• Pimples aren't all bad news, according to a new study. (iStockphoto)Source: iStockphoto
Blemish-free skin may not be such a blessing after all.
Alyssa Braithwaite

30 Sep 2016 - 1:12 PM  UPDATED 30 Sep 2016 - 1:12 PM

If you are prone to pimples, take heart. A new study has found that those with acne are more likely to have younger-looking skin later in life.

Scientists from King's College London have found that the cells of acne-sufferers have built-in protection against ageing so lines, wrinkles and skin thinning appear later in life. 

The study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, found that people who have suffered from bad skin are likely to have longer protective caps at the end of their chromosomes. 

Called telomeres, they are like the plastic tips that stop shoe laces from becoming frayed, and they prevent chromosomes deteriorating during the process of replication.

Telomeres gradually break down and shrink as cells age, eventually leading to cell death which is a normal part of human growth and ageing. So people with long telemeres age more slowly than people with short ones.

"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," said lead author of the study, Dr Simone Ribero, a dermatologist from the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King's.

"Whilst this has been observed in clinical settings, the cause of this was previously unclear. 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."  

The study measured the length of white blood cell telomeres in 1,205 female twins - a quarter of whom - reported having experienced acne in their lifetime.  

Dermatologists have previously suggested that the skin of acne sufferers appears to age more slowly due to increased oil production, but co-author of the paper Dr Veronique Bataille says there are actually several factors involved.

They found that one gene pathway, the p53 pathway, which regulates programmed cell death, was less expressed in acne sufferers’ skin, although this requires further investigation. 

"Longer telomeres are likely to be one factor explaining the protection against premature skin ageing in individuals who previously suffered from acne," Dr Bataille said.

"Another important pathway, related to the p53 gene (a protector of the genome), is also relevant when we looked at gene expression in the skin of acne twins compared to twin controls."

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