If you’re living with vitiligo, an autoimmune condition that causes skin to lose its pigment, you might have complex feelings about how it can affect your appearance. You’re not alone in that: Depigmentation may do a number on your self-image, even if you generally feel good about yourself.1
But these changes to your skin don’t change who you are. A pragmatic self-care routine can help you embrace your complexion—and SELF spoke with people living with vitiligo to offer you 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 the spots, but enhancing what’s already there, has helped a lot.”
For Riya Agrawal, 24, who has had vitiligo since she was three years old, experimenting with clothing and accessories isn’t just about following trends—it helps her feel at home in her skin. “Fashion is a form of self-expression and a way to showcase confidence to the world,” Agrawal tells SELF. “My love of fashion isn’t just limited to the clothes I wear, but also extends to the confidence and self-assurance I feel when I step out in a well-curated outfit.”
Alicia Roufs, 45, who has had vitiligo her whole life, loves to express her individuality by trying different makeup looks. In her teens to late 20s, she paired bold eyeshadow colors with eye-catching outfits to stand out. Today, Roufs uses cosmetics to accentuate parts of her body she loves. “I love to do patterns on my nails. I make sure I have fun eyeshadow and mascara on,” Roufs tells SELF. “Not focusing on covering the spots, but enhancing what’s already there, has helped a lot.”
“I practice loving myself and feeling good in my skin.”
McKyla Crowder, 29, tries to be kinder to herself on days when she feels low about her vitiligo. “A lot of us can be our own harshest critics,” she tells SELF. “We genuinely just need to be our own cheerleaders on a day-to-day basis.” Self-compassion doesn’t always come naturally, so Crowder often adopts a “fake it ’til you make it” approach with the help of daily words of affirmation. “If you tell yourself you’re beautiful and worthy enough, you’re going to start believing it,” she says.
Tonja Johnson, 53, also believes in the benefits of daily affirmations. After being diagnosed with vitiligo at 43, she placed tiny sticky notes that read “you’re beautiful” and “you’re bold” throughout her home so she saw them randomly during her day. Especially early on, Johnson tells SELF, “I had to keep telling myself, ‘No, you’re intelligent, you’re important, you’re gorgeous, you’re fearless.’” Now that she’s past her roughest mental health period, Johnson doesn’t do positive self-talk every day—but she still sometimes posts a sticky note or two when she needs a boost.
“Educating myself gave me a sense of empowerment and confidence.”
Agrawal says she spent most of her teen years feeling ashamed of her skin. That changed in her 20s, when she took the time to learn more about vitiligo. “I spent countless hours researching and educating myself about the condition, which gave me a sense of empowerment and confidence,” she recalls. “I felt more equipped to answer questions and address any misconceptions about vitiligo that people might have.” She says that the process of discovery—both personal and about her condition—helped her better understand and appreciate her skin. “Self-love is an important part of self-care, and it…begins with accepting oneself and owning every bit of it,” she explains.
“I believe in keeping yourself in a peaceful environment.”
Alisha Archibald, 53, handles her symptoms by keeping stress to a minimum and finding ways to cope in high-intensity situations. Though she was diagnosed with vitiligo at 44, she went through a particularly stressful period at 49 and her condition “took off like wildfire,” she tells SELF, which caused her to lose most of her skin’s pigmentation.