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    Sun Awareness Week and Staying Safe in the Sun

    This week (3rd – 9th May) is Sun Awareness Week, a campaign launched and led by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) as part of their annual sun awareness campaign which runs from April to September.

    The campaign is made up of two parts; prevention from burning in the sun and the dangers of excessive tanning and early detection and spotting the warning signs of skin cancer, which is the theme for this years campaign. 

    Sun exposure and using the right sun cream has always been of a concern to those with vitiligo because our skin burns easily due to lack of pigment in our skin. Questions that are commonly raised amongst the community are mostly around sun cream recommendations and why it is such an essential part of our skin care routine, all year round. There is a lot of information available through various sources on the dangers of excessive sun tanning, however, sometimes this can be overlooked, so I thought i’d simplify exactly what you need to know:

    What is SPF?

    SPF stands for sun protection factor. It is the number on a bottle of sun cream that indicates the level of protection it  gives you against the sun’s UV rays.

    UVA vs. UVB – what’s the difference? 

    Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which consists of different types of rays. The types of UV radiation you’re probably most familiar with are UVA and UVB rays. These rays can affect your skin in different ways.

    UVA is more penetrative on the skin because it has longer wavelengths and can affect the deeper layers of the skin, causing ageing skin and wrinkles. UVA rays go deeper than the top later of skin, reaching the epidermis and the dermis.

    UVB has shorter wavelengths and can damage the outermost layer of the skin and can cause the skin to burn and redden if exposed excessively, potentially leading to skin cancer.

    Why choose an SPF of 50 over factor 15?

    Often the SPF is the first thing you’ll notice on a bottle of sun cream, as it’s the most important when making a purchase. Those with vitiligo are strongly advised to use an SPF of 50 or above as this strongly limits your chances of getting burnt when used correctly and reapplied throughout the day. But what does this mean?

    If you are someone that is prone to burning after 10 minutes, then a factor as low as 15 means you are likely to burn after 150 minutes (15 times longer) in the sun compared to an SPF of 50 which would cause burning after 500 minutes. An SPF of 50 blocks around 98% of the sun’s rays. Irrespective of this, it is important that you reapply sun cream throughout the day to maximise protecting your skin. The job of sun cream is to protect the three layers of the skin – the epidermis, dermis and the hypodermics.

    In addition to applying sun cream, there are a number of other ways that you can protect your skin in the sun:

    • The sun is at it’s strongest between 11am and 3pm so where possible seek shade to avoid to much exposure during this time. Always keep babies and young children in the shade as much as possible.
    • Ensure that you reapply sunscreen throughout the day – applying once simply isn’t enough. If you are going to be in the sun for long periods where the risk is high that you might burn, apply at lest twice a day or every 2 hours.
    • If you are planning to swim, use a water resistant sun cream, especially as UV rays reflect off of water, increasing your exposure.
    • Wear protective and loose clothing – a hat to protect your scalp, shades to protect your eyes and long sleeved tops and trousers. Close weave fabrics are a great option as they act as a barrier to sunlight.
    • Apply sun cream at least 30 minutes before exposing yourself to the sun. This leaves time for the cream to penetrate the skin and settle ensuring that you are protected by the time you are in the sun.
    • Drink plenty of water to ensure you stay hydrated. The average daily intake of water is between 1.5 – 2.5 litres a day, however, to avoid the risk of dehydration and headaches for some, this intake needs to be increased considerably.

    For more information on Sun Awareness week and protecting yourself in the sun:

    https://www.bad.org.uk/skin-cancer/sunscreen-fact-sheet

    https://www.skinhealthinfo.org.uk/sun-awareness/

    Brands that offer high SPF sun creams and have been recommended by Dermatologists:

    https://www.sunsense.co.uk/

    https://www.evy.uk.com/

    https://www.laroche-posay.co.uk/

     

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    Lifestyle

    Celebrating Wins in 2020

    As those with vitiligo continue to share their stories publicly, collaborate with brands and celebrate their skin in there own way, we are collectively raising awareness and re-directing the negativity often associated with a visible difference in to something positive. Its a truly wonderful feeling.

