Comparison of the epidemiology of acne vulgaris among Caucasian, Asian, Continental Indian and African American women

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2011 Sep;25(9):1054-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3083.2010.03919.x. Epub 2010 Nov 25.


Background: Acne vulgaris is a common skin disease with a large quality of life impact, characterized by comedones, inflammatory lesions, secondary dyspigmentation and scarring. There are few large objective studies comparing acne epidemiology between racial and ethnic groups.

Objective: This study aimed to define the prevalence and subtypes of acne in women of different racial groups from four ethnicities.

Methods: The sample consisted of 2895 (384 African American, 520 Asian, 1295 Caucasian, 258 Hispanic and 438 Continental Indian) women ranging in age from 10 to 70 years. Photographs of subjects were graded for acne lesions, scars, dyspigmentation, and measurements taken of sebum excretion and pore size.

Results: Clinical acne was more prevalent in African American and Hispanic women (37%, 32% respectively) than in Continental Indian, Caucasian and Asian (23%, 24%, 30% respectively) women. All racial groups displayed equal prevalence of both subtypes of acne with the exception of Asians, for whom inflammatory acne was more prevalent than comedonal (20% vs. 10%) acne, and in Caucasians, for whom comedonal acne was more prevalent than inflammatory (14% vs. 10%) acne. Hyperpigmentation was more prevalent in African American and Hispanic (65%, 48% respectively) than in Asian, Continental Indian and Caucasian (18%, 10%, 25% respectively) women. Dyspigmentation and atrophic scarring were more common in African American and Hispanic women than in all other ethnicities. There was a negative correlation between pore size and skin lightness for all ethnicities. Sebum production was positively correlated with acne severity in African American, Asian and Hispanic women, and pore size was positively correlated with acne in African American, Asian and Continental Indian women, (for all above results, P<0.05).

Limitations: Only female participants were recruited. Data collection was restricted to four cities, with some ethnicities from single cities. Acne was evaluated only on the left side of the face and the two-dimensional nature of photography may not capture all skin surface changes.

Conclusion: Acne prevalence and sequelae were more common in those with darker skin types, suggesting that acne is a more heterogeneous condition than previously described and highlight the importance of skin-colour tailored treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / epidemiology*
  • Acne Vulgaris / ethnology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Groups*
  • Prevalence
  • Young Adult