The Truth About Winnie Harlow's Skin Condition

Supermodel Winnie Harlow has a rare skin condition called vitiligo, which causes white patches on your body — and makes her one of the most unique models in the world. However, she's been vocal that it's not something that should define her. 

Speaking to ELLE Canada in 2016, Harlow said, "I'm not a vitiligo spokesperson just because I have vitiligo. If that inspires you, I'm proud, but I'm not going to put pressure on myself to be the best person in the world and tell everyone I have vitiligo. If you want to know about it, you can do your research. Either way, I'm not in the dictionary under 'vitiligo.'" 

Given it's one Harlow's most recognizable features, though, we can't help but want to know more.

Vitiligo is said to be an autoimmune condition

Vitiligo is often seen on the areas of skin you expose the most. "The most commonly affected sites on the body include exposed areas such as the hands and face — where the condition often starts; in body folds such as armpits or groin area; places where the skin has been damaged such as cuts; around body openings such as eyes, belly button, nose or genitals; and also in the areas around pigmented moles," Dr. Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation ambassador, told Glamour.

While the cause of vitiligo is yet to be determined, it is believed to be an autoimmune condition, but given the lack of research, there is no treatment or preventative measures currently available. "Topical corticosteroids may restore some pigment to the skin," Mahto suggested to Glamour. "There's also phototherapy, which involves exposing the skin to artificial ultraviolet light, but this treatment isn't suitable for all patients and has some adverse effects," she continued. Instead, those with vitiligo should do as Winnie Harlow does (if they don't already) and simply embrace it.