Wellness Warriors

Seeing Beyond my Vitiligo

Karl Dunbar can still recall the first day white spots began to appear on his skin.

“I was in seventh grade and my vitiligo started to appear on my right hand (on my thumb) and over my right eye,” says Dunbar. “At first, I tried to hide it by wearing gloves.” During high school and his early college years, his vitiligo became more apparent. “If you said anything about my skin we had to fight,” says Dunbar.

Vitiligo is a chronic disease that causes a loss of pigment in areas of the skin. People of all ages and from all ethnic backgrounds can develop the disease. Vitiligo does not cause physical symptoms and is not contagious, but it can have a significant impact both psychologically and socially.

“When I was younger I used to wonder how I would look if I didn’t have it,” he says.

Now the defensive line coach for the New York Jets (former defensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings) Dunbar sees he is defined by what he does, not by his appearance. “There’s not a whole bunch of us [people living with vitiligo] doing this,’’ he says. “I just hope that everything that I do, I get judged by what I do — not by how I look.”

Dunbar’s coaching record proves that he has not let his appearance hold him back. Dunbar is credited with having built one of the most stout run defenses in the league over the past several years. The Vikings lead the league in rush defense from 2006–2008 and ranked second in 2009. He also coached perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen. The Vikings ranked in the Top 10 in total defense from 2008–2010.

On top of being a coach in the National Football League, Dunbar also thinks of himself as a wellness coach and hopes to raise awareness for vitiligo and help the general public understand more about the disease.

“If vitiligo starts at a young age, it can be damaging to a young person’s self-esteem,” says Dunbar. “Over time, I’ve grown to deal with the people’s view on vitiligo and things they don’t understand. By getting this out [the message about what vitiligo is] I hope to help kids dealing with this skin condition not go into a shell, but thrive in their social growth.”

“It’s the old saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,” says Dunbar.

Coolibar sun protective clothing has the great fortune to be working with Karl Dunbar to help him spread the word about vitiligo and the importance of sun protection. “Those with vitiligo need to take caution in the sun because skin burns quicker and easier,” says Dunbar. Sun protection products such as UPF 50+ clothing, which Karl wears during training season and games, can prevent over-exposure to the sun’s UV rays that can lead to health problems down the road. Everyone of every ethnic background should use sun protection, including clothing, a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses, as a part of healthy living.

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  • sue

    Hi I am a 47 year old mother with vitiligo . I would love to belong to a blog with people that are dealing with our disease. I would love to help you in any way that I could with getting the awareness out there .

    • aoberg

      Hi Sue,

      Thank you for commenting. We have a lot of people with different skin conditions that refer to our blog, and we’re glad you found it! If you’re interested in sharing your story, you can let us know by emailing us at marketinginquiry@coolibar.com.


  • Kari

    I have vitiligo too! I am super pale so it’s kind of hard to notice, but I am also freckly so it’s noticeable where the freckles are missing. I first noticed it when I was in my 20s and I got it next to my eye…a friend asked if I had a sunglass line. Now I am 34 and am developing more spots on my back. Luckily concealer helps, but I don’t really let it bother me b/c I am at high risk for melanoma and am just happy that I don’t have that!

  • Alessandra Fabbri from Vitiligo Researcg Foundation VRF

    Dear Mr. Dunbar, we at VRF are organizing the World Vitiligo Day event and Petition towards UN Secr.Gen. to recognize June 25 as WVD for the years to come, and raise awareness towards vitiligo
    . Please if you could be interested in supporting the WVD from your public position could you contact us by email at

    theres no financing involved- only promotion through media support actions in any way you would prefer. Your suport would be miuch appreciated, looking forward to your contact, many thanks.
    Alessandra Fabbri
    Vitiligo Research Foundation – USA-Italy-

  • eeek

    The Vikes D line has been one of the very few bright spots on this team the last two years and they reward this guy by canning him.

  • Marthyn

    You are supposed to have peolpe in your life that allow you to take off your mask. If you don’t you have to ask yourself why you feel you can’t. It’s not good to never be able to take it off. Are you scared about being that person under the mask? Are you comfortable with who’s under there? Are you scared that that person won’t be accepted? You ain’t scary! Take the damn thing off and get some fresh air…I know you’re hot up under there! Love ya!

  • Carol

    Thanks for sharing your story! I have vitiligo also and I am happy to read how you did not let your condition keep you from achieving your dreams. Congratulations!

  • How to Cure Vitiligo

    I’ve also vitiligo. Thanks a lot for providing such great stuff here regarding how you can treat it and be happy in your life. Keep sharing it in future too.

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