A woman with a heart-shaped vitiligo patch on her face has told how she finally found the courage to go makeup-free after 30 years of “wearing a mask.”
Denise Chamberlain, 42, was 10 when a white spot appeared on her finger after the suspected autoimmune disease caused that area of her skin to lose pigment.
Over the years that followed, vitiligo patches spread to her hands and appeared on areas including her scalp, gums, arms, feet, and legs.
Now the majority of her body is covered with white splotches, including her face, which is adorned with a large marking in the shape of a heart.
Mom-of-three Denise’s striking appearance has resulted in strangers stopping her in the street to pay her compliments.
But for three decades — from the ages of around 10 to 40 — she masked her face and hands with a “blanket” of foundation and concealer in a bid to hide her vitiligo.
She refused to leave the house bare-faced for fear of being stared at and was driven to the depths of depression, even considering suicide, because she hated her looks.
Denise estimates she spent around an hour a day applying makeup and splashed around $400 a month over the 30 years — potentially as much as $144,000 in total.
She finally decided to ditch her makeup around two years ago, after washing it off to encourage a young girl with the condition to embrace herself.
“I started wearing makeup in the fifth grade and I didn’t stop wearing it on my face until I was 40,” Chamberlain, of Anderson, Ind. said.
“I wore it every single day and I learned how to perfect it so people who looked at me wouldn’t even know I had it on. I didn’t want people to ask me questions and I didn’t want the stares.
“I stopped wearing it on my hands when I was 24 and if people saw it, sometimes they wouldn’t want to touch me.
“It made me into a person who didn’t want to be noticed. That mask was everything for me.
“Vitiligo clenched me for so long and didn’t let me prosper. Now I’ve ditched my makeup I feel like a completely new person.”
Denise first tried to go makeup-free around five years ago on a trip to Walmart but suffered a panic attack because she felt “exposed” and like “everyone was staring.”
The next time she tried was two years ago, after a young girl she chatted to as part of a vitiligo support group told her she struggling with the condition.
Ever since, she has gone makeup-free.
“Two years ago, I was watching how quickly I was getting through makeup and I thought, ‘I have to learn how to love myself. Now that I’m not wearing makeup anymore, I feel free.
“I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and said about the heart on my face — the reaction I have got has been amazing.”
Chamberlain is one of 100 women starring in “Underneath We Are Women,” a new project curated by Amy Herrmann which aims to celebrate diversity in a photo book.
“Denise speaks with so much passion about vitiligo and her experiences in living with it,” Herrmann said. “She has the most wonderfully contagious energy about her.
“Denise is doing some wonderful things to raise awareness for people living with vitiligo — number one being embracing herself.”
Winnie Harlow, a model who also has vitiligo, recently expressed her anger at being called a ‘vitiligo sufferer.”
She uploaded an Instagram photo with the caption: “I’m not a ‘vitiligo sufferer.’ I’m not a ‘vitiligo model.’ I am Winnie. I am a model. And I happen to have Vitiligo. Stop putting these titles on me or anyone else. I AM NOT SUFFERING! If anything I’m SUCCEEDING at showing people that their differences don’t make them WHO they are!”
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