One of the biggest myths about vitiligo is that treatment is pointless, since the condition can’t be cured. However, many treatment options show results in containing the symptoms of vitiligo or simply hiding them. Discover the best vitiligo treatments, from topical to surgical options, that can be used for most patients, but aren’t as effective for all of them.
The first step in fighting vitiligo is the regular application of sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30. This both prevent the regularly pigmented skin to go darker and protects the patches of unpigmented skin (macules) from harmful UVA radiation. Once the skin is properly protected, the best vitiligo treatments include skin color restoration and skin bleaching, but the first step is usually covering up the affected areas.
Covering Up Discoloration
Regular make-up can only cover up vitiligo at the very onset of the condition, but once it spreads, it becomes impractical. Usually, vitiligo starts up in areas of skin that are regularly exposed to the sun, including the face, arms hands and feet. Even if they’re not exposed to UV radiation, areas like the armpits, groin, navel and genitals are also common for vitiligo-related discoloration.
Self-tanning lotions are the next step, but doctors can also recommend camouflage and tattoo concealer makeup. A more permanent solution is micropigmentation through medical tattoos. Usually used by people of a darker skin that suffer from vitiligo, this cover up method has downsides that mean isn’t not one of the best vitiligo treatments. The color of tattooed skin tends to fade and it won’t color if exposed to UV radiation.
Skin Color Restoration
Topical Corticosteroid Creams are one of the most useful treatments options for vitiligo if the condition is diagnosed early. However, if there are no visible effects after around 8 weeks of treatment, other options should be considered.
While treatments with corticosteroids have limited side-effects, a more drastic procedure is topical treatment is Oxsoralen (8-MOP). It’s one of the best vitiligo treatments for small discolored spots, but it comes with a high risk of phototoxicity, a sunburn that can last more than 3 days.
An excimer laser can also be used, usually along with topical treatments, to expose the skin to UVB light in order to restore color. Just like sunburn, it can cause blistering and redness.
Used for restoring skin color, grafts can cover discolored patches of skin. The two common types of skin grafts are the traditional ones, when skin is removed from another part of the body, and blister grafts. While the regular ones can leave scarring, the risk for that is lower when a doctor creates blisters, removes their top and transplants the skin. With both procedures, there’s a risk that the grafted skin will fail to continue pigment production.
One of the best vitiligo treatments, PUVA combines an oral treatment with Psoralens with topical UVA radiation. This type of photochemotherapy can be done both with sunlight or with artificial UVA radiation. Even though it effective for over 70% of patients with vitiligo, it requires a lot of time and when repigmentation is complete, it’s usually permanent, but it requires over 150 treatments.
When a large suffers of skin has been through depigmentation caused by vitiligo, one way of unifying the skin color is bleaching. With a succes rate of over 90%, bleaching with Benoquin (monobenzylether of hydroquinone 20% cream) is the most common treatment.
It’s one of the best vitiligo treatments for people who have white macules for over half the surface of the skin, but it comes with a few risks. Sunburn is common if you don’t protect your skin with a high SPF sunscreen and while the process is permanent it’s not a one time treatment for all patients. Some suffer from focal repigmentation which requires further treatment. Dry skin and itching are among the side-effects, but some pacients can also develop dermatitis from skin bleaching.
Vitiligo Support Groups
Even if you use the best vitiligo treatments, the condition is unpredictable and usually gets worse over time, so you should not have high expectations. Support groups can be found through vitiligosupport.org or the National Vitiligo Foundation and they’re useful for many people who suffer from vitiligo.