Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How The Bleaching Trend Is Affecting Society

A series of videos, sent to me by a friend regarding the bleaching epidemic and the devastating effects. I don't apologize for so many bleaching posts because it is truly outrageous how much this practice is being abused and the smuggling of illegal products actually has the knock-on effect of making it more difficult for those who actually have medical needs.

See the videos here

Monday, April 11, 2011

More Bleaching in Jamaica

Another interesting, shocking and devastating article regarding the bleaching activities of the poorer population in Jamaica... There is only so much you can do to help ignorance but if people want to ignore the health warnings and continue doing something in the HOPES (not the guarantee) that they might eventually become someone else in time to still be young enough to enjoy it, what more can you tell them?

Again, I will state that this has nothing to do with Vitiligo or people who have chosen to depigment due to having lost the majority of their natural skin colour. I do not condone bleaching for bleaching sake under any circumstances. Furthermore, I think this phenomenon is making an absolute mockery of what people with actual skin diseases have to experience who have no choice in the matter.

Give me cocoa brown buttery skin any day if these people don't want it...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Re-Pigmentation During Pregnancy

Since becoming pregnant, I've noticed a definite increase in re-pigmentation on my face and other parts of my body. Again, they are still only the size of little moles but it is adding up over time and it seems that a new one appears daily. At this point, there is nothing I can do to treat them, as I refuse to take any medication or put any chemicals on or in my body for prolonged periods during this time (understandably so). Not to mention that production of melanin increases in all women during pregnancy, so even those who don't have Vitiligo may notice darker areas of skin when expecting. So right now, this is normal.

However, it is making me even more determined to get rid of these marks once and for all once the baby comes. The up and down of re-pigmentation/de-pigmentation has become too much of a roller coaster in the past 2 years, accelerating beyond my wildest imagination and triggered by the slightest change in my lifestyle or mood. Furthermore, I want to know what it feels like to wake up and walk out of the house with some mascara and lipgloss in this hot climate and not have to layer my face with foundation to cover the thirty-something spots of pigment on my face every time. 

What's more, in my line of fashion work, people see me a certain way and believe that how my skin looks with makeup on is also how I look naturally (despite following this blog or my progress with Vitiligo in general) and it seems hard for them to remember to be discreet the one or two times that I have ventured out with my marks showing, only to hear the remark: "Oh, you're breaking out!"

It's not encouraging. No, I am not breaking out. I have the same condition I've always had that you have always known but just forgot to hold your tongue about in your shock that my skin is not flawless or that my feelings may not be affected by such insensitive comments.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for the day. Still struggling with the decision...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vitiligo and Pregnancy

Forgive my recent absence from the blog as I have been becoming more acquainted with my toilet bowl in the New Year than with my MacBook... due to morning sickness!

Yes, I am very happy to announce that I am expecting my first child this year :) I wasn't sure if I wanted to let such a wide audience of people, who don't know me personally, know about this... but now that I am safely at five months, I believe that the past two years of connecting with people with Vitiligo from around the world served a huge purpose in my life. I see Skinned Alive as a part of my bigger family now and a forum where I can release some of my worries.

This blog post is, however, less about announcing my pregnancy than it is about voicing the thoughts in my head regarding the theory that Vitiligo is hereditary. In my particular case, this is not true, as I am the only one in my family and family history with the condition. However, as it has been explained to me, it is more to do with the presence of a specific gene than the presence of the actual condition. This concerns me deeply when it comes to having children of my own now, understandably so.

In certain regards, my actual journey with Vitiligo, albeit ongoing, was so long ago in my mind (my childhood with changing skin colour) that in some ways I feel I have surpassed those particular trials and tribulations and moved onto a different set of difficulties following my return to Trinidad which now concerns my race and identity.

To imagine my child ever having to go through something that in some ways I have forgotten (for want of a better phrase) or pushed to the back of my mind, is a really hard thing to think about.

