Celebrities with Vitiligo: Michael Jackson, Joe Rogan, Jon Hamm and others

Vitiligo is a disease caused by the inability of melanocytes to make melanin or loss of these pigment-producing cells. Melanin is the substance that makes your skin, hair and eyes look the way they do. Without it, the skin would be all pale and mostly white. This is what happens in the case of vitiligo.

It is not known exactly what causes vitiligo. Experts think it has something to do with the immune system becoming overactive and attacking healthy melanocytes. Some cases appear to be genetic, since the incidence rate in people with diabetes type 1 and Hashimoto’s thyroid disease is higher. Sunburns, cuts and stress are considered risk factors.

The first signs present as discolored spots on the skin. When more than one spot occurs, they may spread and join together to form large patches. Unfortunately, there is no way of telling if vitiligo will spread or not. There also is no known way to stop the spread. In fact, available treatment options seek to even out the skin tone or restore skin color.

The good thing is that vitiligo is not one of those diseases that lead to severe health complications when advanced. A number of celebrities who have been diagnosed with this disease are living testimonies. This article takes a look at some celebrities with vitiligo.

Michael Jackson vitiligo

It is almost impossible to talk about celebs with vitiligo and not mention this guy. In any case, Michael Jackson is to many unforgettable. He was the “King of Pop,” who passed away in 2009. Throughout his music and artistry career, MJ received more awards than most would know what to do with.

It was during an interview with Oprah that Michael Jackson perhaps first publicly addressed the rumors that he had vitiligo. Before that, other rumors had been circulating that MJ had actually used skin lightening products and surgeries to make himself look white.

Vitiligo can be a very distressing disease. This is even more so with people who have to occasionally appear on camera. One method used to treat vitiligo is depigmentation. This involves removing pigment on healthy body parts so that they can match the white patches caused by vitiligo. Within about 12 months, a patient can have all white skin, which makes it impossible to notice vitiligo signs. Benoquin is the medication used for this treatment. It comes in the form of cream to be applied directly.

Much evidence is available to confirm Michael Jackson’s vitiligo case. It is not clear if his transformation from being black skinned to being completely white skinned had something to do with it or not. The most important thing to note is that being a vitiligo patient didn’t keep MJ from becoming the celebrity he was: a man whose songs echoed from America to Europe to Asia, Africa, and basically everywhere.

Prince Jackson vitiligo

If your dad or mom has diabetes type 1, it is more likely that you will have the same disease than if you were born of “healthy” parents. It is the same case with vitiligo. The suspicions that Prince Jackson, the eldest son of Michael Jackson, may have vitiligo should not catch us by surprise.

It was in photos that a patch of depigmented skin on Prince’s underarm was seen. A single patch on the skin is, however, not enough to positively diagnose vitiligo, especially in this case, where it appears in a photo.

It is important to note that Prince Jackson’s vitiligo remains a speculation. With about 30% of all vitiligo cases running in families, having a close family member with vitiligo, in this case a father, is quite a strong predisposing factor.

Winnie Harlow vitiligo

If I was to pick my most admired celebrity with vitiligo, I would go with Winnie Harlow. She is a top black model and has vitiligo on her face! Modeling is, to most of us who aren’t in the industry, about some flawless women showing off the perfection of creation. That wouldn’t be the place for a vitiligo patient. Would it?

Apparently, human judgment can be quite primitive when uneducated. Winnie Harlow’s vitiligo saga has shown that vitiligo is not something we even should notice. It is like walking into a room filled with people from all over the world, like a UN summit for example. The same way all these people will be differently colored, clothed and so on should not be a center of attention or a factor to base your judgment on.

Winnie Harlow poses in all types of modeling photos and is not afraid to share them with the world. In fact, other people with skin conditions are embracing public life with inspiration from Winnie’s amazing, enlightening acts. The best gift we can give is to celebrate the model that Winnie is, and forget all the fuss about her having vitiligo.

Tamar Braxton vitiligo

When you live in a society, in any normal society, expect to be judged far more than you will be appreciated. In fact, you, in some cases, have to use methods that some may consider not genteel, just to get respect.

Tamar Braxton’s vitiligo brought her into speculations that she was using skin lightening products. Probably having dealt with emotional distress that most vitiligo patients have to deal with, Tamar made it clear that she wasn’t using bleaching products. She had been diagnosed with vitiligo.

But like many success stories, Tamar has found it more comfortable opening to the world. She doesn’t find her vitiligo issue a subject rich enough to give life to a conversation.

Other celebrities with vitiligo

Jon Hamm:

If you don’t know about Mad Men, it is a popular AMC series. One of the main actors that took part in making of the series is Jon Hamm. In 2008, Hamm took home a Golden Globe award for the part he played in the series.

