What Is Vitiligo?

If your skin tone is a bit uneven or you have the occasional red or blotchy patch, you know how self-conscious you can feel about your appearance. Now imagine losing your skin’s natural pigment — not all over, but in splotches and patches on your face, your hands, or any area of your body.

That’s what happens in vitiligo, a skin disease that affects up to 1% of Americans. Fortunately, vitiligo is neither contagious nor life-threatening — but it can take a major toll on your self-confidence, especially when you feel like it’s controlling your life.

Michele Meinhart, FNP, and the team at Starkey Medical Esthetics provide dermatology services to diagnose and manage vitiligo, along with esthetic services to help camouflage its effects. Here’s what you should know about this relatively common skin disorder.

Vitiligo: The basics

Vitiligo is a skin disease that causes pigment-producing cells in your skin to stop producing pigment. Once those cells die (or are destroyed), your skin in the affected areas will look white or much paler than the surrounding skin. In addition to causing anxiety, vitiligo can make you more prone to sunburn or sun damage in the areas lacking pigment.

Researchers aren’t sure why vitiligo happens, but they do think it’s likely related to:

Up to 25% of people with vitiligo also have at least one autoimmune disorder, like psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, or thyroid disease. Vitiligo is diagnosed through a skin exam and a thorough medical history, typically accompanied by lab tests and a skin biopsy.

Managing vitiligo

Currently, there’s no cure for vitiligo and no way to prevent it. However, there are ways to manage the condition and even help hide the patchiness it causes.

Depending on your symptoms, your health, and other factors, there are some therapies that may help slow the spread of vitiligo. These include:

These therapies can be used alone or in combination. However, their effects are variable, and the therapies themselves can be associated with side effects when used for long periods of time. For these reasons, many people with vitiligo look for ways to camouflage its effects.


Makeup can be useful in providing a temporary camouflage for some areas of your skin that have been affected by vitiligo. But makeup can wear off, and it needs to be reapplied at least every day. Long-term use of makeup may increase your risk of acne breakouts, too.

Permanent makeup provides a long-term option for camouflaging vitiligo — one that patients tend to find more convenient and more effective than topically applied makeup. Also called micropigmentation, permanent makeup uses precise tattooing techniques to apply inert pigments under the skin to restore a natural-looking skin tone.

Pigments are expertly tinted to blend in with your skin tone, then applied using a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable. You might need more than one application to achieve the amount of coverage you’re seeking, and your results will be visible right after your treatment.

Don’t let vitiligo make you feel self-conscious

If you have vitiligo, micropigmentation can help you feel more comfortable and more self-confident. To learn more about vitiligo treatments at our Salem, Virginia, practice, call the office, or book an appointment online today.

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