Acne could hold the key to youthful looks, says study

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Moya Crockett

If you’ve ever been afflicted with acne, you’ll know just how thoroughly misery-inducing it can be. And contrary to stereotypes, a spotty complexion isn’t something that only affects adolescents. More adults than ever are dealing with persistent acne and oily skin, according to the International Dermal Institute, while a 2015 study discovered a 200% rise in the number of adults seeking specialist acne treatment in the UK.

So far, so grim, right? But there is some good news for female spot-sufferers. New research has found that women with acne are likely to live longer than those with flawless skin – and they’ll look better in their old age, too.

In a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, scientists discovered that protection against the effects of ageing is built into the cells of women with acne.

Researchers from King’s College London looked at the white blood cells of 1,205 female twins, a quarter of whom said they suffered from acne.

They found that the spottier women also had longer ‘protective caps’ on the ends of their chromosomes. 


"Me? I'm 92. But I had teeeeeerrible acne when I was young, dear."

Known as telomeres, these caps can be compared with the plastic tips that stop shoelaces becoming frayed, and are closely linked to the ageing process. They help prevent chromosomes from deteriorating, but shrink as the years go by – meaning that people with long telomeres age more slowly than people with shorter ones.

Acne sufferers tend to have much longer telomeres than people with peachy complexions, the new study reveals, indicating that they may be far better protected against the ageing process.

However, the research doesn’t go so far as suggesting that acne itself slows ageing. Rather, one of the genes found to be linked to acne was also associated with telomere length.

“For many years dermatologists have identified that the skin of acne sufferers appears to age more slowly than in those who have not experienced any acne in their lifetime,” says Dr Simone Ribero of King’s College London, who lead the research.

She continued: “Our findings suggest that the cause could be linked to the length of telomeres which appears to be different in acne sufferers and means their cells may be protected against ageing.”

So if you’re currently despairing over zits that won’t quit, take heart. You could end up having the last laugh, after all. 

Images: iStock


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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women's Editor at, where she is currently overseeing the Visible Women campaign. Carrying a tiny bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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