I can't deny the possibility that my son or daughter may one day develop the condition. Even if I don't wish to think about it right now, I must accept it and be prepared. The questions running through my head:

  • I was strong enough to get through it as a child, but as a woman, do I have what it takes to help my own child get through this? 
  • Can I be like my mother; will I have those qualities as a mother (not as someone who has Vitiligo) to guide my child through this, or any condition, with unconditional love and strength and be able to mask how I may be feeling about what they are experiencing in order to get them through it? I know there must have been nights my mother - and father - cried without me knowing, all the while pushing me to be social and live a happy-go-lucky childhood... The thought almost kills me...
  • I won't always be there to defend my child in the event that something happens or that they are visibly different to their peers. Will I be able to teach them enough to give them the confidence to step out and face the world when I am not around?
  • Even if my children do not develop Vitiligo, they will still need to learn about why their mother looks so different (even to them) - will I raise kids who are strong enough to not let what others say about 'Mummy' affect them, be it in the school playground or on the street?
Of course, I will teach my babies to be tolerant of people from all walks of life and of course they will know all about their mother's condition as they grow older and can process such information. I just hope that the same strength of character that my own parents showed - which I could never understand as a child due to ignorance but today speaks volumes to me with everything that I accomplish thanks to what they did for me and gave to me in terms of personality and drive and passion - is a strength of character that I can find when I need it. 

Even though she is my mother and the closest person to me since birth, she had to watch me grow through something that she could never fully understand due to not having experienced it. And that's gotta be hard if it's your child. If my children experience Vitiligo firsthand, will it be an advantage that I know what they are going through and can relate to them in that sense? Or will I be too emotionally involved in their experiences by recalling my own journey and stumbles and placing it on their shoulders? I'm in two minds about this (and very emotional in front of my computer screen right now!)

At this point, I can only pray for the best and know that the same people who helped me to become who I am, will help me to raise my child to be exactly who he or she was meant to be, Vitiligo or not. When all is said and done, bring it on... 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bleaching In Jamaica - Part 2

As a followup to my post earlier this week regarding bleaching in Jamaica, please check out this very informative (though sadly so) video describing my previously mentioned points in greater detail...

This is shocking and painful to watch for me...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Retaliation to Skin Bleaching in Jamaica

The latest controversy on my side of the world is all about West Indians, particularly Jamaicans, bleaching their skin... I'm sorry *correction* ruining their skin. This has become even worse with the advocacy of skin bleaching by major dancehall artistes like Vybz Kartel, who has been bleaching his own skin.

To get a better idea of what I'm talking about, check out this article with pictures:

I'm going to try really hard to be tactful and non-judgmental here, so pardon me if I fail miserably, because I am fuming as I write this.

I am appalled. I am disgusted. And I am also really embarrassed

Appalled that someone who has nothing physically wrong with their skin (other than a clear sense of self-loathing for its colour) would opt to chemically alter it for no reason other than cosmetic. Why would you risk so much when your skin tone is even and your skin is healthy and blemish-free? We're not talking eliminating a couple of sun spots or freckles here, we're talking about drastically changing the appearance of your skin from head to toe!

For those of you that may not know this, dancehall music is most popular with the less fortunate regions of Jamaica as it often depicts the ways of life found in the ghetto where a lot of people don't know or don't want to know any better, where gang life and violence is rife as well as unprotected sex, rape and teenage pregnancy. For many of the young people in these areas, music is an important form of expression and a lot of these youngsters will blindly follow what they are being told in a song without caring or wanting to know about the repercussions of their actions. These are some of many reasons why dancehall music is often under fire and major scrutiny on a global scale, and why many of the dancehall artistes are often banned from performing in places like Europe and the UK because of the strong lyrical content, which can often be violent, degrading to women and homophobic.

