Pigmentation in African American skin decreases with skin aging

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016 Oct;75(4):782-787. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2016.05.007. Epub 2016 Jun 16.


Background: Tristimulus colorimetry, which uses the Commission Internationale de l'Eclairage L*a*b* model to quantify color, has previously been used to analyze pigmentation and erythema in human skin; however, colorimetry of African American skin is not well characterized.

Objective: We sought to analyze skin color patterns in African Americans and compare them with those of Caucasians.

Methods: Colorimetry readings of the sun-protected buttock and sun-exposed back of forearm were taken from 40 Caucasian and 43 African American participants from March 2011 through August 2015. African American participants also completed a lifestyle questionnaire. Correlation coefficients, paired t tests, and multivariable linear regression analyses were used for statistical comparisons.

Results: Forearm skin was lighter in African Americans ages 65 years and older versus 18 to 30 years (P = .02) but darker in Caucasians ages 65 years or older versus 18 to 30 years (P = .03). In African Americans ages 18 to 30 years, the buttock was darker than the forearm (P < .001), whereas in Caucasians the buttock was lighter than the forearm (P < .001). A lighter forearm than buttock was correlated with supplement use, smoking (ages 18-30 years), and less recreational sun exposure (ages ≥65 years) in African Americans.

Limitations: Our study was limited by the sample size and focal geographic source.

Conclusions: Pigmentation patterns regarding sun-protected and sun-exposed areas in African Americans may differ from that of Caucasians, suggesting that other factors may contribute to skin pigmentation in African Americans.

Keywords: African Americans; Caucasians; aging; colorimetry; ethnic skin; sun-exposed skin; sun-protected skin.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypopigmentation / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pigmentation / physiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Skin Aging / physiology*
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult