... and a Vitix update
I have two topics to share this week and they are linked, so I thought I'd give you them both in the one post. I'll begin with a valuable lesson I learned a few weeks ago. It's one I wasn't thrilled about at the time but I am glad to be able to share it with you, especially if it helps another person avoid making the same mistake as I did.
I am always learning new things about #vitiligo and often I am simply reminded of facts I had forgotten or ignored. The latest of these is that vitiligo - like so many other skin conditions with no definitive cure - can be treated very successfully, even to the point where the symptoms (white patches) completely disappear. But it is a disorder that will continue to produce symptoms in those individuals who are genetically prone to develop it unless it is managed properly. Anyone who suffers from psoriasis will be familiar with this concept. But, for some reason, most people with vitiligo don't think about their skin in the same way, perhaps because most dermatologists don't talk about vitiligo in terms of being a condition that can be controlled. And yet I know, from personal experience, that it is possible to achieve almost total recovery from severe, long-term vitiligo (and therefore I can only assume that it is possible to achieve 100% recovery in cases less severe and less long-term than mine).
For anyone who hasn't read the details of my repigmentation, I should just explain that, after 50 years with the condition, most of my 80% depigmented skin started to return to its natural colour using just nutritional supplements and sunshine during the summer of 2010. A course of narrowband UVB at my local hospital then replaced the sunshine element of this treatment over the winter months, which further improved the density and evenness of the new pigment. To summarise, about 18 months after starting the nutritional programme plus light exposure I had gone from 80% pure white to 98% normal skin colour. (You can see the photos by clicking here.)
I remember the medical staff warning me that results from UVB treatment were usually temporary. I wasn't too worried about that because I knew that nutrition had been the main reason for my recovery. So, as long as I carried on with that, I was confident that I would not suffer any setbacks. And, sure enough, five years later I had not lost any more pigment - in fact the improvements had subtly continued ever since.
But I was recently reminded that recovery is not the same as cure and just because your symptoms have subsided doesn't mean you aren't still vulnerable to triggers, especially if you become complacent about continuing to do the things that helped you to recover in the first place. I attribute my long-term results very largely to the fact that, in addition to taking at least one large dose every day of the super-green food Five a Day+V, I have also taken occasional top-up courses of the tanning supplement Boost. (I took Boost every single day during my repigmentation but then dropped down to a maintenance programme). And yet I was lulled into a false sense of security this year because of the disappointing summer we've had in our corner of the UK and didn't top up with Boost before grabbing as much sunshine as I could, whenever the opportunity presented itself. So, ignoring the fact that daily doses of Boost and regular, moderate sun exposure had been a crucial part of my original repigmentation, I committed the double crime of staying in the summer sun for too long on a very irregular basis. Basically, I grabbed what little sunbathing time I could, for as long as I could, allowing myself to burn – and all without supplying my body with the vitamins and minerals it needed to produce melanin. My stupid fault – and this was the result...
Luckily I only caught the sunburn on the bony part of my neckline and it didn't exactly cause new vitiligo patches, as such, but when the sunburn subsided, clumps of dark freckles had bunched together in places, as you can see, and left the rest looking more pink than tan: a very different picture from the even pigmentation I had managed to maintain before the sunburn (see the image the top of this post).
I was obviously not thrilled with this. But I know it was my own fault and it was genuinely a valuable experience which I do not intend to repeat. It reminded me that the key to using UV rays to trigger healthy pigment is to get just enough sun (or UVB) exposure to turn the skin slightly pink but not red and to do this on a regular basis – every other day, ideally – whilst supplying your body with sufficient nutrients for the job.
So, now on to part two of this post! Apart from teaching me a valuable lesson, my sunburn gave me an ideal opportunity to continue testing one of the products I selected for Vitiligo Store. Vitix is, as far as I know, the only non-prescription, topical repigmentation treatment that has sound science and clinical evidence behind it. I blogged my first impressions on using it (and its partner product Viticolor) back in May and promised to update you after a few months.
My initial plan was to try it on my hands and feet which were the only remaining areas of my body that had never fully repigmented five years ago. By that stage they were just very lightly coloured all over and had islands of freckles on the areas containing hair follicles (see below) and they have not improved very much since then.
The nurses in the phototherapy unit had told me that hands and feet hardly ever regain their pigment. But, since these areas are known to be the last to respond, I now wonder if they just needed a longer course of UVB treatment than the hospital was allowed to give. In any case, I concentrated the Vitix trial on my hands first: I decided that if I saw improvement in my hands (reportedly the second most difficult part of the body to repigment) I would then include my feet (the most difficult) after that. After about four weeks I started to see very tiny dots of darker pigment appearing on the pale sections of my hands. The picture below shows an example running from the base of my thumb towards my wrist.
Whilst this was encouraging, I was aware that to test a product on such a notoriously difficult part of the body might not be entirely fair. So, in a way, my sunburn and subsequent patchily pigmented neckline provided a convenient site for an additional trial. I used a combination of moderate sun exposure (when it was available) and a hand-held UVB unit when the weather was dull and applied Vitix once a day. (I have also learned my lesson and started a top-up course of Boost, whilst continuing with the daily green food as always.) The improvement so far in just two weeks can be seen below.
The science behind Vitix, coupled with the results I am seeing, are quite impressive and so I would certainly recommend it to anyone who wants to pull out all the stops in treating their vitiligo because it does appear to support from the outside what the nutritional supplements are doing from the inside.
What I have learned – all over again – is that vitiligo can be controlled and that UV rays are just a trigger. If you create a friendly environment on the inside and the outside of your body, sensible use of UV exposure can trigger healthy pigmentation. But equally, if you neglect to create the right environment and you overdo the exposure, UV rays will trigger the opposite response. So I hope my mistake and my explanation of what I believe to be behind the whole process will be helpful to you if you are trying to rid yourself of the symptoms of vitiligo and keep them at bay.
Finally, many thanks to everyone who read last week's post and took up my invitation to visit Vitiligo Store for the first time. I do hope you liked what you saw and that you will feel free to let me know if you have any ideas as to what additional products you'd like to see there in the future as I add to the range. (But please don't suggest anything too wacky - like frogspawn body lotion or cardboard underwear - because I have committed to testing all the products myself before considering them for inclusion on the site. So I reserve the right not to accept every suggestion and definitely not to publish pictures of the testing process if the result would be too embarrassing!)
A vitiligo blogger since 2011. My name is Caroline. I had vitiligo for nearly 50 years before finding an effective treatment. I created this blog to share my experiences with others affected by this skin condition.