Comparing genetic information from women with and without acne, the study found that acne-prone women had significantly longer telomeres (or chromosome caps) than their clear-skinned counterparts, which means their cells were better protected from the deterioration that usually comes with age.
Lead researcher Simone Ribero said, “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.”
“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,” he added.
Telomeres are DNA-protecting structures at the ends of our chromosomes.
Think of them like those little plastic caps that sit on the ends of your shoelaces to keep them from fraying.
Each time a cell divides, its telomeres get shorter, to the point where the cell can’t replicate anymore.
A cell that can’t replicate anymore either dies or becomes senescent, which means it can no longer grow or function properly.
This telomere shortening process has been associated with ageing, cancer, and a higher risk of death.
Those who produce higher levels of an enzyme called telomerase will experience slower cell death and senescence, because it helps rebuild the length of telomeres after cell division.
That means they’ll show less outwardly visible signs of progressive cell death, such as wrinkles and thinning skin.
If that telomerase sounds like something we should be bottling and bathing in, don’t worry, scientists are working on it.
The problem with trying to bottle telomerase is that one of life’s big mysteries is why only certain cells produce the enzyme, and why certain people tend to produce more of it than others.
It’s been shown that things like smoking and obesity can rapidly accelerate the telomere shortening process, which is why smokers or those who are heavily overweight tend to look older than they actually are.