It looks exactly like vitiligo but could have an environmental cause
Chemical leukoderma (sometimes loosely referred to as occupational vitiligo) is the loss of areas of skin pigment due to contact with certain chemicals. It is not the same as idiopathic vitiligo and anyone can suffer from it, whether they have a history of vitiligo or not.
The first cases of depigmentation that were identified as occupational leukoderma occurred in workers who were required to wear rubber garments or gloves that contained monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone. Hospital cleaning staff who handle industrial cleaning agents containing phenolic antiseptic detergents are also known to have suffered chemical depigmentation.
I have always assumed that most environmental exposure to harmful substances occurs in the industrial workplace but so-called occupational vitiligo can result from chemical contact at home or during normal daily activities. The worst chemical culprits are compounds called substituted phenols, as these are known to be destructive to functional melanocytes and can cause permanent #depigmentation of the skin, resembling vitiligo. The most commonly implicated chemicals are para-tertiary butyl phenol, para-tertiary butyl catechol, monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone, hydroquinone and related compounds.
Here is a list of some of the everyday items that have been known to cause depigmentation when handled on a regular basis:
One of the ironic things about this whole subject is that, because I have sensitive skin and a history of idiopathic vitiligo myself, I have always made a point of using rubber gloves before handling household cleaners. But, as it turns out, the very items I was relying on to protect me from harmful chemical exposure are themselves listed among the hazards I should be avoiding!
So, how on earth are we supposed to steer clear of these chemical nasties lurking in our everyday items and garments? Well, unless we want to spend half our life researching the ingredients that went into the manufacture of every individual product we purchase, the simplest way is to select the least complicated and most natural alternatives available on the market every time - i.e. natural fabrics and simple, traditional formulations - and even, wherever possible, make them yourself out of good old fashioned, natural ingredients.
But, if you are into reading lists, here are some of the ingredients to avoid - it is not an exhaustive list but will hopefully enable you to avoid some of the most pernicious chemical hazards out there:
Monobenzylether of hydroquinone
Monoethylether of hydroquinone (p-ethoxyphenol)
Monomethylether of hydroquinone (p-methoxyphenol)
Mercaptoamines, e.g. N-2-mercaptoethyl-dimethylamine hydrochloride (MEDA)
My own vitiligo has virtually gone now, thanks to using the natural healing power of proper nutrition and sunshine. But, knowing that we are surrounded by so many hidden environmental toxins in today's high-tech, highly processed consumer society, I will be looking very carefully indeed in future at the products I buy and use on a regular basis.
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.