    With that, 2020 has seen some great wins in terms of collaborations and innovative ways of showing a more inclusive and diverse society. Here are some of the moments that we celebrated, welcomed and for us, felt like a major breakthrough…

    Mattel released a new range of Barbies

    In January, Mattel, one of the biggest toy distributors launched a new range of diverse barbie dolls including a Barbie with vitiligo. The first of its type, the range was an instant hit on Instagram, with the prototype receiving more than 60’000 likes on social media.

    This was an incredible breakthrough for so many reasons, but most importantly it was a way of redefining beauty and showing society the importance of representation and diversity. The doll, which had vitiligo on its face and hands, was accurately represented thanks to Mattel working closely with a dermatologist to ensure the pigment was aptly reflected.

    Like the majority of the vitiligo community, I was excited to see such a diverse range being introduced into the market and which also included a Barbie with no hair, a prosthetic leg and in a wheelchair. Since the Barbie doll was first introduced more than 60 years ago, the standard design has been the same – white, blond hair and the longest legs meaning children were exposed to the idea that only one type of beauty existed. With this new range we are showing children that we are all being represented and giving a truer reflection of the world we live in.

    World Vitiligo Day

    On June 25thwe celebrated World Vitiligo day for the 9thtime and what a celebration it was. Every year the desire to raise awareness and publicise the beauty in our skin, seems to get bigger and 2020 was no exception. I watched closely online as we globally celebrated, shared photos, captions, personal snippets of our story and for some, bravely sharing their spots for the first time because they felt empowered by others. For me, it was testament to just how unified and supportive everyone is….how we come together, encourage each and remind ourselves that we are not alone. It was an incredible filled with such positivity and really proved that the stigma around vitiligo really is starting to die out. Being part of such a strong and open community online, continues to make me very proud!

    Animal Crossing New Horizons creates new ‘skinclusive’ characters

    In 2019, Gillette Venus, successfully championed the importance of women feeling comfortable in their own skin, by launching ‘My Skin. My Way’ a campaign that was created to challenge beauty stereotypes from across the globe. In August 2020, they went one step further and launched 250 digital characters for fans of Animal Crossing, a game for Nintendo Switch. The characters, which featured conditions such as vitiligo, cellulite, stretch marks and eczema were created in collaboration with designer, Nicole Cuddihy. On August 31st, Gillette hosted an Animal Crossing beach event on YouTube in celebration of its launch.

    In other news…

    Living Dappled, a platform created for women and girls with vitiligo launched the Dappled Darlings community, which brings together a small group of women into a safe space, allowing them to share their challenges and learn from each other’s experiences. Its honestly been one of the most enlightening and special groups to be part of. If you want to know more or would love to join, you can do so here.

    In December, The Vitiligo Society hosted their first online summit with guest speakers, Dr John Harris, Dr Alia Ahmed and Dr Viktoria Eleftheriadou and in October, My VitiligoTeam hosted a live virtual panel where leading doctors, Dr John Harris, Dr Amit Pandya, Dr Pearl Grimes and Dr Seemal Desai answered all your vitiligo related questions. Last but not least, Winnie Harlow was voted as one of the most successful models of 2020….

    Lastly, Happy New Year to you. Wishing you health, happiness and positivity in 2021….

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    Lifestyle

    “Body Blur by Vita Liberata has become my miracle product”

    A few months back, I was lucky enough to take part in another campaign – this time with Vita Liberata, a premium organic skincare and sunless tanning brand popular with the likes of Rosie Huntingdon Whitely and Rita Ora.

