Some of you with eagle eyes may have noticed over the years especially during the summer months that my hands are noticeably lighter than the rest of my body. This is not the result of me washing my hands too much or badly applying fake tan, as some felt necessary to bring to my attention over the years on social media. I have been affected by a condition called vitiligo since I was around 5 years old. What started out as a small white dot on my foot has spread to many parts of my body over the years and continues to spread.
This is not something I would normally speak openly about as it draws attention to something I would change about myself in a heartbeat if given the chance. But the whole point of this blog was to challenge head on the various things I've had to deal with in life, and only 3 blogs in, I am finding it very therapeutic to be putting pen to paper so to speak. So here goes.
Vitiligo is a condition where pale white patches develop on the skin. It's caused by the lack of melanin, a pigment in the skin. Probably the most famous sufferer being the 'king of pop' Michael Jackson. I am naturally dark skinned thanks to my South African Grandmother, because of this my condition is more prominent. I was very conscious of this growing up but was always a confident lad, so the name calling (cow hands was my favourite!) didn't bother me too much. Funnily enough it was more recently that it started becoming more of an issue for me, being on a national television show sporting patches of pure white skin will obviously be picked up on by viewers. So when I started to develop patches on my face and neck I did wonder if this in some way was going to affect me career wise. Especially with these much younger, better looking chaps coming through the ranks.
I had a choice to make, either I was going to spend time covering the patches of affected skin every time I appeared on TV or I had to live with it. Funnily enough I chose a happy medium, I'm not a vain person but I do cover the areas on my face and the hands only on occasion. I wish I could blame my rapidly appearing grey hairs on the condition but alas that is just the process of aging!
Now there's a two pronged message to this blog, the first being before you choose to chuck out random comments regarding someone's appearance, try and get the whole story first, it may not be vitiligo or any related skin condition, but all of us and I mean ALL of us have insecurities. I do consider myself very lucky to have the mindset that I couldn't give two shits what people say or think of me but many take comments, even the ones deemed as banter, to heart and it can seriously cause damage to the person in question. Something said flippantly can cause untold damage to someone already insecure about themselves. It actually surprises me that people have enough time on their hands to negatively comment about someone's appearance. So the message here is that before you press that send button on that carefully draughted Tweet, stop and think what you comment could do outside of the Twitter bubble. You may be surprised.
The second message and this is the important one, is be proud of who you are. I'm not saying it's easy, its not, but a content heart makes for a content life. It's something I've also experienced through my Dad Steve, an accident left him with serious burns and scarring to large areas of his face and body. I know every day is a challenge for him to contemplate what has happened and also the obvious changes in his appearance, to me he will always be the best looking bloke in the family but I know in his mind he struggles with the situation. Vitiligo can be hereditary, my mum actually developed it a few years ago and my nephew Lawson has it too, hopefully mild cases, and being the family vitiligo veteran I will be on hand to support them in the same way I will be there to support my little one if she develops it at some point in her life. I've actually grown to accept and even like my patches, I guess they make me truly individual. We are all individual, start to love your so called flaws because we are only here for a short time, you could be spending so much of your time and energy on things that don't really matter that before you know it life has passed you by.
This blog to me is a two way street, so anyone affected by this condition feel free to leave me a comment, I will try my best to answer and support any queries that you may have on the matter.
So to my fellow sufferers there is support out there for you and some great products on the market. Take a look at http://www.vitiligosociety.org.uk but most of all try to embrace the uniqueness of this condition.
Massive thanks to Charlotte at www.sumartdesign.com for the amazing pictures too.
Jo Foreman - 2017-02-16
Way to go, Dean! A thought-provoking and heartfelt message. Genuinely brave tto put yourself out there. You are gorgeous through and through! Thank you for being a positive role model to all. Jo xxx
Deborah - 2017-02-16
Hi dean I have the same skin disorder like you mine started with a very small white patch but mine was on my arm went to the docs and was explained vitaligo She said it may get worse or just be this patch but over the years it got very bad I am not so dark skinned so to be honest mine only looked bad in the summer as the white patches don't tan I did struggle over a few years with the stareing but with people coming out and explaining the condition people will see that it isn't contagious I am now reaching my 50s and most of mine skin has just gone white and I just don't tan and have
Carol - 2017-02-16
Well said Dean,people can be so cruel sometimes.....hope this makes them stop & think first. So proud of you xx
Gareth jones - 2017-02-16
Nice words, I developed vitiligo when I was around 23 years old, again, a patch here and a patch there and then all of a sudden it's everywhere. My mum had vitiligo so I was used to it so it doesn't bother me in the slightest, and I wouldn't have "normal skin" now even if you asked me. No one I know has ever had a problem with me having it, I embrace it, chat about it and laugh about it. There's nothing wrong with having different coloured skin - it's better to stand out in a crowd anyway
Carol - 2017-02-16
Well said Dean.People can be so cruel sometimes.So.proud of you lolovexx5738
Sirah - 2017-02-16
Dean Can honestly say I never noticed!? It's difficult to 'not let it bother you' easy for those who don't have it but rest assured it doesn't bother 'us' your viewers/fillers/fans/friends..... it really doesn't. We see you & your food!
