This post was created in partnership with Vitiligo Vanquish, a liquid camouflage created by a woman with vitiligo who believes in beauty with and without spots – and the ability to choose.
After getting vitiligo at seven years old, I spent more than a decade with spotted skin. While I never experienced bullying or social isolation because of my skin, I struggled internally with self-esteem and self-love. For the world, I put on a courageous smile. Inside, I was devastated by my reflection in the mirror, a reflection that I barely recognized.
In my early twenties, I decided to start wearing tanner head to toe. At that point, I was heavily depigmented, and the tanner was able to camouflage what little pigment I had left. It’s hard to explain the sense of freedom that came with wearing that tanner. For the first time in a long time, I felt free. I could walk down the street without stares. I could introduce myself to new people without feeling like I needed to explain my skin. I could wear clothes with newfound confidence. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have to think about my vitiligo.
Why does this story matter?
In the past few years, vitiligo awareness has skyrocketed as brands and media started embracing diversity. Acceptance is in and vitiligo is trending for the first time. Yet the reality is that the media embracing vitiligo doesn’t mean that everyone is ready to do the same. There are still people with vitiligo who struggle with self-love. There are still people with vitiligo who would simply rather have skin without spots. And that’s okay. In fact, covering your vitiligo is okay. Here’s why.
Everyone experiences vitiligo differently
This may seem obvious, but it’s important: Everyone experiences vitiligo differently. Your attitude and perception of your skin is a reaction to having vitiligo. Therefore, your experience of vitiligo is subjective, not objective, and that experience will change person to person. Matt Traube, a licensed clinical psychotherapist who specializes in psychodermatology, says, “Three different people can have identical vitiligo and have completely different experiences with it.” As a result, while one person may embrace their vitiligo, another may have a hard time accepting it.
Everyone has a different story
There are so many factors that influence how you experience vitiligo: whether you were born with it or got it as an adult; whether you were raised to embrace it or were raised treating it; whether you live in a big city where differences are all around or live in a small town where everyone looks the same; whether you have a high profile job where you are in the spotlight or spend most of your time behind the scenes. The way you were raised, the type of job you have, the city you grew up in – these are just a few of the things that make up the way you approach your vitiligo. The combination of these experiences will shape the attitude and perception you have of your vitiligo, and ultimately the choices you make about it. Spoiler alert – those choices will be different for everyone.
Everyone has a choice – and the right to make that choice
At the end of the day, everyone gets to choose how they live with vitiligo. For some, that means fully embracing their skin and possibly becoming a model or spokesperson for vitiligo. For others, it might mean nothing – it’s just another part of who they are. And for others, it might mean covering their vitiligo. The bottom line is that everyone is entitled to choose how they live with it. And in the same way that we accept others for being different, we need to accept others for making choices that are different than ours. One person’s decision to accept or cover their vitiligo doesn’t make a statement about another person’s skin or vitiligo holistically. It’s just one person’s decision on how to best move forward every day.
Erika Page is a writer and blogger with universal vitiligo. 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.