It started five years ago as a spot, no bigger than a 5p piece, on my forehead.
I remember looking in the mirror at this little pale patch of skin and thinking, “How strange.”
I had no idea what it was, or what was about to happen next.
Over the coming weeks and months, that speck grew. More and more of my face lost its pigment and went white.
It was incredibly distressing.
Being dark skinned, the patches looked especially obvious.
I was a black woman turning white, and it was a terrible shock.
I was referred to a dermatologist, and diagnosed with vitiligo.
Nobody could tell me what had triggered it.
It was a very depressing time and I felt totally hopeless.
The dermatologist explained it was difficult to treat and it was likely to carry on spreading – which it did.
Before any new patch developed, the area would feel a little rough
I’d keep checking my skin’s texture, feeling for the tell-tale
signs of a new patch forming.
Eventually, around 80% of my face lost its original colour.
I still had darker skin around my eyes and lips, then pale skin everywhere else.
My hands and toes developed white spots too.
I tried light treatments and steroid creams, but nothing seemed to work.
My friends and family were wonderfully supportive, but it was tough for me to come to terms with it.
Make-up became my shield against the stares. I spent a fortune trying every foundation out there.
I also tried specialist camouflage make-up, which is good for smaller patches, but it’s too thick and heavy to wear all over my face.
Over time, I’ve slowly come to accept my lighter skin, and I use make-up to make the patches less noticeable.
My partner has only ever known me with vitiligo, and it doesn’t matter to him.
But I do still feel aware of people looking if I ever go out to the supermarket without make-up.
I’m a secretary in a primary school and I always wear make-up on my face at work, but not on my hands, so I get a few curious comments from the kids.
Discovering a new option
Three months ago, I saw The Vitiligo Society was looking for people to
try Microskin, a new “artificial skin” to cover pigmentation.
I just thought, “Why not?”
The Microskin specialist colour-matched my skin and showed me how to sponge on the product.
It takes me about 30 minutes to apply when I do it myself.
It dries very quickly, you put a setting powder over the top, and then it lasts for several days.
When I looked at my face in the mirror, it was such a shock.
It sounds strange, but I’d forgotten how dark my skin used to be.
It was incredible to see the old me staring back.
I was also surprised by how natural the product was – it genuinely looks and feels like my own skin.
I kept that first application on for five days, and my friends and family couldn’t get over it.
I have twin daughters, aged 21, and when I came home that day, they just said, “Oh wow, our old mum is back!”
I don’t wear it every day, but it’s perfect for parties or holidays, when I want to look my best and not worry about make-up smudging or running.
I have a white patch on my thigh, and this product helps me feel good in a bikini.
I’ll wear it on my face on holiday too, so I don’t have to sit on the beach covered in foundation any more.
I really just see Microskin as a fantastic little confidence mask I can put on whenever I want.’
Microskin: the lowdown
● Microskin is a simulated skin that’s either dabbed on with a sponge or airbrushed on.
‘It’s nothing like cream-based make-up,’ explains David Robinson from Microskin.
It’s a liquid made up of micro-fine pigments of zinc oxide suspended in alcohol.
The alcohol evaporates within seconds, leaving behind a waterproof film that covers any skin discolouration.
● It can be used on men and women to cover vitiligo, birthmarks, tattoos, burns and scarring.
‘It comes in 35 shades, and we’re able to match all skin tones,’ says David.
‘Skin is digitally scanned by a consultant, then an individual colour-corrected formula can be mixed in the lab.
‘Reactions are very rare, as the pigments are 100% natural, and if any sensitivity does occur, it only lasts a few seconds while the alcohol evaporates.’
● The film has tiny bubbles that let air through, so the skin can ‘breathe’ and sweat as normal.
‘It’s not absorbed into the skin and won’t smudge, run or transfer onto clothes,’ says David.
You can also wash with a non-oil cleanser.
● Each application lasts for up to seven days, and is removed with a special oil cleanser.
It lasts longer on the body than the face, where the skin has more natural oils to break down the product.
● Microskin is already in Australia, the US and Asia, and has launched in the UK at Transform Clinics nationwide.
The initial consultation costs £399 and includes an application lesson and a three-month supply of Microskin.
Further bottles can be ordered online, at £89 each, and the company is setting up UK charity partnerships, which can help with cost.
● Microskin was developed for the make-up department on Lord Of The Rings, who were looking for a product that would cover tattoos for several days at a time
Vitiligo: the facts
● Vitiligo is a condition where the skin loses its natural pigment, melanin, and pale patches develop.
These are painless, non-contagious and usually permanent.
● It can affect any area of the body, but usually appears on the face, neck and hands.
● It’s thought to be an auto-immune condition, where the body attacks the cells that produce melanin.
You may be at increased risk if you or family members have another auto-immune condition.
Vitiligo may also be triggered by physical or emotional stress, or skin damage, such as severe sunburn or cuts.
● Creams and light therapy can help restore colour to the skin or slow the condition’s progression, but results vary from person to person. It’s very rare for vitiligo to go completely.