Living With Vitiligo: Tips For Managing Symptoms
Whether you, or someone you care for has vitiligo, it’s helpful to know how to manage your symptoms to improve your way of life. We’ve gathered some of the best tips on how to manage this often stressful, and sometimes painful condition:
Sun Protection & Vitiligo
Most people with vitiligo need to take extra care of their skin in warmer weather because they are particularly vulnerable to sunburn. White skin patches have no natural protection against the sun’s rays, unlike normal skin which is protected by melanin (skin pigment).
Unprotected vitiligo skin is highly likely to burn quickly. Not only is sunburn painful, but it might stimulate the vitiligo to spread in some people. Sunburn also increases the risk of skin cancer. We need some sunlight to keep healthy – it is our main source of Vitamin D, but skin needs to be protected from sun damage!
Here are some best practices for suncare with vitiligo:
1. Always use sunblock or sunscreen products when you have vitiligo!
You need to choose a product which protects you from the ultraviolet light in the sun’s rays. There are two types of rays:
- UVA (long rays): these rays penetrate deep into the skin and can cause dryness and wrinkles, as well as contributing to burning. The extent of protection against UVA rays is indicated by stars. Vitiligo skin requires at least 4 stars UVA protection ****
- UVB (medium rays): are the main cause of sunburn. The extent of protection against UVB rays is indicated by the Skin Protection Factor (SPF) number, which ranges from 2 to 50+. Vitiligo skin requires at least SPF 25.
Your sun protection product needs to be water-resistant or preferably waterproof if you are going in the water. Remember that the sun can penetrate water to a depth of 10 metres.
2. Take other measures to protect your skin from the sun!
- To avoid burning it is important to not rely too much on sunblock. Some UV rays will go through any sunscreen.
- You can also protect your skin by wearing loose cotton clothes, a sunhat and sunglasses.
- Keep in the shade, especially at the hottest time of day (11am to 3pm). This is particularly important for children, and especially babies, whose skin is so delicate.
Managing Vitiligo Through Diet & Nutrition
There is so far no evidence that confirms a direct link between nutrition and vitiligo. However, some studies suggest changing your diet or adding supplements could have a positive impact.
A nutrient-dense diet is always advisable, not only for vitiligo but for optimum health. A plant-based diet rich in antioxidants, low in inflammatory foods and possibly also gluten-free, may have a beneficial effect on vitiligo.
Here are some management tips for improving your vitiligo symptoms with a change in diet and nutrition:
1. Eat an antioxidant-rich diet to help improve your vitiligo symptoms.
One potential cause of vitiligo is the effect of stress on the cells that produce melanin — less melanin means more skin depigmentation.
You can try to protect yourself against this stress by eating a diet high in antioxidants. One study carried out on mice with vitiligo showed significant levels of repigmentation when they ate foods high in antioxidants.
Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and spices are all high in antioxidants. A good rule of thumb for eating enough antioxidants is to eat as many different coloured fruits and vegetables as possible: “eat the rainbow”.
Foods high in omega-3 (but lower in omega-6) could also help improve your symptoms. These include oily fish, nuts, seeds and algae.
A plant-based diet has been shown to be very high in antioxidants (as well as a whole host of other benefits!). This is not the same as a vegan diet because you can still eat some animal products. However, the majority of your diet is made up of plants.
2. Try a gluten-free diet for vitiligo.
One study on a vitiligo patient found that following a gluten-free diet resulted in substantial repigmentation. The case study saw significant changes after a nine-month period.
The study was only carried out on one person, but you could cut gluten from your diet to see if it works for you.
One reason for the improvements in this patient could be because gluten is an inflammatory food.
3. Avoid inflammatory foods for vitiligo.
Avoiding foods that cause an inflammatory response may help reduce the symptoms of vitiligo.
Inflammatory foods include:
- Processed meats
- Sugary drinks
- Trans fats, found in fried foods
- White bread
- White pasta
- Soybean oil and vegetable oil
- Processed snack foods, such as chips and crackers
- Desserts, such as cookies, candy, and ice cream
- Excess alcohol
- Excessive carbohydrates
Inflammatory foods make it harder for your gut to work and remain healthy. A healthy gut helps decrease low-grade inflammation in the body. Fibre, probiotic and prebiotic foods, such as sauerkraut, can help improve gut health.
4. Take supplements for vitiligo.
Although it is considered preferable to consume nutrients via whole foods rather than with supplements, studies suggest some supplements can aid repigmentation in vitiligo patients:
- Ginkgo biloba
- Alpha lipoic acid
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3)
- Vitamin D
Is there any link between vitiligo and food allergies?
As far as we are aware there is no research to show that vitiligo can either be caused from food allergies, or that you are more likely to have such allergies if you have vitiligo.
Check out our online magazine and YouTube channel for more information:
For access to more VitLife articles, become a member! We continue to monitor vitiligo research and treatments and will provide information on any proven product or treatment.
Vitiligo and Dating
Dating can be a nerve wracking experience for most people, however, when you have a skin condition such as vitiligo, the thought of dating can come with added fear, nerves and angst as we think about how we’ll explain our skin to someone who has likely never seen it before.
Many people fear things they don’t understand, so have a look at our myth busting topics to help educate and reassure your potential partner about vitiligo. Talking about how vitiligo isn’t a physically harmful condition and cannot be passed to a partner can be a good starting point, but it’s also important to talk about how vitiligo does affect you.
Check out our online magazine and YouTube channel where we share personal experiences, hints and tips on how to overcome any anxieties you may have when it comes to dating with vitiligo:
VitLife Article: What I learned dating as a girl with vitiligo
VitLife Article: Why vitiligo shouldn’t be an issue when dating
VitLife Article: Dating with a visible skin condition