I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was a little girl with vitiligo, standing in the bathroom in my pink panties, covered in wet blue shampoo from head to toe. Once my mom gave me the okay, I would run around the house to help dry the shampoo on my body. I had so much fun running around all blue – I thought it was hilarious. The “blue” was Selsun Blue, a dandruff shampoo that our family doctor thought would help heal my vitiligo. Little did I know, it was just the start of years of treatments.
Treating My Skin as a Girl with Vitiligo
I started light therapy and cream treatments as a teenager. The light therapy would, in a good way, burn my white patches like a sunburn and they would turn pink. Pink meant life in my skin, which meant pigmentation would return. It was good news for my skin, but it hurt just like a regular sunburn and I felt ugly looking in the mirror and seeing my burnt body. Brown and white skin was bad enough – now I was pink too.
I didn’t like having to go to these treatments, but to my parents, it wasn’t an option. While they meant well, they would get disappointed in me when I didn’t go to light therapy sessions or would forget to apply the cream. I heard a lot of lectures about the benefits of the treatments, but they couldn’t see how hard it was for me. Going to light therapy a couple times a week was just more opportunities for me to leave the house and be stared at. More than that, the treatments were exhausting. After countless sessions, I would start to see progress and my naturally tanned skin would return. But it wasn’t a permanent solution and after even a short break, the results would fade.
Why I Said ‘Goodbye’ to Treatments
After years of being burnt, embarrassed and frustrated with treatments, I ended up missing a handful of light therapy sessions and the pigmentation on my face reverted back to vitiligo. It was as if I had wasted years of my life. I felt disheartened, cheated, robbed, hurt, sad, angry, ugly, hopeless and alone. My dermatologist noticed my frustration and tried having a heart-to-heart conversation, but I was angry. As he talked about other options, it suddenly hit me – I was done with treatments.
So much of my life was spent treating my skin because I needed to “get better.” I was raised with the idea that I needed a treatment to help me get better. But the only thing I needed to do was to love my skin the way it was. I decided that it was time to embrace my skin, take care of my mental health and love the girl looking back at me in the mirror. My joy should not be based on the number of light treatments I went to last week or how much of my pigmentation is returning. True happiness comes from loving yourself despite that.
Zoila Holt is a lifestyle blogger, student and YouTube junkie who loves to sing. Originally from El Salvador, these days she calls Vancouver home.