Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder which causes white patches on the skin. While it is not contagious and does not cause secondary physical harm, it does cause social anxiety, diminished self-esteem and stress in the patient. A variety of conventional treatments can be used to mitigate or eliminate the condition, but they are riddled with potential side effects. Natural remedies are gaining prominence, and essential oil treatment is one of those therapies that has shown results and a great deal of promise for more widespread use. Let’s discuss helpful essential oils for vitiligo.
What is Vitiligo?
Melanin is the pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes their color, and it is produced by cells called melanocytes. When melanocytes are destroyed, the skin loses pigmentation in patches, and premature graying of hair can also occur. It can appear anywhere on the body and can cause loss of color on the skin, mucous membranes and hair. It can affect the mouth, nose and retinas and can be traumatic for patients in whom the discoloration happens on visible parts like the face, neck and shoulders.
Vitiligo can be categorized as generalized, where it affects large parts of the body, or localized, where it occurs on one or a few areas. Generalized vitiligo can be vulgaris (patches throughout the body), acrofacial (mostly on the extremities) or universal (contiguously covering most of the body).
Localized vitiligo can be focused (patches on only one part of the body) or segmental (affecting only one side of the body).
Vitiligo affects people of all races but it is more common among people with darker skin. Most cases are found in the age range of 10 to 30 years. Studies have found that 1 out of 3 cases are actually cured by exposure to the sun. Around 0.5 to 2.5 percent of the worldwide population is afflicted by this disorder.
The underlying causes of vitiligo can range from stress, deficiencies, dietary limitations and exposure to chemicals, to the most prevalent cause, autoimmune disease.
Treatments can be conventional, or natural and alternative. Conventional treatments like Corticosteroid and other chemical creams, light therapy and depigmentation therapy, can have side effects like secondary depigmentation and other skin disorders including cancer.
Natural, alternative remedies like diets that are rich in specific nutrients, yoga and stress management, and essential oil therapies, are being widely used to treat vitiligo.
5 Top Essential Oils for Vitiligo
Certain essential oils have proven to be effective in reducing or eliminating vitiligo. Many of them come recommended by Ayurvedic and Unani practitioners. When massaged into the affected areas in concentrated form or in combination with carrier oils, they can help manage the condition or cure it altogether.
#1 Black Pepper
– Black pepper essential oil has the quality of stimulating the skin and is used to alleviate a range of skin conditions. Its added benefits are that it improves blood circulation, reduces wrinkles and can cure bacterial infections of the skin. A couple of drops can be added to a carrier oil and massaged into the affected area, or a few more drops can be added to a cream and lightly applied. Care should be taken not to use too much of it and not to apply it near sensitive areas like the eyes, nose and mouth as it is a spicy oil.
– Bergamot essential oil is extracted from a citrus fruit. It is effective in treating vitiligo as it has the quality of boosting melanin production. Its additional benefits are that it relaxes the nerves and can help with better sleep, it can reduce oiliness of the skin, and it has antiseptic properties. Care should be taken not to use it during the day and expose it to natural sunlight as it can react to UV rays and worsen the skin condition.
– Lavender essential oil can be applied in concentrated form without a carrier oil. It is effective in treating vitiligo and other skin conditions. It has cleansing, anti-inflammatory and calming aromatherapy properties as added benefits.
– Ginger essential oil is extracted from the stem of the ginger plant. In addition to being effective in treating skin discoloration including vitiligo, it can treat acne and inflammation. It is packed with antioxidants and is powerful in treating digestive and respiratory problems. It can be used in concentrated form but could be quite strong on sensitive skin, so it would be better to use it in combination with coconut oil.
#5 Curry Leaf
– Curry leaf essential oil is extracted from leaves that are used in South Asian cuisine. Apart from treating skin conditions like vitiligo, it has healing and nourishing properties that are good for the skin and hair. It can be an effective sunscreen in combination with milk. It is strong and should always be used in combination with a base or a carrier oil.
Vitiligo can be traumatic and emotionally debilitating. While conventional treatments may be imperative in the most serious cases, they tend to be expensive, not easily accessible to all, and can cause side effects. Natural remedies such as essential oils can serve as the perfect alternative.