    The idea behind the campaign was to demonstrate how Body Blur, an instant body makeup that gives a flawless skin finish when applied, can benefit those with vitiligo or any other visible skin condition. The conversation between myself and the brand started after a very satisfied customer got in contact to say that the Body Blur, one of their premium products, had saved their life. The customer, who had used self tanners in the past, had spent years trying to find a product that disguised the patches on her skin, but nothing she used seemed to create the coverage she wanted. She then discovered Body Blur and was so overwhelmed with the results, that she contacted Vita directly to say just how much the product had helped her. In response, Vita contacted the Vitiligo Society, where I am a Director and so a conversation around how we could collaborate and widely share the benefits of Body Blur, began.

    I’ve always been very open about the fact I use self tanners, especially during the summer because as someone who is mixed race with vitiligo, it meant that my white patches were a stark contrast against my caramel coloured skin. This meant that I tried everything in m power to disguise them – camouflage makeup in the first instance and then later self tanners. I worked my way through an entire shelf of products; creams, mousses, gradual tanners and sprays and always went for the darkest shade possible. My obsession meant that I’d apply layers upon layer until my skin was barely noticeable and practically orange! It was the only way I’d feel remotely comfortable showing my skin to the public.

    I’ve always felt like people often have strong views on self-tanners and camouflage makeup and have seen comments online such as ‘you shouldn’t feel as though you should disguise your skin’ and ‘not using coverage means you are totally accepting of your skin’. For me, wearing self tanner isn’t a measure of a person’s confidence and no one should be made to feel as if wearing fake tan is deflecting away from their natural beauty. It’s simply a personal choice. This is why taking part in the campaign felt so appropriate to my own personal journey and fully supported my strong views on covering vitiligo as being a person’s choice.

    Back to the campaign! The campaign brief was that a group of girls would come together as friends, sharing their story and testing the products in front of the camera. My biggest hurdle was finding a group of women who had used fake tan in the past and wanted to take part. I instantly started sending messages to girls I had spoken to on social media and admittedly some women were reluctant as they either didn’t cover their skin, had stopped using fake tan and felt as though it went against their opinions on using products that covered their skin. However, there were a group of girls that were keen, loved the idea of testing the products and being part of a campaign and were experienced users of self-tanners.

    Prior to the shoot day it was important that I tested the product to make sure it was something I would genuinely use. When the sealed box arrived in the post I was incredibly excited about trying it! Ten minutes later, my skin looking fresh, I started applying the Body Blur to my legs with a tanning mitt and was blown away with the results. It was as easy as applying moisturiser, took seconds to dry, smelt great and most importantly didn’t mark my clothes. The product was a winner!

    The actual shoot itself was so much fun! I got to record the campaign with three lovely ladies who also shared similar stories to mine. We spent quite a bit of time getting to know each other in between recording and really connected because we had vitiligo. Vita Liberata founder, Alyson Hogg carried out the recorded interviews and took a real interest in what it was like for each of us living day to day with the condition. Each of the models spoke about how and when it first developed, that pinnacle moment when we realised we were different, using camouflage products in the past and how we found using Body Blur.

    This is one of my first major campaigns and as someone who has spent many years trying and testing coverage products and self tanners, taking part in this one felt right. My view has always been that I will only take part in a campaign if I genuinely believe in the product and would use as part of my daily routine. If its something I would benefit from, then potentially, others with Vitiligo also will. Body Blur has changed my perspective on coverage products because of how easy it is to apply and how natural it looks on the skin and its definitely made it on the list as a suitcase must have….

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    Lifestyle

    Dove Launches #Showus Campaign

    ‘72% of women in the UK still don’t feel represented in media & advertising’. A shocking statistic shared by global brand Dove, as they launch their new global campaign, #Showus.

    It’s a statistic that shocks me and feels as though it’s something that I’d expect to hear in the 80’s as opposed to now when diversity and the importance of a wider representation is being championed across all forms of media.

    The new campaign, which aims to speak out against outdated beauty ideals and stereotypes, is a collaboration formed with creative agency Girl Gaze (@girlgaze) and Getty images, one of the biggest suppliers of stock imagery with an archive of over 200 million. Together, as a strong collaboration, they want to create the world’s largest photo library with 5000 photos of binary and non binary women across 39 countries, in order to challenge and shatter unrealistic beauty stereotypes.

