The State of Ethnic Dermatology in Canada

J Cutan Med Surg. Sep/Oct 2017;21(5):464-466. doi: 10.1177/1203475417711110.


Approximately 30% of Canadians will be members of a visible minority by 2031. When dermatology became an independent medical discipline in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, most residents of Canada and the United States were of Northern European descent. Morphology and descriptions of dermatoses are based on patients with light skin. Skin of colour dermatology refers to a unique field in dermatology dedicated to the diagnosis and management of disorders that are more prevalent in patients with moderately to richly pigmented skin. Important differences in the presentation of common dermatoses such as seborrheic dermatitis and acne exist in patients with darker skin types. The effect of traditional treatments for common and uncommon dermatoses is also an important consideration in managing patients with skin of colour. Such treatments may result in adverse effects such as postinflammatory hyperpigmentation or keloid scarring at a higher rate. Most respondents from a 2013 UK study of dermatology residents and consultants agreed that individuals with 'ethnic skin' had specific and unique dermatological problems. The Royal College of Physician and Surgeons of Canada's Objectives of Training in Dermatology states that residents must demonstrate the requisite knowledge, skills, and attitudes for effective patient-centred care and service to a diverse population. Future steps include creating a national society of dermatologists interested in clinical and academic aspects of ethnic dermatology. As well, presentations on skin of colour dermatology could be encouraged at major Canadian dermatology meetings.

Keywords: diversity; hair disorders; medical education; pigmentation disorders; skin of colour.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Dermatology* / education
  • Humans
  • Minority Groups*
  • Skin Diseases / diagnosis
  • Skin Diseases / ethnology*
  • Skin Diseases / therapy
  • Skin Pigmentation*