In the era of body positivity, we have seen awareness being raised on a number of issues that numerous people are dealing with every day. One of the conditions often talked about today is vitiligo, mostly thanks to supermodel Winnie Harlow who has been very vocal about it.
This skin condition has baffled researchers and there is no clearly defined treatment for it. However, the popularization of permanent makeup in the past few years has inspired permanent makeup technicians to perfect methods of vitiligo camouflage. Yes, it is important to love and accept yourself for what you are, but each individual is free to decide whether they will wear their vitiligo with pride or potentially seek a way to cover it up.
So for those exploring their options, here is an overview of the do’s and don’ts of permanent makeup for vitiligo cover up.
Vitiligo is a long term genetic skin condition in which the cells that produce melanin, the substance responsible for skin color, die or stop functioning, causing white patches to appear.
What is vitiligo?
First things first, let’s get into what vitiligo actually is. Vitiligo is a long term genetic skin condition in which the cells that produce melanin, the substance responsible for skin color, die or stop functioning, causing white patches to appear. It can appear at any age, although almost half the people who have it develop it by the age of 20. It implies patches of lighter skin lacking pigment on otherwise healthy skin. It is equally common among all genders and skin tones, although it is more visible on darker skin. It is not painful and does not have significant health consequences per se, but it is linked to some autoimmune diseases, such as hyperthyroidism.
Scientists are not unanimous on what causes vitiligo. The most likely explanation is that it runs in the family, but there are no rules. This condition is in no way life threatening, but it can have profound psychological consequences and can have detrimental effects on self-confidence. As there is no defined cure for it, people are opting for different ways of covering it up.
Why tattooing is not an option
The first thing that comes to mind for vitiligo cover is a simple tattoo; filling in the lighter patches in with the same shade as the rest of the skin, or cover the patch with a picture or some other design.
However, there are many difficulties with filling in the spot. Matching the color of the ink to skin tone is extremely difficult. Not only that, but ink is unpredictable in the sense that its original color always appears at least slightly different once it is injected into the skin. And even if the artist gets it right, vitiligo is known to spread and some time later, the tattoo can end up lined with a new patch of lighter skin surrounding it. Furthermore, our natural skintone changes throughout the year depending on sunlight exposure. Also, colored ink is known to fade in time and must be touched up from time to time in order to maintain the original shade.
The other option, covering the patches up with pictures may work a bit better. Of course, if you don’t like tattoo art, it is not an option. There’s also the problem of koebnerization – the response of the skin to trauma that results in new patches emerging.
So tattooing is obviously not the most practical option for vitiligo camouflage and can even make things worse.
Is there an adequate permanent makeup for vitiligo?
Artists are finding new uses of permanent makeup everyday. One of its most significant purposes has been helping people, at least to a certain extent, deal with health conditions. For example, microblading can recreate eyebrows for those fighting cancer and at least give them back some confidence.
Similarly, micropigmentation has emerged as a corrective procedure that can camouflage the patches caused by vitiligo in the best, most subtle possible way. The results resemble the use of concealer without the possibility of it washing off and look much more natural than a tattoo would.
So, what exactly is vitiligo micropigmentation?
As with other treatments of permanent and semi-permanent makeup, this procedure implies injecting pigment into the skin between the dermis and the epidermis (not as deep as tattoo ink). Because the pigments don’t go particularly far into the skin, the results are not life-long; they last for up to three years. The pigments used are natural and mineral-based. The technician concocts a special, customized mix of pigments for every client to best match their skin tone, which is injected into the white patches using microneedles, matching them to the rest of the skin.
As relatively large patches of skin are treated, it takes several sessions to complete the treatment – at least 4. Although the results are visible immediately, some of the pigment is exfoliated after each session. It takes at least 4 sessions for the technician to properly build up the color. Along the way, they can correct any possible mismatched areas in order to achieve the most natural results. Once the skin heals and the color settles, no one will know you even have vitiligo.
Is it worth it?
Micropigmentation is arguably the best way to cover up vitiligo. Although it is not as permanent as tattooing, getting your white patches inked is not the safest option. Natural pigments fade after about three years. Considering innumerable people with vitiligo apply layers upon layers of foundation and concealer, three years without the hassle seems like forever.
However, micropigmentation can get costly. The price of a series of four one-hour treatments starts at around $2500, and grows with the area treated. Also, it costs extra if additional sessions are necessary.
It’s worth considering that regular makeup doesn’t come cheap either, especially if you want full coverage. In that sense, micropigmentation could even be a way to save money in the long run. And you can’t put a price tag on confidence.