World Vitiligo Day, celebrated on June 25th each year, is a day that recognizes the 1% of those living with vitiligo, an autoimmune disease and condition. This year, My Vitiligo Team and the Global Vitiligo Foundation partnered to host a four-hour virtual event featuring inspirational speakers and vitiligo experts sharing personal stories, research and treatment updates and lifestyle tips.
Here are a few highlights of the virtual event.
Vitiligo Research Foundation CEO Yan Valle shared the history of World Vitiligo Day
Established by Ogo Maduewesi, founder of VITSAF in Nigeria, and Yan Valle, CEO of the Vitiligo Research Foundation, World Vitiligo Day was first celebrated on June 25, 2011 to raise awareness around the need for better vitiligo research, treatment and support. The day coincides with the anniversary of the passing of pop king Michael Jackson, the most well-known public figure with vitiligo to date. Since then, World Vitiligo Day has been celebrated in countries around the world including the USA, China, India and Brazil. Today, the petition to the United Nations to officially recognize June 25th as World Vitiligo Day has more than half a million signatures. You can sign the petition at https://25june.org/.
James McLeod, also known as “That Vitiligo Guy,” shared his transformational skin journey
James Mcleod, also known as “That Vitiligo Guy” on Instagram, shared his inspirational story about overcoming the emotional impact of his vitiligo. After being diagnosed with vitiligo at just 18 months of age, James struggled significantly growing up in New York and took to the streets, dealing drugs and ultimately spending time in a juvenile detention center and then federal prison. For James, the federal prison sentence was a wake-up call and following his time there, he got a job at a sandwich shop, became a personal trainer and turned his life around. Today James is a motivational speaker and is working with brands like Nike and Gucci to raise awareness for vitiligo.
Dr. Seemal Desai shared an advocacy update on behalf of the Global Vitiligo Foundation
Dr. Seemal Desai, Chair of the Global Vitiligo Foundation Advocacy Committee, talked about the importance of patients and physicians getting involved in raising awareness for vitiligo at the local, state and national level in order to advocate for increased access to care, treatment and research. He also shared a recent advocacy win for vitiligo that involved a group working with Tufts Healthcare to reverse a policy that eliminated coverage for patients with vitiligo.
Photographer Brock Elbank shared his experience shooting a portrait series about vitiligo
London-based photographer Brock Elbank has photographed more than 750 subjects for various skin-related series, including more than 60 people with vitiligo. During the presentation, Brock shared images from his vitiligo series representing all ages, genders and ethnicities, and talked about his joy in helping subjects take a step towards self-acceptance by posing for the camera.
Leading vitiligo experts dispelled commons myths about vitiligo
A panel of leading vitiligo dermatologists answered frequently asked questions about vitiligo including topics like diet, COVID-19 impact, and susceptibility to skin cancer. Dr. Amit G. Pandya, a vitiligo specialist and researcher, talked about the benefits of antioxidants in reducing triggers of vitiligo and shared that consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables and a handful of almonds every day provides most of the antioxidants you need. Dr. Richard H. Huggins, dermatologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, shared that those with vitiligo are not more susceptible to the coronavirus (COVID-19) than those without vitiligo due to the overactive nature of the immune system of those with vitiligo. Dr. Seemal Desai, Founder and Medical Director of Innovative Dermatology in Dallas, Texas, shared that while vitiligo patients have a decreased risk of getting skin cancer, those with vitiligo should still wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
You can watch a recording of the entire event below.
The 2021 US World Vitiligo Day celebration will be hosted in Minneapolis, Minnesota June 25-27, 2021. Visit https://2021.wvdusa.org/ to learn more.
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.