Gene Jealousy: Certain Genes Make You Look Young

Ask an average adult if they wish they looked just a bit younger, and they’ll probably say: “You bet!” No doubt about it, a lot of people fantasize about a fountain of youth, and we all seem to have a handful of friends who never age. Years pass by and their skin remains dewy, forehead free of wrinkles; no scarecrow lines around the eyes in sight. Recent research explored why some people look dramatically younger than other people who are the same age.

So what gives?

  • Some people have genes that “work harder” to stay young.
  • Lifestyle choices still play an important role.
  • This research may pave the path for personalized skincare treatments.

Research reveals that youth may come from within—and we’re not talking about a youthful personality. A 2015 study by Olay in partnership with Harvard University, discovered that a sizable portion of the population looks younger, thanks to their genetics. The study looked at the facial skin of 350 women. They came from a variety of backgrounds, from Caucasian to African American to Asian and Hispanic, and all women were within age 20 and 70. A panel of study participants looked at every woman’s skin and guessed her age, based purely on appearance. While most women wound up somewhere around their speculated ages, there were some who appeared remarkably young.

Of these astonishingly youthful women, Olay’s principal scientist, Frauke Neuser, PhD, said, “[These women have] skin that seems to defy the rules of aging,” says Dr. Neuser. “They look ‘ageless’ compared to other women the same age, without having undergone a cosmetic procedure.”

Genes work hard to make you look young.

Sounds amazing—er, too good to be true, right? The research team discovered that it wasn’t necessarily that these anti-agers had special genes. It was that their genes—the ones dedicated to keeping our skin vibrant, healthy and supple—worked in a more optimal fashion, working longer and harder to protect the skin. On the other hand, for the rest of the women, those very same genes puttered out a bit as they aged, becoming less active.

Rest assured, nurture does have a hand in this, too, Dr. Neuser noted. “We all have those genes, but while in the average woman they slow down and become less active with age, in the exceptional skin agers they maintain a higher level of activity — and we know that activity can be influenced by environmental factors, lifestyle choices, and even skin-care habits.”

While this research doesn’t provide all the answers when it comes to slowing the aging process, it does open the door to specialized skincare treatments for both types of agers. This knowledge arms scientists with data points for creating regimens and products that can, perhaps, enhance how an “average ager” responds to skin treatments.