    For me, Dove have always been a brand I consider authentic and genuine, especially ever since the launch of their #realbeauty campaign back in 2004 which featured beautiful women of all shapes, sizes and races. I’ve watched closely as prominent campaigns followed including the Dove Self Esteem Project (which focuses on building self-esteem in young people), My Beauty My Say and The Woman Warrior Project, which collectively, support women representing their own type of beauty.

    With their newest collaborative campaign making a difference as it gains mulitple exposure across different platforms, its empowering to see so many women with varied conditions being appreciated for what makes them proudly unique. So far, we have seen women with scars, curves, albinism and Vitiligo, showing the world why they too, are just as ‘real’ as those women most commonly used in advertising. Beatriz from Brazil was the first face I spotted because of her Vitiligo. Posing with her hands held confidently above her head which revealed the patches on her arms, she commented that “seeing real people in the media is empowering’ and her hope is that more women with skin conditions will continue to be represented in the media.

    As new images continue to make it into the global album there is exciting anticipation on who we will see next. Follow and support Dove on Instagram and be inspired by all those women proud to be making a difference….

    Want to be part of a great initiative that expands the beauty of definition? Share an image of yourself alongside #ShowUs hashtag and you could be selected and featured. For more information, check out the Dove website for more info.

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    Lifestyle

    How Women With Vitiligo are Breaking Barriers and Becoming the Face of Global Campaigns

    Vitiligo

    In 2018, those with vitiligo were able to collectively celebrate moments where brands had diversified and used models with vitiligo to front their campaigns. From features in magazines, which extended to representing global fashion brands and being the face of beauty campaigns, 2018 created unimaginable opportunities that has inspired us and allowed us to celebrate our skin.

    It’s great to see brands are finally starting to ‘think outside the box’ and are looking beyond the Kylie Jenner’s and Gigi Hadid’s of the world and finally using women that better reflect what society looks like. Here are 4 stories worth celebrating these past 12 months…

    Amy Deanna; the face of Covergirl

    Amy Deanna’s flawless face quickly swept across social media and news platforms when she became the first model with vitiligo to represent makeup brand, Covergirl. The campaign, I Am What I Am, carried the powerful message about the importance of being ‘unapologetically’ you.

    In the 15 second ad campaign, Amy looks down the camera lens and asks ‘Why try to blend in when you can choose how to stand out?’, whilst applying Tru Blend foundation to the patches on her face. It’s a question that likely resonates with so many women with vitiligo, because for so long we didn’t want to stand out. We wanted to blend in and so would seek every option that allowed us to cover up, including makeup which for many, was the best coverage option.  Now, standing out is about being us, which is something so many of us are starting to do….

    https://www.allure.com/story/covergirl-amy-deanna-model-vitiligo

    Gillette: My Skin My Way

    Bianca Schonhofer, from Vienna flew out to Mexico to shoot the 26-second clip for global beauty brand Gillette, which begins with a close up of Bianca, her eyes looking deep into the camera. Launched in October, the commercial forms part of the ‘My Skin, My Way’ campaign which features a woman with congenital nevi, another with a C-section scar and also body tattoos. Research has shown that 63% of women in the UK feel more confident when they see women in adverts that represented them and so adverts like this are guaranteed to inspire and remind women that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to skin condition or natural marks that women often have on their bodies.

    On the Gillette Venus Instagram page, the message is simple. Be proud. Be Unapologetic. Be you. We are definitely listening…..

    Watch the full clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTe0qoHcBo0

    Aerie launch #AerieREAL

    Back in the summer, lingerie brand Aerie, owned by American Eagle, launched the #AerieREAL which included 57 women (chosen from 2000 applications), with various disabilities and medical conditions including a Paralympian, a cancer survivor and a woman with a stoma bag.

