... are the ones in my waste bin!
I have had problem skin (in the form of vitiligo) virtually all my life. As a result, I have had ample opportunity to observe how my skin reacts to certain substances, events and environments. My five decades worth of first-hand knowledge has conformed, by and large, with the scientific and anecdotal information I have read over the past several years. But I came across some historical research (dating from 1984) the other day that was completely at odds with my own experience and I would be really interested to know how many vitiligo friends out there share my surprise at the findings.
The research in question concluded that a vitiligo sufferer's white patches are less sensitive to allergens than their normal skin. This strikes me as counterintuitive, given that depigmented skin is known to be more sensitive to UV light than normal skin and is also known to have an increased sensitivity to oxidative stress. So why, I wonder, would it be less sensitive to irritants and allergens? Mine certainly isn't. My white patches always reacted more dramatically to insect bites and stings than the rest of my skin and would often itch and turn red when in contact with certain fabrics or threads. The most common irritants were car seat belts, rubber gloves and boots, nylon thread, underwear elastic, bra fastenings (I'm sure this is the reason for a large vitiligo patch I used to have on my back at this exact spot) and clothing labels. Naturally, the response to these irritations was often to scratch the itch, which I now know probably made matters worse.
I now realise that contact with these substances exposed me to multiple vitiligo triggers: firstly, the direct depigmenting effect of the chemical constituents themselves and, secondly, the Koebner effect that scratching can cause.
Some irritants are simple to avoid. For example, the only bare skin that routinely comes into contact with car seat belts is around the collar bone when wearing a lower neckline. So I always make sure I have a cotton scarf in the car to place between the belt and my skin. Labels are relatively easy to tackle too. The first thing I do with any new clothes is to cut off all labels. At first, I used to try to unpick the stitching so I could remove the entire label but most #clothing manufacturers seem to be so keen for their name to remain in the garment that they make them bomb-proof – so scissors are sometimes the only answer. The remnants of the label may still cause irritation though, so these tips on removing labels completely might come in handy.
But, whilst a number of other vitiligo sufferers have commented to me that their white patches are super-sensitive too, it would be interesting to know just how typical this actually is. So please let me know what your experiences are.
In any case, some clothing manufacturers have cottoned on (sorry!) to the fact that a significant proportion of the general population dislike scratchy tags next to their skin and have started to use "tagless labels" instead. This is good news, of course, but these brands are still in the minority and there is no guarantee that just because a garment is tagless it is also going to be free from other irritants and depigmenting agents. This is why I decided to feature Dermasilk undergarments on Vitiligo Store. They are mercifully free from scratchy labels and irritating elastic and nylon thread; they are made from a therapeutic dermatological silk that minimises friction and maintains healthy moisture levels; they have a permanent antimicrobial effect built in to the fabric and they provide a protective barrier between your skin and the garments worn on top, which means that you don't have to worry too much about what vitiligo triggers may or may not lurk in your everyday clothing.
Note: I was asked earlier this week to add knee-length undersocks to the range, which I have now done, so you can use these inside wellie boots in the same way as you use the therapeutic gloves inside your Marigolds or other household gloves. The seamless bra liner can also be worn under a regular bra to protect from the threads, labels, wires and clasps that can cause irritation. And the ladies' briefs and gents' boxers are an irritant-free, therapeutic alternative to regular underwear, which could be important for vitiligo sufferers, given that the groin area is a common site for lesions.
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.