Helping Your Teenager with Vitiligo

We all remember our teenage years, the pressure to fit in, the importance of popularity. Puberty is hard enough on kids, and when you add vitiligo to the mix, body and hormonal changes can make growing up more difficult. Whether your teenager has a light or dark complexion, whether their vitiligo is widespread or isolated to just one spot, the autoimmune disease can profoundly affect your teenager’s confidence. There are things you can do to help them get through the awkward teenage years. 

Make Sure They Wear Sunscreen

Vitiligo is most likely to appear in areas of skin exposed to sun such as the face and hands. The skin around joints such as elbows, knees, or groin is also significantly impacted by vitiligo. Skin with vitiligo is also much more vulnerable to UV rays and will burn quickly. Encourage your child to begin taking great care of their skin by wearing sunscreen. Wearing sunscreen can also prevent skin that is unaffected by vitiligo from tanning which can help vitiligo-affected skin not be so noticeable. 

Don’t Focus on the Vitiligo

Don’t pressure your teenager to cover up their vitiligo with expensive makeup or clothing. Try to encourage your child to protect their skin when need be, such as from the sun, but not feel as though they must hide their skin from the world. Make sure your child knows that vitiligo does not define them, cannot hurt them, and does not change who they are. Remind your child that their worth is not dependent on skin color. 

Educate Your Teen

The more comfortable your teen is with understanding their disease and the treatment options that are available, the more comfortable they will become with themselves. Encourage your teen to learn as much as they can about vitiligo so that they can explain to their peers what the disease is and also what it is not. When your child can help educate others about vitiligo peers will be more accepting of them because they will understand.

Start Volunteering with Your Teen

Start volunteering in your community with your teenager. When children can give back and see that their actions have meaning, they feel powerful and confident. Help your child to understand that their vitiligo has no power over the change they can make in the world. When teenagers feel like they have power they are more confident and sure of themselves. They can be better leaders in their schools and communities when they feel secure and confident. 

Encourage Your Teen to Be Social

Vitiligo can be embarrassing for teens, especially if their vitiligo is widespread or they have a darker complexion. Empower your teen to still participate in activities that might expose their skin such as swimming parties, hiking, trips, or other events. The more their peers can see that your teen is not affected by vitiligo and are still confident despite it the less likely they will be to want to stare, or ask uncomfortable questions, or even bully. 

Seek Emotional Support

Sometimes, teens need more support than what their parents can give them. Many teens and children with vitiligo are victims of bullying. Don’t be afraid to talk to your teenager about more emotional support such as a support group for people with vitiligo or a counselor/therapist. No matter how close parents feel they are with their teens, many children are more likely to open up to a stranger than their loved ones. If you suspect your teen is showing signs of depression or anxiety or is being bullied, find out what additional supports are available in your community. 

Growing up with vitiligo can be hard, but the autoimmune disease does not have to ruin your teenager’s life or break their confidence. Use these tips to help your teenager work through having vitiligo.