I'm disgusted that an artiste of such fame and high caliber would actually advocate such a ridiculously stupid practice to his fan base (many of whom are children and teenagers!) with so little medical knowledge about what is being done. His comparison of white people tanning is so absolutely pathetic, I wonder if he knows how ridiculous, misinformed and uneducated he sounds (and Vybz Kartel is one of the most educated artistes out there, so I've been told). Tanning (when taken to the extreme) is as unhealthy as bleaching, everybody knows that too much exposure to the sun increases your risk of skin cancer as well as the prolonged use of tanning beds and salons. I would also say that exposure to the sun is a natural occurence and is possible without rubbing any additional creams or chemicals on your skin, but with bleaching you are making a conscious decision to do something completely unnatural to your body's chemistry and DNA makeup. To compare the two is completely ignorant. Not to mention, it looks awful

My skin changed naturally and I have gotten comments that I look sick or deathly pale. I can't do anything about something that was not my choice, as much as these comments may bother me. However, if the photo in that article is anything to go by, I would like to think that I look a lot healthier than someone who has made the decision to undergo bleaching their body from head to toe. Does he know the repercussions of ever being in the sun at all after undergoing treatment like this? Not just in the short term but forever?

To each his own may be a fine concept, but when you have a following of so many individuals who will blindly follow what you do and repeat what you say, you have a responsibility to make some smarter decisions about what you preach. Right now, you are basically telling otherwise perfectly healthy people to burn off their skin for absolutely no good reason. As controversial as it may be for me to say this, you are perpetuating the same slave mentality that so many in this world have tried to break away from and rise above.

Vybz Kartel, now that I've seen it for myself, you have embarrassed me. As somebody who never asked for Vitiligo to happen to me or for the emotional and mental distress it brought, and continues to bring into my life and the lives of my family and friends, it is embarrassing to see a fellow West Indian advocating something they know nothing about to young and easily influenced women and children (and some men). It is these types of events and this way of thinking that keeps this region in a "Third World" state and casts a shadow on the way the rest of the world views us, despite the abundance of beauty and wonder that the Caribbean has to offer. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Everytime I think I've got it under control and people have seen enough of me to warrant less ignorance and a little more respect, some toad crawls out from under their rock and makes a totally stupid, indiscreet, completely tactless comment about my skin colour that just makes me so angry by this point. I guess this is partly because of all that I've tried to do in the past year and a half to shed more light on my condition, including hosting the first Walk for Skin in Trinidad, that I'm surprised that such a small country could still have people who haven't paid attention to any of this and opened their minds a little bit.

My partner's neighbour decided the other day to comment to him rather blatantly:

"Aye, we see you bring this white girl home by you sometimes - she's like a vampire man! Where did you find her?"

Which, of course, warranted the string of obscenities my partner couldn't hold back and needless to say, he no longer speaks to his neighbour.

Today, I came home to find a comment on a Facebook photo in which I am tagged (in a friend's album from 2 years ago), where someone I don't know decided to actually press the Submit button and ask:

"Wow!! How is she so white like that?!"

This really rattles my nerves. First of all, because I AM TAGGED in the photo. Which means that you are such a bloody tactless human being that you couldn't even ask your question in a private message to my friend, but instead didn't mind that I saw the extent of your ignorance. Not to mention that were I a weaker person, your comment would make me feel like I was a lesser human being because you felt the need to point out something I have no control over - my skin.

But what really annoys me about these situations is that these are 'my own people', Trinidadians, some of the most ethnically and racially mixed people on earth, making these comments towards ME, one of their own (although admittedly I don't always feel like I belong). Furthermore, sometimes I just wish I could flip the script: how about I call out to a very dark person across the street one day and address them as "Blackie!!" in front of crowds of people? Or how about I comment on a photo about someone's dark skin colour? Do you know how unacceptable (even racist) that would be of me?! 

So how is it any different when it is someone who is "too pale"?! And why do people even feel the need to comment on the obvious? Yes, my skin is white, anyone with half their vision can see that, what contribution did you think you were making to the grand scheme of the world when you chose to point it out?

Answer me that.