If you search “vitiligo” on Instagram, you can’t help but run into stunning pictures of makeup artist Lauren Elyse. With almost 300,000 followers, the Chicago-based beauty is taking the social platform by storm as both a vitiligo advocate and professional makeup stylist.
Today, Lauren has vitiligo on every part of her body with the exception of her torso. Yet despite her skill as makeup artist, she doesn’t hesitate to leave the house without makeup on – just one of the reasons she’s inspiring girls with vitiligo.
LD: Tell us your story with vitiligo. When did you first get it?
LE: I started developing vitiligo when I was around 5 years old. They started as little spots on my knees and since I’m a bit of a tomboy and played rough, my family and I thought I just scraped my knees and that they had healed in a funny way. When we realized they weren’t going away and getting a little bigger, we saw a dermatologist and I was diagnosed with vitiligo. I sought treatment for a short time as a kid but I haven’t since then.
LD: So did you start wearing a full face of makeup to hide your spots?
LE: Not at all. The spots on my face started when I was around 20 years old and I’ve been wearing a full face of makeup since I was about 16.
LD: How long have you been a makeup artist?
LE: Going on 5 years of being a professional makeup artist! I’m also a hair stylist. I went to cosmetology school when I was 19 but the main focus was on hair so we only learned two-nights-worth of makeup basics. By then, I had already been wearing a full face for a couple of years so I’m pretty much self-taught. Today I work at Erskine Reeves Salon in Bloomingdale, Illinois as a hair stylist but also do makeup.
LD: It’s obvious that you have a huge Instagram following. What’s it been like to watch it grow?
LE: I joined Instagram in 2012 and started focusing more on makeup in 2014. It’s crazy seeing how much it’s grown since then. It’s still very surreal – I never expected it to grow so much so fast. My Instagram posts fluctuate depending on how inspired I am and how much I like the look. I don’t follow a specific posting regime so I’ll post as much or as little as I want to in the week.
LD: Were you ever nervous to put yourself out there because of your skin?
LE: Most definitely. My vitiligo spread to my face and hands about 6 years ago so I was very insecure about showing it to people I wasn’t close to.
LD: You seem incredibly confident today. So how did you overcome that fear?
LE: Well, it kind of all started with the salon I work at. I work very early on Saturday mornings so I refused to wake up even earlier just to put makeup on. I was also starting to show off the spots on my knees throughout the summer since I was most insecure about them. Around that time, I would randomly post photos of my bare face or hands on Instagram and the response on there (as well as in real life) was very positive so I started to feel more confident about having it. It took some time getting used to, but the more the spots spread, the less control I had over hiding it and eventually I just stopped caring about letting people see them. Today my vitiligo doesn’t bother me. I’ve definitely overcome my insecurities.
LD: You’ve gotten a very positive reaction on Instagram – why do you think that is and how does it make you feel?
LE: I honestly have no idea! I kind of think people find it refreshing to see someone embrace their differences and look different in comparison to every other pretty girl or big beauty guru on Instagram. All of the love and support I’ve gotten on there has definitely helped me in a more personal way to let go of my insecurities. It’s still so crazy to me to see so many people love what I do.
LD: Despite being a makeup artist, you often leave the house without makeup on. How often do you do that? And do people stare at you?
LE: All the time. I feel like people assume that I wear makeup 24/7 which isn’t the case at all. I’ll run errands, hang out with friends, even go to work without anything on. I’m sure I get some stares, but I don’t really pay attention to other people so I barely even notice. I felt uncomfortable when I first started leaving the house without any makeup on. There’s not a huge difference between my made-up face and naked face (depending on the look) so it’s no big deal to me to go out in public barefaced.
LD: It seems like being able to go out without makeup on is still important to you. Does it help you stay confident?
LE: You definitely got that right! It’s okay to wear makeup, but being true to yourself is all that matters. If that means being a makeup junkie or completely natural or anywhere in between, do what you want to do for yourself. As long as you’re not hurting anybody else, keep doing you and don’t care what other people may think or say.
LD: What’s your advice for other girls with vitiligo?
LE: Embrace what sets you apart from the norm. I know it’s easier said than done, and embracing your vitiligo takes time, but you’ll get there. Flaunt it from time to time and act confident, even though you’re scared as hell inside. You’ll be surprised how much positivity will come from doing so and you’ll feel better about it in the end.
Erika Page is a blogger, speaker and self-love advocate with universal vitiligo. After living with vitiligo for two decades, Erika founded Living Dappled to create a community of inspiration and hope for girls and women living with vitiligo.