Have you ever heard of the skin condition Vitiligo?  Model Winnie Harlow has recently been bringing more attention to this skin condition, and some believed that Michael Jackson also had Vitiligo before he bleached the rest of skin white, but a lot of people still aren’t exactly sure what Vitiligo is.

What is it?

Vitiligo is a skin condition that causes the skin to lose pigment and appears as white patches.  Melanocytes are cells that produce melanin, or pigment in the skin.  In the areas where Vitiligo is present, the melanocytes are damaged and therefore no longer produce pigment, causing it to appear white.

Why does it happen?

There is no proven reason as to why it occurs, and there is no cure.  It can occur in localised areas, on one side of the body, or on many different parts of the body.  Everyone with this condition is affected differently. Some will have a few areas appear and then it will stop, however most people will find that over time most areas of their body will become affected.

There is no real known reason as to why the melanocytes are affected, however some medical professionals seem to think that it could have something to do with an immune disorder where the cells in the body attack the melanocytes, or from exposure to chemicals, a severe burn or could even be hereditary or stress related.

Vitiligo on the hands

Vitiligo on the hands

How can we treat it?

The Skin & Cancer Inc. Australia has listed a number of treatments available on their website that will help to suppress/slow down/stop the vitiligo from growing in areas, however it is emphasised that the pigment will not ever come back completely to the affected areas.

Some of the treatment options include:

  • Epidermal Cellular Grafting – Where the patients natural pigmented skin cells from another area of the body are placed onto the affected Vitiligo area.  This is not commonly available in Australia yet, and only works for people who have caught the condition early and have only small patches of Vitiligo.
  • Steroid Creams – These will not bring any pigment back to the skin, and are only used to stop the spreading on those patients with very small patches.  Even then, it hasn’t been proven to actually stop the vitiligo affected areas getting larger, and there are other side effects to consider when using these creams, such as the thinning of the skin.
  • UV Therapy – a special narrowband UVB is used to calm down the immune system and try to encourage the melanocytes to start producing pigment again.  This is largely considered the best form of treatment, however it is very slow to work.
  • Skin bleaching – this can be used to even out the skin tone and bring the rest of the non-affected areas of the body down to a similar colour of the Vitiligo patches.
  • Cosmetic Tattooing – pigment can be put back into the skin to try and even out the appearance of the skins colour with cosmetic tattooing.  This again, is only suitable for patients with smaller patches of Vitiligo.

With all of this being said, we believe that everyone, no matter the colour/s of their skin, should feel beautiful, confident and glowing!  No matter how you look on the outside, we know all our clients are beautiful on the inside!

If you would like any more information about Vitiligo, or any other skin conditions or disorders, you can contact Claire at our Balwyn Luminescence Beauty Therapies.