This post was created in partnership with Vitiligo Vanquish.
Yes, you read that right: the stigma around camouflaging vitiligo. If you thought the stigma was around having vitiligo, you would still be right. Despite a tremendous increase in awareness around vitiligo over the past decade, there’s still a strong social and cultural stigma associated with the condition. Yet alongside this surge in acceptance for vitiligo, there’s a new stigma rising, and it has to do with shame and judgment towards those who are camouflaging their spots caused by this condition.
Jackie McDonald knows this all too well.
After getting vitiligo at the age of 31, Jackie immediately started treatment with steroid creams. She had caught it early, she told herself, so surely it wouldn’t spread. Unfortunately, she was wrong. But it didn’t start bothering Jackie until the vitiligo appeared on her face—and makeup wouldn’t cover it.
“I wanted to keep it private,” said Jackie, who started grabbing eyebrow pencil and powders to cover her vitiligo at first. “I wanted to present myself to the world as the person I was before the spots—that’s who I felt I was.”
A few years later, Jackie accidentally dropped a furniture stain on her wrist—and was amazed at how the product matched her skin and hid her vitiligo patch. That moment sparked a multi-year quest to find a non-toxic approach to camouflaging her vitiligo. Jackie explored henna, tattoos, brown food coloring and self-tanners—but everything fell short.
That’s when she noticed an advertisement for Fake Bake’s self-tanner. The well-known, celebrity-endorsed fake tanning brand had a glowing reputation, so she gave it one last try. According to Jackie, it was a dream—and gave her a vision.
“In researching vitiligo camouflages, I would read the comments of YouTube videos and these women and young girls were devastated by this condition,” said Jackie, who remembers reading that people wouldn’t want to leave their homes because of their vitiligo. “I’ve been doing youth ministry my entire life—I felt like I had to do something for them.”
Jackie reached out to Fake Bake with a pitch for a twist on their classic self-tanner that would be created just for those with vitiligo. The company got back to her that day. A year later, Vitiligo Vanquish by Fake Bake was in the market—a custom version of Fake Bake’s product created specifically for camouflaging vitiligo, complete with a kit that includes color drops and application brushes.
Today, Jackie applies Vitiligo Vanquish twice a week on her vitiligo with occasional touch-ups on her hands, where the product gets the most wear. Jackie’s vitiligo has spread to cover more than a quarter of her skin, visible on her hands, elbows, face, legs and back. She barely notices these days though, spending just one hour a week applying Vitiligo Vanquish while listening to her favorite podcasts.
“Since I found Vitiligo Vanquish, I’m myself again,” said Jackie, who calls the product ‘VV’ for short. “Even when I’m alone, I like to have it on. It’s changed my life.”
Unfortunately, not everyone was as welcoming of Jackie’s decision to camouflage her skin—or help others do the same. And she’s heard similar stories from those seeking out Vitiligo Vanquish today.
Sometimes comments come from those who are well-intended, offering encouragement to stop camouflaging even though that’s the desire of the person with vitiligo. Other comments are more directly negative and accusatory, shaming coverage because it’s not aligned with the increasing trend around self-acceptance.
“People are being made to feel bad because they don’t wear vitiligo with pride,” said Jackie, who has become a passionate advocate for those who want to cover their vitiligo. “But covering vitiligo does not mean you are weak or have low self-esteem. It’s simply a choice.”
Jackie, who gets notes from customers every day, shared that there are many reasons people cover their vitiligo. Some want their vitiligo to be private. Some want to introduce themselves before they introduce their vitiligo. Some work in a place where they interact with a lot of people—and don’t want to discuss their skin every time. Some simply enjoy the choice to have spots–or not. And when they want to cover, Jackie wants them to have that choice.
“If you want to cover your vitiligo, cover your vitiligo,” said Jackie, who has found the option to cover to be life-changing, both for her and fans of Vitiligo Vanquish. “You’re making a choice for you—and that’s something you can be confident in.”
As part of celebrating that choice, Jackie also supports those who embrace their skin. Vitiligo is beautiful both ways—and she wishes that those who embrace it would also embrace those who make a different choice.
“We should be celebrating vitiligo,” said Jackie, who is an active participant in the vitiligo community at large. “But let’s also celebrate acceptance of people as they are—including when they choose to camouflage their spots.”
Read our Vitiligo Vanquish guide to learn more, or shop the product directly.
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.