    Representing vitiligo was Lexus Morgan, a great advocate for vitiligo, who, just after the campaign launched commented, “I’m so incredibly grateful to have had this magical opportunity and experience. I’m so humbled to be featured in such an inspiring campaign alongside all of the gorgeous and authentically #aerieREAL women”

    https://www.ae.com/featured-aeriereal/aerie/s-cms/6890055?cm=sGB-cGBP

    Revolution launch campaign with zero retouching

    London based makeup brand Revolution launched their makeup campaign that included 24 models from diverse backgrounds including a 90 year old makeup enthusiast. Can you get anymore diverse than that?!

    What I especially loved about this campaign was its ‘zero retouching’ ethos, which meant the campaign represented natural, every day women who didn’t have to hide behind airbrushing tools.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-6127749/Is-diverse-beauty-campaign-ever.html

    Right now, us girls with Vitiligo should be on a friggin high! None of these campaigns happened over night. Brands took a gamble when they decided to step away from ‘norm’ and invest in ‘us’, which ten years ago would never have happened…and I’m sure for many who are sharing their story and featuring in the campaigns like those I’ve mentioned, it took a long time for them to reveal themselves in such a public way.

    It takes a lot to love your body and finally, not only do we love our body but others do too. Here’s to a good 2019…..

     

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    Lifestyle

    2018: Thank You…

    So, with just a few hours to go until we welcome in a brand new year, i’ve managed to squeeze in one last blog post before the year is out! I’ve had a particularly good year. Some great opportunities have come my way (swimwear campaigns, some great features in magazines and my continued work at the Vitiligo Society), so for me its been a great year for ‘growth’. For the past few weeks, like many people no doubt I’ve been feeling reflective….casting my mind over the past 12 months and think about those things I loved, what I’ve learnt and what I need to change to make sure the new year is better than the last.

    With that in mind, here’s what 2018 has taught me…

     Meditation

    In September, I enrolled on a Mindfulness and Meditation course along with my sister, and it was probably one of the best things I’ve done this year! Its always been an area of interest, but whenever I’ve thought about enrolling on a course, I’ve always come up with my excuses. Thankfully, when my sister mentioned she’d like to do a short course, I knew it was a sign that I should join her.

    I know so any people who have turned to meditation as a way of resuming focus and bringing some much needed calmness in their life and this course offered that. Every Monday, for 10 weeks, I found myself back in the classroom practising breathing exercises, learning how to be mindful during day to day life and the different types of meditation that will ground you and help you to resume peace in an often frantic life. I’ve taken away so many tips and practises from the course that will continue to bring me positive focus in 2019.

    I can public speak!

    Finally! I feel like I can give myself some credit as a public speaker! For so long, I’ve been pretty hard on myself, always convincing myself that I look like a bag of frantic nerves anytime I’m about to go on stage and speak. Whilst public speaking has always put the fear factor in me, it’s always been something I’ve wanted to develop, especially as I felt like the one quality that always seems to follow me is shyness.

    This year, I have attended school assemblies to speak about body confidence and equality, introduced the film ‘Wonder’ to a group of year 6’s at Hackney Picture house and hosted this years annual Vitiligo Society open day for the second year running. The feedback I get after speaking is always positive, with people commenting that I speak very naturally and a great pace. Really?

    Having presented on a number of occasions, I finally realise just how much we can overthink addressing an audience. What if I stutter? What if I speak to fast? What if my story is boring? All these thoughts overshadow the goodness we are about to do, when we do the brave thing and stand up and speak. Now, I’ve learnt to stay calm, take a few deep breaths and relax and focus on delivering not tripping up! From the second I walk into a school or somewhere I’m presenting, I walk in as a speaker….a confident speaker. Not Natalie who used to be too shy to raise her hand in primary school! You’ve heard the saying…..fake it before you make it! It works if you believe in yourself….

    Your skills aren’t limited to your day-to-day job

    I’ve always thought that your skillset are those ones you gain through your 9-5 job. This year I realised your best skills aren’t necessarily gained as a result of your profession.

