Prevent Vitiligo from Getting Worse

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Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition that causes white patches to develop on the skin. The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown, but there are some strategies that may help to prevent vitiligo from getting worse, such as protecting your skin from the sun, avoiding chemicals, and managing your stress levels. Topical medications and other treatment options may also help to prevent your vitiligo from getting worse. See a doctor or dermatologist to discuss your options.


[Edit]Making Lifestyle Changes

  1. Wear an SPF 30 sunscreen when you’ll be spending time outdoors. Apply sunscreen about 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every 2 hours while you’re outdoors or after getting wet or sweating. Protecting your skin from further sun damage may help to prevent vitiligo from spreading and it can also help to make the existing vitiligo you have less noticeable.[1]
    • Opt for a spray on sunscreen for easier application.
    • Select a waterproof sunscreen if you plan to swim or exercise while outdoors.
  2. Cover up your skin when you go out in the sun. Opt for long-sleeve shirts and pants whenever possible and always wear a hat that provides shade for your face and neck. Sunglasses will also help to provide some protection. Along with wearing sunscreen on any exposed skin, covering skin that has been affected by vitiligo may also help to protect it.[2]

    Tip: Talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement to prevent a vitamin D deficiency. This can sometimes happen when someone avoids sunlight, especially if their diet is inadequate.[3]

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  3. Steer clear of any chemicals that may have induced your vitiligo. Some studies show a link between chemicals and developing vitiligo, so you may want to cut back on your use of chemicals to reduce the risk of vitiligo getting worse. Identify the products you use regularly and avoid using products that have been identified as potential vitiligo inducers. Some of the products you may want to avoid include:[4]
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    • Permanent hair dyes
    • Perfumes and deodorants
    • Detergents
    • Bindi adhesives
    • Rubber
    • Makeup
  4. Avoid getting a tattoo unless it’s part of your treatment plan. Tattooing to cover up vitiligo is also known as micropigmentation, and it can be a helpful way to camouflage areas of discoloration. However, getting a tattoo can also trigger more vitiligo patches in the surrounding areas, so it’s best to avoid getting a tattoo for cosmetic reasons.[5]
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    • If you’re interested in micropigmentation to cover white patches, talk to a dermatologist who is experienced at performing this procedure.
  5. Manage stress to prevent a worsening of the condition. Set aside at least 15 minutes every day that is just for relaxation. You can use meditation, yoga, or other stress relief strategies during this time to help you maintain a sense of calm, even if your life is not calm at the moment. Stress may trigger vitiligo in some people, so uncontrolled or chronic stress could lead to a worsening of your condition.[6]
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    • Choose a relaxation technique that works for you. You might find that taking a bubble bath is the best way for you to relax, or you might feel most relaxed when you engage in a favorite hobby, such as painting or crocheting. Do whatever works best for you!

[Edit]Working with Your Doctor

  1. Apply a prescription steroid cream to stop the spread of white patches. Topical steroid cream may be a good option for you if your vitiligo is on 10% or less of your body, you’re not pregnant or nursing, and you’re interested in treating your vitiligo beyond protection and camouflage measures.[7] In most cases, your doctor will instruct you to apply a fingertip unit (FTU)—an amount of cream the length of your fingertip—over the affected area once per day.[8]
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    • See your doctor once every 1-2 months to see if the steroid cream is having the desired effect. Contact your doctor before any scheduled appointments if you notice that your condition is worsening.
    • Steroid creams are generally safe, but they may have some adverse effects, especially if you use the cream for 6 months or longer. Tell your doctor right away if you notice anything unusual, such as lines or streaks on your skin, thinning skin, visible blood vessels, skin inflammation, excessive hair growth.
    • Moderate- to high-intensity steroids may help slow your vitiligo by changing your immune system response. However, you can only get steroids by prescription and it’s typically best to take a break from them after 2 weeks of treatment, as side effects can be severe.

      Tip: In some cases, your doctor may recommend an oral steroid medication instead of a topical one, such as if your vitiligo is over a large area of your body. However, oral steroid medication have more side effects, so this may not be ideal.[9]

  2. Discuss pimecrolimus and tacrolimus creams as alternatives to topical steroids. These are calcineurin inhibitors often prescribed to treat eczema, but they may be effective for restoring pigment in areas of the skin that have been discolored due to vitiligo. These medicines are suitable for adults and children, and they won’t cause thinning of the skin like topical steroids do. However, they do have some potential side effects of their own including:[10]
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    • Pain or a burning sensation after you apply them
    • Increasing your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight
    • Flushing or facial redness and irritation after drinking alcohol
  3. Look into light therapy with psoralen to return color to white patches. This treatment may also be called PUVA, though NB-UVB phototherapy treatments are becoming the preferred light therapy treatment for vitiligo. Psoralen causes the skin to darken when it is exposed to ultraviolet light, so your doctor will instruct you to take the medication or apply it topically before undergoing light therapy.[11]
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    • NB-UVB phototherapy is generally the preferred initial course of treatment for people who have vitiligo over more than 10 percent of their body.
    • Be aware that this treatment is not suitable for children under the age of 10 or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It may also increase your risk of developing skin cancer.[12]
  4. Consider depigmentation if your vitiligo is widespread. Depigmentation often takes up to 12 months to work and it involves applying a prescription bleaching solution to your skin every day. If your white patches cover more than 50% of your body, lightening the surrounding skin can be a good option, but make sure to discuss it with your doctor first. This won’t cure vitiligo, but it will help to make your skin look more uniform.[13]
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    • Keep in mind that after lightening your skin, protecting your skin from the sun will be extremely important to maintain the results. Otherwise, you may have to repeat the process.[14]
  5. Discuss surgical skin grafting if other treatment options have failed. This procedure involves removing a piece of healthy skin from one area of your body and placing it over the depigmented skin. It may be an option for you if you’ve had no new white patches in the last 12 months, your existing patches have not gotten worse, and your vitiligo did not begin following a severe sunburn.[15]
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    • Be aware that this treatment option is not suitable for children.

      Warning: Skin grafting may not be a good option if you are prone to developing a lot of scar tissue when your skin has been injured.[16]


  • Keep in mind that vitiligo is usually a lifelong condition. Many people choose to use camouflage makeup to blend their white patches in with the rest of their skin. You may also benefit from joining a support group and working with a therapist to accept yourself as you are.


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