#InMySkin: How Gabi Romero Overcame Her Insecurity About Vitiligo
At 15, Gabi Romero was diagnosed with vitiligo, which is a skin condition that causes loss of skin color in patches. Growing up, she was bullied for her appearance, which made her turn to makeup as a shield to hide her spots. But after discovering her artistic abilities, she now uses makeup to create gorgeous looks that have helped her embrace her complexion. We chatted with Romero to find out more about vitiligo, her personal experience with the condition and how she learned to love the skin she’s in.
Tell us about yourself and your skin.
Hi! I'm Gabi Romero. I'm a 25-year-old girl from Venezuela who is living in Spain. I'm a psychologist and my other passion is makeup. I was diagnosed with vitiligo at 15. I'm the only one in my family who has it, and it affected my self esteem in a big way. My family was desperate to get rid of it and took me to a lot of doctors, which only made me feel worse. I got bullied in high school because I was different. Thankfully, I had good friends who stuck by me, but I had a few people call me “cow” or “dalmatian” and it really hurt. I would also have strangers stop me in the street to tell me remedies for my "problem,” which only made me feel uncomfortable and like a freak.
How has makeup helped you embrace your skin?
At first, makeup helped me hide my spots. I felt comfortable hiding them because I didn't want to shock or disgust people with my skin. But as I've grown older, my relationship with my skin has changed. Now I use makeup to explore my artistic and creative side. It allows me to express myself and to feel secure in the skin that I'm in. I even try to accentuate my spots with makeup because I love the way they look.
What is your daily skin-care routine?
My skin-care routine is very simple. I find that keeping it minimal works best for me. Thankfully I don't get many breakouts, but I do have whiteheads, blackheads, clogged pores, milia, wrinkles and texture issues. These are all things that I'm learning to accept and sometimes I do feel a bit self conscious about, but I try to not pay much attention to them. I'm slowly starting to embrace them as well.
In the mornings, I wash my face with the Dove Beauty Cream Bar. Then I moisturize, use eye cream and SPF. At night, I take off my makeup with micellar water. I use coconut oil to take off waterproof mascara and eyeliner and then I wash my face with Dove again. I follow up with toner, serum, moisturizer and eye cream. All of my skin care is from the brand Revuele, which makes affordable products that don't irritate my skin.
How has your relationship with your skin changed since you were first diagnosed with vitiligo?
My relationship with my skin definitely changed after being diagnosed. I grieved over my skin for a long time. It was like the Gabi I was before my diagnosis with "normal" skin was dead and this is who I am now. At first, it was very hard to accept, especially being a teenager. I had a lot of issues growing up with my skin, and my family pressured me to receive expensive treatments that were very invasive. They gave me second-degree burns, made my eyesight go bad because of the UV lights, made me lose sensibility in one finger, get massive bruises from shots and were time-consuming. It was really difficult to deal with, and it didn't have any real results. Thanks to therapy, my siblings and my amazing friends, though, I've realized that, yes, my skin may look different than the rest but that doesn't make me less than anyone. I'm just the same as everyone else, I just look a bit different and that's okay. It's my normal. I feel so pretty now with my spots, and I've gotten massive support and love that has helped me feel even more confident.
What’s something you know about beauty now that you wish you knew when you were younger?
I wish I'd known that beauty comes in so many different ways. It comes from within, and it's okay to not look the same as the women in the media because that is not the only type of beauty that exists. Every single body type, hair type and skin type is valid and unique in its own way. Beauty is not only how you look, it’s how you treat yourself and others. It’s the energy you radiate, your attitude towards life and the way you nurture your relationships with the people around you.
What do you want to tell people who also have vitiligo?
I would love to tell other people with vitiligo that you are not alone. I know it's hard, but with time and a lot of work within yourself and your mental health you are going to love yourself and the skin you're in. It's not easy, but it's so worth it. We are not freaks, we are not monsters and we don't have a "problem." We are people who deserve everything we want for ourselves just as much as anyone else. Don't ever let people define what you're worth. You are valuable, you are valid, and your skin is not the thing that defines you. Your skin is part of you, but it's not your whole character.
What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty to me means being at peace with myself. I've spent so many years at war with my body, and I've realized that working on my mind and the way I see myself is so important. It's about accepting who I am inside and matching that with how I would like to present myself to the world. I've gotten to the point where I still feel a bit self conscious about a few things, but I'm no longer burdened with the thoughts of changing myself. Rather, I’m making peace with everything that makes me, me.
Photo: Gabi Romero