I got vitiligo when I was seven years old and lost 100% of my skin’s pigment by my early twenties. It had been a long, difficult journey, full of obsessive negative thoughts about my skin. I was happy to finally be one color again and I thought my journey with vitiligo was done – until I started losing pigment in my hair, and quickly.
At first, I dyed my hair to cover the white strands – just like I applied tanner to my skin to cover my fully depigmented skin. But once I decided to stop wearing tanner and embrace my skin, I thought I could do the same for my hair.
Here’s how I give up hair dye to embrace my vitiligo hair through a two-year transformation.
Phase 1: Covering my first white strands of vitiligo hair
When I first started noticing white strands in my hair, I wasn’t entirely surprised. My dad had gotten gray hair prematurely and I had already noticed some gray hairs on my own head when I was in college. As a result, I had already started dying my hair and I would only see these silvery strands once a month before I applied a fresh coat of dye.
This time though, it was different. These strands were stark, bright white – not the faded gray ones I was used to seeing. Still, I ignored them at first and continued dyeing my hair. Over time though, as the dye wore off, I started noticing more and more white strands coming in. Despite my best efforts, they became increasingly hard to cover.
Around the same time, I had decided to stop covering my skin with tanner – something I had done for seven years after losing all of the pigment in my skin. Deciding to embrace my skin was a big step. But if I could embrace my skin, I could embrace my hair, right? I decided it was time to give it a try.
Phase 2: Transitioning my hair to let the vitiligo strands grow in
In the past, I had dyed my hair at home with a box of store-bought, semi-permanent hair dye. This time though, I wanted some help. This was going to be a big change for me and I needed an expert and stylist to guide me through the process.
I had two options: dye my hair entirely white, or slowly transition my hair to let the white strands grow in over time. My stylist recommended taking the transition slowly for two reasons. The first was to protect my hair since stripping that much color can leave hair brittle and dry. The second was to protect my emotions, and let me settle into this change one step at a time. I was on board, so we got started.
I stopped dyeing my hair at home, letting my hair fade into its natural light brown color and allowing the white strands to start growing in. At the same time, we started lightening strands throughout my hair to help blend everything together, and applied a toner to add a finishing touch. The result was a lighter, messy but beautiful mix of my natural hair and vitiligo strands. I was hesitant about this new look – but forged forward, believing that I could embrace this.
Phase 3: Embracing my hair with vitiligo
Over the next year and a half, vitiligo continued to take over more of the hair on my head – and we continued to let it grow in while lightening the remaining strands bit by bit.
In the middle of this transition, I moved to a new city and had to find a new stylist. I was nervous – this was a very personal project to put into another person’s hands. I decided to stop by a salon called Serendipity for a consultation. As I was explaining vitiligo to the stylist, she interjected – as it turns out, she also had vitiligo, along with her son. She knew what it was and was excited to help me transition my hair. How’s that for serendipity? As fate would have it, she was exactly who I needed to help me finish the transition with my hair.
Today, my hair is nearly fully white with the exception of the strands circling my face – which we continue to dye and tone. I get compliments on my hair frequently and I love that it gives me a chance to tell my story about vitiligo – especially now that I don’t have “spots” anymore. Even better? I genuinely love my new hair.
Do you have white hair caused by vitiligo? Share your story below.
Erika Page is the Founder and Editor of Living Dappled. After getting vitiligo at the age of seven, she lost 100% of her pigment to the condition and today lives with universal vitiligo.