Acne vulgaris in women: prevalence across the life span

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2012 Feb;21(2):223-30. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2010.2722. Epub 2011 Dec 15.


Background: Acne vulgaris is a common skin disease with a large quality of life impact, characterized by comedones, inflammatory lesions, secondary dyspigmentation, and scarring. Although traditionally considered a disease of adolescence, reports suggest it is also a disease of adults, especially adult women. Our objectives were to determine acne prevalence in a large, diverse group of women and to examine acne by subtype and in relation to other skin findings, measurements, and lifestyle factors.

Methods: We recruited 2895 women aged 10-70 from the general population. Photographs were graded for acne lesions, scars, and dyspigmentation. Measurements were taken of sebum excretion and pore size, and survey data were collected.

Results: Of the women studied, 55% had some form of acne: 28% had mild acne, and 27% had clinical acne, 14% of which was primarily inflammatory and 13% of which was primarily comedonal. Acne peaked in the teenage years, but 45% of women aged 21-30, 26% aged 31-40, and 12% aged 41-50 had clinical acne. Women with inflammatory acne were younger than those with comedonal acne (p≤0.001), and postmenopausal women had less acne than age-matched peers (p<0.0001). Acne was associated with facial hirsutism (p=0.001), large pores (p=0.001), and sebum excretion (p=0.002). Smokers had more, primarily comedonal, acne than nonsmokers.

Conclusions: The cross-sectional design precludes conclusions about progression of acne with age. Participation was restricted to women. The photographic nature of the study imposes general limitations. Techniques used in this study were not sufficiently sensitive to identify cases of subclinical acne. More than a quarter of women studied had acne, which peaked in the teens but continued to be prevalent through the fifth decade.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / complications
  • Acne Vulgaris / epidemiology*
  • Acne Vulgaris / psychology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Hirsutism / complications
  • Hirsutism / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • London / epidemiology
  • Los Angeles / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Photography
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Rome / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult