If you’re cursed with adult acne (ahem), you probably wonder why your skin is constantly acting like it’s still a teenager. Well, here’s some good news for you: There’s actually some truth to that feeling, because zits could be a signal that your skin is aging slowly.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, those afflicted with acne are likely to have longer telomeres (the nucleotides found at the end of chromosomes) in their white blood cells. In other words, those cells are better protected against aging.
The study looked at white blood cell telomeres from 1,205 sets of twins, a quarter of which have had acne. Turns out, the blemish-prone participants’ telomeres were significantly longer—which means they’re further behind in (and protected from) the aging process. The researchers also found that the acne-affected twins had less expressed gene pathways that lead to cell death (a normal function with age).
“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 Simone Ribero, MD, a dermatologist at King’s College London and lead author of the study. She notes that the cause has been previously unclear (though many have linked it to excess oil production, according to the study).
“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 aging,” Dr. Ribero says. “By looking at skin biopsies, we were able to begin to understand the gene expressions related to this.”
So next time you wake up and curse the pimple that appeared overnight, try to remember that it might just mean your skin’s more youthful. Hey, at least that’s the only thing from your teens that you’re still dealing with.
Curious about where your pimple’s coming from? Here’s your guide to reading your skin to determine the root cause of a breakout. And perhaps you’re interested in embracing your complexion and joining the #nomakeup movement, a la Gwyneth Paltrow.