If you have vitiligo, an autoimmune disease that causes the skin to lose its pigment, you may have complicated feelings about how it affects your appearance. You’re not alone in this: Removing pigmentation can take a toll on your self-image, even if you feel good about yourself in general.1
But these changes in your skin don’t change who you are. A practical self-care routine can help you embrace your skin—and SELF spoke to people with vitiligo to give you the proof. Here’s how they learned to feel better about themselves after experiencing depigmentation—and what you might want to try if you’re struggling, too.
“Not focusing on covering spots, but improving what’s already there, helped a lot.”
For Rhea Agrawal, 24, who has had vitiligo since she was three, trying on clothes and accessories isn’t just about following trends—it helps her feel at home in her own skin. “Fashion is a form of self-expression and a way to show confidence to the world,” Agrawal told SELF. “My love for fashion is not only limited to the clothes I wear, it also extends to the confidence and confidence I feel when I step into a well-coordinated outfit.”
Alicia Roffs, 45, who has had vitiligo her entire life, loves expressing her personality by experimenting with different makeup looks. During her teens to her late 20s, she paired bold eye shadow colors with eye-catching outfits to stand out. Today, Rove uses cosmetics to highlight parts of her body that she loves. “I love doing patterns on my nails. I make sure I put on eye shadow and mascara.” “Not focusing on covering spots, but improving what’s already there, helped a lot.”
“I practice loving myself and feeling good in my own skin.”
McKyla Crowder, 29, tries to be kinder to herself on the days she’s feeling down about her vitiligo. “Many of us can be our own harshest critics,” she tells SELF. “We really need to be encouraging ourselves on a daily basis.” Self-compassion doesn’t always come naturally, so Crowder often takes a “fake it ’til you make it” approach with the help of daily words of affirmation. “If you tell yourself that you are beautiful and worthy enough, you will begin to believe it,” she says.
Tonga Johnson, 53, also believes in the benefits of daily affirmations. After she was diagnosed with Vitiligo at the age of 43, she put little sticky notes reading “You’re Beautiful” and “You’re Bold” all over her house so she randomly saw them during her day. Privately early on, Johnson tells SELF, “I had to constantly say to myself, ‘No, you’re smart, you matter, you’re awesome, you’re fearless.'” Now that she’s past the toughest period of her mental health, Johnson doesn’t make positive self-talk every day — but she still occasionally posts a note or two when she needs a boost.
“Educating myself has given me a sense of empowerment and confidence.”
Agrawal says she spent most of her teenage years feeling ashamed of her own skin. That changed in her twenties, when she took the time to learn more about her vitiligo. “I spent countless hours researching and educating myself about this condition, which gave me a sense of empowerment and confidence,” she recalls. “I felt more equipped to answer questions and address any misconceptions people might have about vitiligo.” She says the process of discovery—the character and her condition—has helped her better understand and appreciate her own skin. “Self-love is an important part of self-care, and it starts with accepting oneself and owning every bit of it,” she explains.
“I believe in keeping yourself in a peaceful environment.”
Alisha Archibald, 53, deals with her symptoms by keeping stress to a minimum and finding ways to handle intense situations. Although she was diagnosed with Vitiligo at age 44, she went through a particularly stressful period at age 49 and her condition “went off like wildfire,” she tells SELF, causing her to lose most of her skin tone.