The first thing most people notice about Seal is his sounds-like-he’s-from-the-heavens singing voice — followed closely by the scarring on his face. While there have long been rumors about the origins of the 54-year-old’s facial scars — with the most popular theory suggesting that they are “tribal markings” — the truth is much less hyperbolic than the situations fans have conjured up for as long as the singer has been in the spotlight.

“People always want them to be tribal scars,” he confessed to Entertainment Weekly. “That’s just the nature of the media and of people’s imaginations.”

The truth is, the scarring on the father-of-four’s face is the result of a form of lupus known as discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), which is a chronic skin condition that typically presents itself as sores with inflammation and scarring, most typically on the head and areas above the neck. As the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD) notes, “These legions develop as a red, inflamed patch with scaling and crusty appearance. The center areas may appear lighter in color with a rim of darker than normal skin….” As the AOCD explains, the exact cause of DLE is unknown, though the lesions could be treated with cortisone — either in the form of topical ointment or injections. Additionally, patients are typically extra sensitive to the sun, and exposure to UVA/UVB rays without protection could result in scarring.

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Heidi Klum’s ex-husband underwent treatment for his DLE when he was 23, and the treatment resulted in not only the facial scarring, but also permanent hair loss. In multiple interviews, he has opened up about how the adversity he experienced as a young person — including his condition — helped improve his strength of character. Though he has once said that the scars previously “depressed” him, nowadays he has it made it clear he loves the scars — and so do we!

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