... or for your vitiligo
Following my recent post about the effects of #phenols on vitiligo, in which I was reminded that a little learning can be a dangerous thing, I found myself googling around a subject that I thought I already understood pretty well: #antioxidants. And, as it turns out, these much talked-about compounds are not quite as straightforward as I had previously thought.
We are used to thinking of antioxidants in terms of the beneficial nutrients found in many fruits and vegetables that help to ward off chronic disease by keeping harmful free radicals in check. Those of us with #vitiligo are probably even more aware than most of the benefits of antioxidants because of the fact that scientists now know that vitiliginous skin is significantly lacking in antioxidant protection as compared to normal skin – hence the raised levels of hydrogen peroxide observed in vitiligo sufferers which is thought to be responsible for the “bleaching” of pigment from the skin. What I didn't fully appreciate though was that the label “antioxidant”, much like the label “phenol”, can refer to all sorts of synthetic chemicals that aren't always good for you and can be particularly harmful to anyone wanting to repigment their vitiligo patches.
Please don't stop reading at this point though! I would hate to be responsible for anyone ditching their healthy eating habits or throwing away their natural antioxidant supplements as a result of my last statement. The harmful antioxidants I am referring to are not the nutritional variety but the sort frequently used in industrial processing and present in all sorts of everyday items that most of us use without giving them a second thought. One of these is #monobenzone (a.k.a monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone or MBEH). This chemical compound, used as an antioxidant in the production of rubber, as well as in the manufacture of photographic dyes and in the dying of fibres, is also classified as a phenol (4-(Benzyloxy)phenol) and poses a variety of general health risks and a particular risk to anyone with a predisposition to vitiligo because it actually causes the skin to depigment. In fact, many vitiligo sufferers will know of monobenzone under the name Benoquin, available in the form of a topical cream sometimes prescribed to those who wish to achieve a more uniform skin tone by completely and permanently depigmenting. So monobenzone is definitely not something any of us would want to come into contact with unless we were deliberately using it to remove the colour from our skin (a drastic solution that I would not recommend anyone take without very serious thought and professional medical advice). And yet, its presence in protective rubber gloves in the late 1930's early 1940's was what first alerted occupational dermatologists to its pigment-destroying properties.
Reading about this prompted me to try to find out whether or not the most popular brands of household rubber gloves available today also contain monobenzone. If so, it could go some way to explaining why so many people find it more difficult to repigment their hands than the rest of their body. But, whilst there is plenty of information on the internet about latex allergy (apparently 6% of the UK population suffers from this) and how this risk can be avoided by using alternative products like nitrile gloves, I can't find anything to tell me specifically which brands of rubber gloves (be they natural, synthetic, latex or nitrile) do or don't contain monobenzone or any other harmful chemicals. However, everything I have read certainly suggests that these very items we put on our hands to protect them from harmful chemicals may actually be doing far more harm then good. It's certainly the case that wearing rubber gloves for too long has always left my skin feeling prickly and itchy and it does not surprise me in the least that rubber gloves are included on the Vitiligo Society's list of possible triggers for vitiligo.
[Postscript to this topic: I have since sourced two excellent ranges of dermatological protective gloves and clothing, DermaSilk and Microair Barrier, which are both available to order on Vitiligo Store.]
My name is Caroline.