A DAD who wore make-up and fake tan to cover a skin condition for 16 years has finally embraced it.

Elj Abid, 35, first noticed a discoloured patch of skin on his face when he was just seven years old.

As he got older the patches spread over his neck, arms, hand and legs, and he was diagnosed with vitiligo - an autoimmune condition where white patches develop on the skin.

Elj, from Witham, was encouraged to "cover" his vitiligo and started wearing make-up every day from the age of 11, and even wore fake tan on holiday.

He began to fear not wearing make-up would mean he wouldn't be found "attractive".

Braintree and Witham Times: Smiles - Elj says he has finally embraced his conditionSmiles - Elj says he has finally embraced his condition (Image: SWNS)

Elj, who works in advertising, eventually embraced his vitiligo after not wanting to wear the "sweaty" make-up on his wedding day, aged 27.

He said: "I used make-up from secondary school.

"I felt like when I didn't wear make-up, I didn't look attractive. As a kid, you want to be liked and fancied.

"It gave me a sense of security.

"It took me a long time to love myself.

"Now I love myself. I embrace it."

Elj had a small circular white patch appear on his forehead and a few months later it had appeared on the other side - as vitiligo is symmetrical.

Braintree and Witham Times: Young - Elj first noticed a discoloured patch of skin on his face when he was just seven years oldYoung - Elj first noticed a discoloured patch of skin on his face when he was just seven years old (Image: SWNS)

The patches were not noticeable until Elj reached Year 7 and they began to appear on other parts of his body.

He said: "I was told it was best to cover it up.

"There was no obvious cure for it.

"They saw it as a cosmetic condition. They wanted to protect me in a way of covering it up.

"I used to get covered in fake tan on holiday."

He also tried various medications and treatments to try and "cure" his condition - such as tree roots, light therapy and creams.

As an adult, Elj tried a cream which dehydrates the skin cells to bring back the original pigment which did help alleviate the patches.

Wife Amy, 35, played a big part in his self-acceptance after they met, aged 15.

Braintree and Witham Times: Love - Elj pictured with wife AmyLove - Elj pictured with wife Amy (Image: SWNS)

"She made me see a different side of myself,” he said.

"I started to have make-up-free weekends.

"There was a big shift as I got older. I got lazier. I couldn't be bothered to put on my make-up."

When the couple tied the knot in Jamaica in 2016, Elj realised he didn't want to look back on photos of the day and see how uncomfortable he was in make-up.

Becoming a dad of two boys - aged one and three - has also helped Elj embrace his vitiligo.

Braintree and Witham Times: Family - Elj with his two sons, aged one and threeFamily - Elj with his two sons, aged one and three (Image: SWNS)

He said: "Because of the time that having kids takes up, it doesn't even cross my mind.

"I want to make it clear to them that it isn't a bad thing."

Vitiligo does have a hereditary trait so there is a chance his boys could get it.

Elj said: "I want to make sure they are equipped to deal with it.

"It isn't going to kill you."