    Outside of work I’m a writer, a Director at The Vitiligo Society and an ambassador for Vitiligo. Since becoming a trustee for The Vitiligo Society in 2017, not only have I learnt how to run a charity as I continue my role managing social media and community engagement, but it’s highlighted where my real qualities lie. Being part of the Vitiligo Society has highlighted my good engagement skills, my ability to manage projects and organising events such as our annual Vitiligo Society Open Day. Its roles such as this that allow me to be part of the Vitiligo community and connect that challenges me and highlights where my genuine and passionate skills lie….

    Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is incredibly exhilarating

    Growing up there we so many things I shied away from! I hated playing a part in school plays, only really liked being around groups of friends that I was familiar with and was pretty much attached to my Mum’s hip during big family gatherings. I know…I was super timid back then!

    As I’ve got older and realised that certain opportunities will only come your way if you speak up, I’ve encouraged myself to do those things my younger self would shudder at! I’ve shared my story in magazines where the associated photos have revealed my skin, have walked around on holiday in shorts with my patches on show and this year, my ‘comfort zone exit’ highlight was a photo-shoot with ANTM contestant and body confidence activist, Khrystyana. It was a photo-shoot that I contemplated right up to the point where all the other girls who were taking part, were already in the shot waiting! My issue wasn’t the photos as such; it was the fact we had to pose in our underwear. Nevertheless, I went through it and was incredibly proud of the photos and with myself personally that I had pushed myself to take part. It was definitely a stepping stone for me and reminded me that anything is indeed, possible…

    As I sign off with this being my last post of 2018, I wish you all a healthy, happy and positive 2019 x

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    Lifestyle

    The Photoshoot That Pushed Me Outside My Comfort Zone

    A few weeks back a group of girls stripped down to their underwear and took part in a photo-shoot that would challenge the fashion industry and show the beauty of different body shapes, sizes and skintones. I was one of those girls.

    Directed and crafted by body positive campaigner and ex America’s Next Top Model contestant, Khrystyana, it was a shoot that united a group of women with honest bodies that revealed different stories and life experiences.

    I’ll be honest in that, I felt a tad nervous as I drove down to the studio in East London. I was well aware of the planned direction of the shoot, however, given I hadn’t experienced such a revealing photoshoot in the past and I had no idea who the girls were that were taking part, naturally, I had my reservations.

    I was quickly put at ease when I arrived and noticed a few familiar faces that I had worked with in the past, but what I was instantly struck by within a matter of minutes, was how positive the energy was. There were women wandering around, with a real sense of appreciation and openness in relation to their bodies, irrespective of what they looked like. I knew pretty quickly it was a sign that what we were about to create was going to be something empowering. 

    The shoot itself lasted for around two hours. We had a selection of individual shots, before creating the main images which included intertwining arms and hands which showcased our skin tones and a tight knit shot that would see us laying in position with our bodies slightly overlapping and almost cocoon like, for a peaceful shot that made us appear as though we were sleeping…

    Since the photos were released on Instagram, they have made their way around with magazines, body positive influencers and campaigners sharing the work of Khrystyana and the creative photographer, Irene Cano.

    With any media related campaign I get involved with, I always try to take away something positive or just opens my eyes to another way of thinking. With this shoot, I realised that body confidence isn’t about our body shape, skin colour or the size of our hips, its about our mindset, our beliefs and our ability to appreciate who we are without getting wrapped up in what the fashion industry tries to convince us is ‘body perfect’.

    In recent years, I’ve loved embracing challenging moments – pushing myself to do things that I probably wouldn’t have 5 years ago. From sharing my story live on radio without the comfort of a retake, to speaking out in schools, to hosting conferences, for me, these are things that I value and that allow me to prove to myself that with support, encouragement and faith, you can do those things that fill you with fear, because afterall “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and taking part in this photoshoot, was testament to the fact, once again, I pushed myself outside mine….

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