Shelley - 2017-02-16
Hi Dean great to speak out on this subject. My brother has vitiligo and he noticed a small patch on his back when he was 5. He has quite a lot of patches and they sometimes close in, but then another might appear. My daughter also suffers with it and again noticed a small patch on her tummy at 5. She is now 18 and fortunately the sun really has a great affect on her patches helping to close some of them in. It has really affected her over the years with kids pointing and asking what's that? She is a lot more confident now and also likes to do her research. Being a girl she can wear make up.
Amy Treasure - 2017-02-16
I am glad you don't give two shits because you shouldn't. I don't have this condition but was affected when I had a run-in with an ex-boyfriend and some scalding hot water. Things that make us different can be debilitating but as you say we are all individuals - flaws and all. Thanks for publishing this and undoubtedly making anyone else suffering with the same feel better. Blogging is so cathartic, isn't it?! I feel the same :-) Big love x
Helen - 2017-02-16
Well written Dean, I can't say I even noticed when I watch you on TV. It's such a shame that we seem to have to explain these things to people due to the small number of negative beings that are out to bring us down with their tweets. You are still the tastiest chef out there x
linda blount - 2017-02-16
how people react is not something you should allow to bother you. its their ignorance! keep cooking and raising your lovely daughter best wishes
Michele - 2017-02-16
I've never noticed, too busy watching you cook, I'm always amazed how some people write before thinking of the effect on other people. Carry on enjoying life, I am
Lisa baranski - 2017-02-16
No need to reply. Dean you are beautiful. I know you so I want to tell everyone your even more beautiful inside. Always have been xx
Clare - 2017-02-16
My daughter is now 11 & has had vitiligo since 2. She's had people stare & kids have questioned her but she's always held her head high, told them what it is & says it makes her special!! Keep up the great blog xx
lisa - 2017-02-16
Dean ..I held you in my arms as a newborn. .you were beautiful then and you certainly grew up to be a true gentleman.Beauty lies beneath the skin we're in. Embrace life ..hold your head high and be proud of what you've achieved. .And remember me to your Dad.and the rest of the family ..Mrs Smiths Grandaughter
Paul Gobin - 2017-02-16
Another fabulous blog. I've enjoyed reading them.
Lizzie - 2017-02-17
I genuinely haven't ever noticed you suffer with this condition. You just appear to be very confident and comfortable with yourself. X
Jacky - 2017-02-17
Hey Dean - I really admire and respect you for talking openly about this. It will really help others in similar situations to hear your story -especially given your public profile. It will help society to keep perceptions of people 'real'. Well done mate
Jamie Linegar - 2017-02-17
Hi Dean, lovely post. If ever you did wish to look at the underlying reason why your melatonin levels are causing skin changes, and possibly reverse the effects, email me. I'm a Systematic Kinesiologist in the Chew Valley. x
Jim Brown - 2017-02-17
Hi Dean mate, Yep you guessed it i have it too, mine developed 7 years ago and has slowly but surely spread. Yes im aware of it but have come to live with it. You can also add that it is not an illness and that it is not contagious lol, that may put a few people mind at rest :) Sometimes when i go to a function i put on my consealer bu in everyday life i dont bother. May i add that i am also of dual heritage. All the best. Jim
Darran haynes - 2017-02-18
I never realised not even when we were kids. Proud of you my friend for opening up. Loving the blog
Amanda Eyre - 2017-03-01
Have just read your blog Dean, well done! I developed Vitiligo about the same time as I developed Type 2 Diabetes seven years ago. Will watch out for you on TV. Very interesting to see you looking out for reduced or no sugar recipes. Good luck, Amanda x
Amy Church - 2017-03-02
Thankyou for posting this blog! Both myself and my 10 year old daughter have vitiligo... Her more so than me but it always helps to read the experiences of someone else who has vitiligo... She embraces hers and I hope she continues to embrace it ☺️☺️
Sj - 2017-03-03
I for one couldn't be happier that you are bringing this condition to the attention of others less aware. I to have vitiligo and have been subjected to comments and stares and made to feel that people can be repulsed by it. I am so pleased to see people on tv and in the media who have it and don't feel the have to go through the arduous task of covering it all up. It's sad it needs to be discussed at all but discussing normalises it for those who think it's appropriate to treat us like some sort of outcast purely because of the appearance of our skin. There are far more important things to wor
Katie - 2017-03-05
Hi Dean, Lovely post! I too have vitiligo and just FYI, it can turn your hair white. I have it everywhere, and big patches through my hair! So you can blame your greys on the vit, it's useful for something!! xx
Alex - 2017-03-19
Great post Dean. It's hard to imagine what it's like for people when you're not in the same situation as them. I really do think it's so important to put yourself in other people's shoes before passing judgement though, which sadly people often don't do. Great to read your posts, keep up the great work! Top man.
Claire - 2017-04-11
Thank you for sharing this - I too am a vitiligo sufferer of some 20+ years. It's spread everywhere and now onto my face. I became so low about it I tried light therapy at our trusty BRI but it just highlighted more and more patches so I've stopped the treatment and am trying to embrace my uniqueness - sometimes I manage it sometimes I don't. My mum has it now and my biggest fear is my 7yo daughter getting it...but in her words 'I don't care about your white patches mummy, I love you whatever colour you are'...and that's all that matters
Debbie - 2017-04-12
To be honest Dean I have never noticed the colour of your hands. I'm too busy watching how you make those delicious meals!