The poem Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins celebrates all things that are dappled, stippled and freckled. He marvels at the distinct contrasts and patterns in nature, finding beauty in all that is unconventional.
Yet the skin condition known as vitiligo – a loss of pigment in areas of the skin, resulting in the piebald effect the poet so admired – is more often than not misjudged and misunderstood. In its most dominant form, it is (ironically) perfectly symmetrical, appearing equally on both sides of the body. A perfect imperfection, one might say…
The changing face of vitiligo Once stigmatised and deemed unslightly, the mindset and visibility of this skin condition has seen positive changes over recent years. This is due, in part, to remarkable women such as Canadian fashion model Winnie Harlow, American CoverGirl cosmetics ambassador and model Amy Deanna, and of course our very own Boitumelo Rametsi – founder of Spotted Beauty and vitiligo spokesperson. They have all inspired those with vitiligo by accepting their unique beauty and raising awareness. Moreover, they urge people to do away with the stereotypical ideals of beauty. In fact, Mattel has recently launched four new Barbie dolls – including one with vitiligo – in an attempt to be more inclusive and encourage body positivity.
Be that as it may, vitiligo still causes deep distress for some, as well as provoking a risk of trauma and loss of confidence. A famous case in point is the late celebrity King of Pop, Michael Jackson, who claimed to suffer from vitiligo (he ‘came out’ on Oprah’s talk show in 1993), and went to extreme lengths to hide it. Unfortunately, he changed his appearance so drastically in the process, it ended up exposing him to serious negative attention. According to American dermatologist John E Harris, MD, Phd, it was unlikely that vitiligo alone could have caused such a radical transformation from African American to very pale skin. Indeed, his autopsy report revealed that he used a form of hydroquinone to lighten his skin.
Very effective is a combination of topical treatment and excimer light.”
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Autumn 2020 – Issue 33