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Hair and Skin Publications From Sub-Saharan Africa Are Steadily Increasing, Researchers Report


Researchers involved in the review said this increase may help lead to more patient education and more tailored products for patients from this region.

rawpixel.com/Adobe Stock
rawpixel.com/Adobe Stock

Over the years, partnerships between institutions, individuals in academia, and public health experts, have led to a steady increase in hair and skin-related publications originating from sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Dermatology.1

Twenty years ago, L'Oréal began a philanthropic and research initiative, called the L'Oréal African Hair and Skin Research Grants program, aimed at filling the gap in dermatological research in African populations, with the aim of increasing science and clinical research on hair and skin in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the years, this program has evolved, supporting African researchers, fostering collaborations, and sharing findings through various channels.2

Between 2013 and 2022, various grants were distributed across 5 main themes: acne, hair and scalp disorders, keloid scars, atopic dermatitis, and the impact of air pollution on skin.

In order to review the impacts of the Hair and Skin Research Grants program in Africa and the potential role of similar initiatives, researchers conducted a literature search with Scopus. They searched the database for research published during the duration of the grant distribution (2013-2022). Specific search terms were utilized, including terms similar to "African skin," “skin of color," “acne”; “hair” or “scalp," “keloid," “acne keloidalis nuchae," “atopic dermatitis," and “air pollution," among others.

Publications were limited to those originating from countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the realm of acne research, studies predominantly emanated from the US. However, several studies originated from sub-Saharan Africa, including validation studies of assessment tools tailored to black skin, demonstrating the relevance of global measures in local contexts.

A significant proportion of worldwide publications on hair and scalp disorders originated from the US, with limited representation from sub-Saharan Africa. However, the grant program aided in the initiation of indigenous research, that explored prevalence, risk factors, and clinical characteristics of various hair conditions prevalent in African populations.

The bulk of research on keloid scars stemmed from Western countries. However, sub-Saharan countries contributed valuable insights, especially from Nigeria. Local reviews emphasized the challenges in managing keloids in highly pigmented skin, with researchers calling for context-specific interventions.

Research on atopic dermatitis revealed a substantial gap between global and sub-Saharan publications. The grant program aide in the initiation of genetic studies in Madagascar, which offered preliminary insights into the disease's manifestation within indigenous populations.

Reviewers also noted that literature on the impact of air pollution on African or Black skin was limited ,highlighting a critical area for future exploration. However, international collaborations touched upon this theme.

Potential study limitations, as noted by reviewers, primarily include the bias of Scopus toward research published in English and the review's lack of an exhaustive search.

"While the number of publications from around the world on the respective topics has increased considerably, especially as a result of studies conducted in the United States of America, few studies on black skin and hair have been carried out in (sub-Saharan Africa)," wrote De Faverney et al. "However, there has been a steady increase in scientific research from (sub-Saharan Africa), published in peer-reviewed journals over the last 5–10 years, including some publications resulting from the grant program."

These findings, along with the increase of equitable research and opportunities they provide for patients from this region, particularly this with skin of color, have the potential to further skin health equity, public educational efforts, and improve the design of products made for various skin types, study authors wrote.


  1. De Faverney PM, Molamodi K, Tancrede-Bohin E, Verschoore M. Support for dermatological research in Sub-Saharan Africa: insights from African hair and skin research programs. Int J Dermatol. February 17, 2024. Accessed February 23, 2024. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijd.17058
  2. Verschoore M, Dlova N. Advances in dermatology in sub-Saharan Africa in the past 20 years from workshops to the birth of the African Society of Dermatology and Venereology. Int J Dermatol. 2022; 61(7): 841–847. Accessed February 23, 2024. DOI: 10.1111/ijd.16073
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