Background Community-based studies of acne vulgaris conducted in many parts of the world show that it is very common in adolescents but little is known from Africa.
Methods In a cross-sectional study, 539 randomly selected students aged 11–19 years in a secondary school in Kaduna, Nigeria were administered a questionnaire to assess self-report of acne, its severity and impact; beliefs and perceptions of causes, and treatments used. 418 students were later examined to detect and grade acne severity.
Results 274 (50.8%) were male while 265 (49.2%) were female. Mean age for respondents was 16 years. 320 students (59.4%) self-reported acne. Of 418 students examined, 379 had acne giving a prevalence of 90.7%. There was no significant gender difference in prevalence at all ages of adolescence. Prevalence of acne increased with age (76.7% at age 10–13 years; 88.2% at age 14–16 years; 97.1% at age 17–19 years). 353 of 379 (93.1%) had mild acne while 26 of 379 (6.9%) had moderate acne. The severity of acne was similar in boys and girls. 47.7% of students reported feeling “very sad/unhappy” about their acne although in more than 70% of those who self-reported, this did not interfere with relationship with family, friends or school work. Diet was the commonest factor believed to cause acne. Cleansing agents were the most commonly used treatments.
Conclusions Acne vulgaris is very common in Nigerian adolescents, although it is mild acne in most.