TV chef puts vitiligo in the spotlight
Dermatology When fans made ‘fake tan’ jibes about Dean Edwards’ hands on social media, the TV chef decided to reveal the truth about his skin condition.
It was a shopping trip with his daughter that led celebrity chef, Dean Edwards, to confront his feelings about vitiligo, the skin condition he’d had since childhood.
‘We were standing outside a shop window at the time, where there was a photo of a model with vitiligo. My daughter pointed and said “Daddy, that’s like what you’ve got.”’
Vitiligo is a long-term disorder that causes patches on the skin to lose their pigmentation. Dean’s own condition began at the age of five. What started out as a small white patch on his foot developed, over the years, across his hands and knees.
‘I always thought I’ll be okay, as long as I don’t get it on my face.’
‘My parents took me to the doctor who said there was nothing they could do. I’d just have to learn to live with it and accept the situation.’
Dean is naturally self-confident. ‘I always thought I’ll be okay as long as I don’t get it on my face,’ he says.
Although vitiligo is a benign condition, its psychological impact can be considerable because of the social stigma that sufferers often face. An estimated 1 per cent of the population is affected with vitiligo and while there is a genetic susceptibility to the condition, its causes are largely unknown and no cure exists.
Vitiligo with a career in the public eye
For Dean, who rose to prominence as a contestant on the BBC cookery show Masterchef, the impact of finding himself in the spotlight wasn’t something he’d previously considered.
‘In summer I go quite dark, but in the winter months my condition is less apparent. We filmed Masterchef in winter, when the vitiligo was just on my hands and other parts of my body. It hadn’t developed on my face.’
Dean’s big break came with a regular cookery slot on ITV’s This Morning. For the last few years, he’s been the resident chef on Lorraine, where camera close-ups of his hands come with the job description.
'Vitiligo is a benign condition, but its psychological impact can be considerable.'
While Dean describes himself as being ‘comfortable’ with his condition, he explains that doesn’t mean he wanted to draw attention to it. He opted for TV make-up on the show to provide coverage for his hands.
When the vitiligo spread to his face, he grew a beard to cover the affected area around his mouth. Then he developed patches around his eyes, which the make-up he wore on the show helped him to disguise.
Changing his own view on vitiligo
It was around the same time when his daughter pointed out the model with vitiligo on their shopping trip.
‘Something went off in my brain and I thought if my daughter can accept it, why can’t I?’ says Dean.
‘People make throwaway comments without knowing the full story.’
After forgetting to apply make-up to his hands on the show one day, he was surprised to see people commenting on social media afterwards about him having ‘washed off the fake tan.’
‘People make throwaway comments without knowing the full story,’ says Dean, who decided to open up at that point. He wrote a blog about his experience of living with vitiligo and invited other sufferers to get in touch.
The response to the blog was ‘incredible,’ he says, with thousands of people contacting him. Dean spent the whole week offering support. A guest appearance with Lorraine Kelly followed where Dean left his usual position in the kitchen to join the daytime host on her sofa to talk about vitiligo in more detail.
‘Our image culture and social media puts a lot of pressure on people to look perfect,’ he says.
We are experiencing increasing acceptance
In the last few years, Dean says he’s noticed a growing acceptance of vitiligo in society.
‘There’s been a change in the mindset, about embracing what makes you unique.’
Dean has also become more comfortable in his own skin, despite the fact that his vitiligo continues to spread.
'Social media puts a lot of pressure on people to look perfect.’
‘On TV, I choose to cover my face. That’s the decision I’m making at the moment,’ he says, although he now leaves his hands make-up free. The day he consciously chose to do so, he describes as being a ‘big step’.
‘It’s normal to be nervous about that which sets you apart,’ he says. ‘The condition may affect your life, but that doesn’t mean you have to be governed by it.’