A WOMAN with a skin condition says people ask if her fake tan has gone wrong or if she is contagious.
Eva Smith has vitiligo – the same skin condition as supermodel Winnie Harlow – and says she feels like “an animal at the zoo” when cruel people point and stare.
The 20-year-old, from Uxbridge in North West London, developed the autoimmune disorder at three years old.
Patches began appearing on her knees and neck.
Her condition completely vanished by the age of seven after her parents decided to get her treatment of UV radiotherapy.
But after four years of being vitiligo-free, Eva discovered new marks appearing on her body. Stress can be a trigger for vitiligo, and Eva thinks this was the cause of it returning when she was a teenager.
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Eva, who owns her own aesthetics business, said: "The fake tan comments are probably the most common one.
"When I haven't been on holiday and don't have a tan, people assume that I have done my fake tan really badly or think I haven't washed off the fake tan properly.
"I run my own business so I meet a lot of people and I have had a few clients ask if my fake tan has gone wrong. It happens a bit too often.
"The comments don't make me feel bad about myself but it makes me feel awkward because I don't want them to think that they have offended me.
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"When people say things like this I just explain to them that I have an autoimmune disease and I can't help it.”
Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin – which determines skin colour – stop functioning. The reason why is not clear.
This can cause patches of lost skin colour and premature whitening of the hair, normally appearing before the age of 30.
Eva said: "I was really lucky at school and never experienced any bullying or teasing or had anyone be nasty, but I definitely had people staring and giving me funny looks.
"I get the most stares and funny looks when travelling abroad.
"I don't know if it's because there's not as much awareness in other countries but sometimes it can feel like being an animal at the zoo.
"People stare at me for so long and their heads move with my every movement.
"I notice people point me out to their friends and family to take a look.
"It can sometimes feel very uncomfortable when you know all eyes are on you and you have to carry on as normal.
"A few people have also been a bit wary about my vitiligo and want to know if it is contagious and whether they can come close to me or not."
Eva said kids have asked if she can wash off her spots, but said: "None of these comments make me feel uncomfortable though and I just laugh them off because I genuinely find them funny as I know kids don't understand."
Eva says there is definitely more awareness about vitiligo in the UK since she was a child.
Eva said: "I absolutely love it because people ask me if I have the same condition as Winnie Harlow.
"It makes such a big difference having someone like that with the same disorder as you.
"I would one hundred per cent say Winnie Harlow is a role model to me."
While further UV radiotherapy is available to Eva, she said she would not have this treatment done again.
She said: “The more you go through UV radiation treatment the more at risk you are to skin cancer and things like that.
"As a kid, it was more my parents being self-conscious for me and being protective.
"I didn't think anything of it [my vitiligo] but I know my mum was wary of what people were going to say and think, which is why I think I had treatment as they wanted to do everything they could to get rid of it, which is fine.
"I worry now that if kids have treatment at a young age and try to get rid of it, it will make them think that they shouldn't have it [vitiligo].
"Getting rid of it so young doesn't give you a chance to be comfortable with it and promotes that it is wrong and not normal and at the end of the day it is just your skin.”
Eva says she enjoys wearing makeup but doesn’t use it to cover her white patches, as she is “in a place now where I really enjoy having it”.
She said: "I do find when I put makeup over them too, it sometimes brings out the fake tan comments more as it brings attention to them.
"My big thing is not covering it up. I love having my patches on show.
"When I was younger, we went through a whole process of getting special 'camouflage' makeup made for me.
"I think I used it once or twice but it seemed too much of a fuss so now I don't use it. I'm definitely embracing it.”
Eva has now created a TikTok page to raise awareness of her vitiligo.
She said: "I have lots of people in my comments that have been able to relate to my content.
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"Whilst people speak about vitiligo more than they did when I was younger, we still need to speak more about it.
"I think because I have had it [vitiligo] since I was so little, I can't imagine myself without it. It would be weird if I didn't have it."
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