Jon has vitiligo on his hands. It is most likely that it was triggered by stress, something that Jon acknowledges that he had after he got his acting role in the AMC series. Stressful events and trauma can trigger autoimmune vitiligo. Jon Hamm’s vitiligo has, however, not kept him from becoming a successful actor. With the right concealers, most people do not even notice the vitiligo symptoms on his hands.

Sammy Sosa:

If you are a baseball fan, you may be familiar with Sammy Sosa. He was brown skinned about 9 years ago but is currently white.

Any case of Sammy Sosa vitiligo has not been reported. Sammy associates the skin lightening effects with a cream he used for a long time, and bright TV lights.

Terrence J:

Terrence J is a TV personality. He has openly spoken about his vitiligo skin disorder.  Much can be learnt from the way Terrence handled his diagnosis. It came at a time he was struggling to take his career to the top. According to him, a trip to Haiti and some giving back to society played a major role in the composure with which he deals with his vitiligo issue.

Krizz Kaliko:

Krizz Kaliko’s vitiligo case gave to the world an album titled ‘Vitiligo’. When he was diagnosed with vitiligo, Krizz was stigmatized, as suggested in the album. He later learned more about the disease and got the moral support he required to face it and open up to the world.

Joe Rogan:

Joe Rogan is an actor and presenter. Due to his naturally white skin, Joe Rogan’s vitiligo on his hands is not easily noticeable.

What is vitiligo?

You may have never heard of this disease. It is also likely that you have seen but did not recognize it. Vitiligo is a disease that affects the skin but can also develop in eyes and mucous membranes. It results from absence of melanin. The epidermis, which is the uppermost skin layer, contains cells known as melanocytes. It is these cells that produce melanin. Among other things, melanin protects from sun poisoning. This is why melanoma skin cancer is more common in fair skinned people, because they have less melanin.

Lack of melanin can result from autoimmune disorders. Hashimoto’s thyroid disease and diabetes type 1 are good example. These diseases tend to run in families.

Stressful events, trauma, cuts and sunburns do not necessarily cause vitiligo but can trigger cycles. This includes mental stress, childbirth and activities such as getting a tattoo. It may be interesting to know that vitiligo dog or cat cases are also possible.

How to identify it

Famous people are occasionally in pictures that sometimes gain worldwide recognition. For them, hiding a condition like vitiligo is fairly hard. But why hide it in the first place? As far as science and logic is concerned, a certain vitiligo patient may be working on the next theory of relativity or putting together lines of codes that will give us the next Windows OS. The condition makes no material difference in the person.

Vitiligo starts with a spot and later develops into a patch. A type known as non-segmental is most common. Here, symptoms appear in body areas that mirror each other. A good example is vitiligo on arms or hands. It also can be segmental, where a discrete body area is affected.

People affected by vitiligo do not pass it to others during direct skin to skin contact. It also doesn’t cause problems associated with common skin conditions like dryness and pain. It however is not uncommon for affected areas to be slightly itchy or mildly inflamed.

How is it treated?

Vitiligo rarely goes away on its own and its patches are almost eternal without treatment. In fact, only vitiligo in children is likely to go away. Corticosteroids are commonly used to treat the condition. They come in form of vitiligo cream to be applied directly. The medications work by restoring color to the skin. It is common for corticosteroids to be used along with light therapy for better results.

Another major treatment option is use of light therapy. This can be done in a variety of ways. For small areas such as vitiligo on lips, lasers may be used. Widespread vitiligo is treated with light boxes. For better results, PUVA light therapy is used. This is a combination of a substance known as psoralen and UVA light. It is more effective than light alone. Restored skin color may disappear some time in the future.

Treatment can also be done by manipulating pigment. For example, a special tool can be used to implant pigment into affected areas. This is known as micropigmentation for vitiligo. The problem is that the process of implanting pigment can trigger other cycles.  If most of the body is affected, pigment can be removed from rest of the skin.

If these vitiligo treatment options fail to work, surgery may be used. The main form of surgery for vitiligo treatment involves skin grafting. Here, normal-looking skin is harvested and used to cover the white areas. Patients risk scarring, cobblestone-like skin and the possibility of the treatment not working.

As seen in most of the above celebrities vitiligo cases, concealing affected areas is always an option. This can be achieved with colored cosmetics. Lack of melanin makes the skin particularly prone to sunburn and diseases like cancer. Applying sunscreen helps, especially in later vitiligo stages.

Vitiligo natural treatment remedies may work but have not been sufficiently researched on. Be sure to check with your doctor before trying them out. Good examples include vitamins, minerals and herbs such as gingko biloba.