligo and recognize it as an autoimmune disease. This discovery is critical to the future of vitiligo because there are existing treatments already being developed that alter and modify the immune system – and they could work for vitiligo too. Building a foundation on these existing treatments could ultimately save time on research and bring new treatments to market faster than ever before. As a result, clinical trials for vitiligo are on the rise and the promise of new treatments is imminent.
Which of these trends have you noticed in the past year?
Erika Page is a writer and blogger with universal vitiligo. Her first spots appeared on her spine when she was seven years old and today vitiligo covers her entire body. Based just south of Washington, D.C., Erika founded Living Dappled to create a community of inspiration and hope for girls and women living with vitiligo.