Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder affecting approximately three million Americans. The cells that produce skin pigmentation are called melanocytes, but for those suffering with vitiligo, the body destroys those cells causing white patches to appear all over the skin.
The severity and number of white patches affect everyone differently. Although, the cause is still unknown, doctors believe it may be a genetic disorder. There is currently no permanent cure for vitiligo. Those afflicted will choose to cover-up the patches with makeup, apply immuno-modulators topical gels that can revert some of the colour back, or transplant melanocytes on the affected areas to darken the patches lightly.
When Ash Soto was 12 years old, she noticed a white patch on her neck.
She dismissed it, thinking it was a sun spot. Within a couple of months, however, another spot appeared with many following. After a visit to a dermatologist, it was confirmed she had vitiligo.
This made growing up as a teen with the disorder, painful.
After being asked if she showered in with bleach, Soto began wearing long sleeve shirts and pants to cover her spots. She didn’t care it was blistering hot in Florida. “It made me want to start hiding away from people and left me covering my skin, as I didn’t want people to make fun of me,” Soto recalls.
Move forward a couple of years and Soto joined Instagram where she would only upload photos of her face.
She wasn’t quite ready at the beginning to display her vitiligo “because I was afraid to put myself out there.”
Last year the 21-year-old posted a photo of herself, revealing her vitiligo.
“They say your body is a canvas, I’m just painted differently,” she wrote as her caption.
"Finally at a point in my life where I can say I love the skin I'm in…I hope this post inspires all girls to be comfortable with themselves and their bodies, because everyone is beautiful and unique," she posted.
Her Instagram followers wrote positive, uplifting messages to the girl who was bullied for her condition at school. Her base of followers also grew.