Young adults may now be thankful for having acne, as their skin appears to age more slowly than those who have not suffered from the hair follicle disease.

Acne usually affects teenagers and adults. It is characterized by the clogging of hair follicles by dead skin cells and oil. Teens usually perceive acne as one of the worst things they have experienced in their lives when they see their clear-skinned acquaintances, but it appears that in the long term, acne will result in a much firmer skin.

Boy with acne
“Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually,” said the American Academy of Dermatology. Image credit: Ababsolutum/E+/Getty Images.

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. Whilst this has been observed in clinical settings, the cause of this was previously unclear,” stated lead author of the study Dr. Simone Ribero, a dermatologist from the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London.

Dr. Ribero assures that the main differentiation in skin aging among different subjects is the length of telomeres, the external portions of a chromosome that protect it from deterioration or fusion with other chromosomes.

Acne appears to be related to skin aging

The study was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, and it explains how researchers measured the length of white blood cells telomeres. The team already knew that telomere length can serve as a predicting factor of aging in many cells of the human body.

The length of white blood cell telomeres was measured in 1,205 twins, of which at least 300 had reported suffering from acne at some point in their lives. Twins were the ideal research subjects due to the easy comparison of their genetic code, which allows to easily determine which factors can be attributed to the environment.

The results revealed that telomere length for those that suffered acne is significantly longer when compared to those who had not suffered from the skin ailment. Longer telomere length in white blood cells implied an increased protection against deterioration caused by age.

A part of the life and death cycle of skin cells

Researchers determined that wrinkles and the thinning of the skin occur in a much lesser impact on people that had a history of acne compared to those who did not. They also managed to find more genetic background about the inherent causes of acne, as it appears that the p53 genetic pathway is responsible for the existence of acne.

The p53 pathway, which also has important functions that regulate the death cycle of cells, appeared to be less prominent in people that had suffered from acne.

“The costs associated with the treatment of acne in the U.S. exceed $3 billion,” according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Image credit:

Although the widespread suggestion is that acne has a genetic background, it is thought that diet and sunlight have some correlation with the disease. It usually appears on puberty, predominantly where there is a large number of sebaceous glands, such as the face and the back. The appearance of acne can also be blamed on testosterone and other hormones.

There is still no clear indication that the genetic cause of acne and the actual appearance of acne have a link with skin aging. The oil produced by the skin is not considered to be the critical factor, contrary to the length of telomeres.

The Journal of Drugs in Dermatology suggests that a reduced intake of simple carbs and sugars can help deal with acne and that applying salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to the skin can also help get rid of excess skin oil.

Acne is noted as the 8th most common disease in the world even if it does not cause any serious symptoms other than painful pimples all over the skin. But the greater implications appear to be psychological rather than physiological, as teens suffering from acne often have a reduced self-esteem and can sometimes be diagnosed with depression or anxiety.

At least 50 percent of women and 40 percent of men aged older than 25 still suffer from acne, although it can be dormant and be subsequently triggered by smoking or eating a certain product. Even if the disease appears to be of genetic origin, the anaerobic bacterium Propionibacterium acnes appears to contribute to its development.

P. acnes can alter the skin’s oil production cycle and trigger severe acne outbursts that share all of the characteristics of common acne. Acne is also believed to develop from high levels of stress, specifically on women. This subject has seen some debate but the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases suggests that in this case, hormones are to blame, as fluctuating hormone levels in teenage girls and women in the first days before their menstrual period are often related to acne flare-ups.

Source: King’s College London