Acne and aging are strange bedfellows. Anti-aging routines call for lots of moisture, which may feel uncomfortable on blemish-prone skin. And most products make you choose whether you’d rather fight zits or wrinkles (though retinols can help quell acne and fend off the signs of aging). But it turns out that the connection points between acne and aging might be stronger than we once thought. A new study from King’s College has suggested that there’s at least one reason having acne could be considered a good thing: It could be a major protective factor against skin aging.
In a paper published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, dermatologist and head author Simone Ribero and his colleagues studied 1,205 participants, 293 of who had acne.
You’d think that when looking at the complexions of acne sufferers, you might see damaged, ravaged skin cells. But Ribero and his researchers saw just the opposite. “People who suffered with acne had longer telomeres in their 50s,” he told us. Telomeres are chromosomal end-caps, kind of like those little plastic tips on shoelaces, whose shortening is correlated with aging. Telomeres protect our genetic material from getting scrambled or frayed as cells naturally divide over time. As such, shorter telomeres are correlated with skin that appears more aged; longer telomeres are present in more youthful-looking skin. “In dermatology, we’ve always seen that acne patients have delayed skin aging in terms of wrinkles,” Ribero continues. “[With this study] we demonstrated if two subjects are the same age—one with acne in the past and one without—their skin will age differently.”
If you are someone who suffers from acne in adulthood, the promise of fewer wrinkles than your clear-skinned compatriots might seem, at least at this moment, like a booby prize. Happily, there are ways to quickly get rid of cystic pimples in the meantime. New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner recommends a regimen of exfoliating salicylic acid, likePhilosophy Clear Days Ahead Fast-Acting Salicylic Acid Acne Spot Treatment philosophy clear days acne spot treatment ; soothing inflammation with an ice cube; zapping bacteria with benzoyl peroxide; and calming redness with hydrocortisone. If you’re still feeling self-conscious about your complexion, we’ve also thoroughly vetted all the best foundations for acne-prone skin.
As for acne and aging, as Riberos sees it, more research is needed in order to fully understand the implications of the connection. “There is some genetic reason at the basis of this association. We have found one gene that is expressed differently that plays a role in the apoptosis pathway, or the controlled death for cells,” he says. Illuminating that science could also have implications beyond pimples: “Understanding the genetic association between acne and aging can help in better treatment. And understanding this pathophysiology of aging might be the basis for further study focused on aging-related diseases, like cardiovascular disease or cancer.”