Zits are one of the universe’s greatest equalizers. Unless you are among the .01% of humankind to have never experienced getting one, there is really nothing that brings people together more than complaining about a surprise pimple (or two, or 10). And despite the fact that they can pop up at any age, pimples have a notable rep as the bane of teen existence everywhere (ah, the joys of puberty). But what if having an acne-ridden adolescence ended up having some potential long-term benefits? A new study suggests that having acne as a teen may actually pay off, quite literally. Published in the Journal of Human Capital, the research found that having acne was associated with better grades in high school, as well as positively linked with getting a college degree and earning higher wages for women.
The study, based on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, looked at the relationship between having acne in middle to high school and the potential long-term educational and employment implications. The survey had an initial sample of 90,000 American students from grade 7 to 12, and followed up with roughly 15,000 students more than a decade later. Of the initial sample, roughly half of the students reported having acne. Teens in the study who reported experiencing acne tended to have higher grade point averages in high school, as well as higher grades in subjects including English, math, science, and history. This group was also linked with being more likely to finish their bachelor’s degrees.
As Quartz reported, the results were consistent whether the individuals reported having acne occasionally, often, or everyday, and the relationship between acne and stronger academics was most significant in women and white people. All women who’d had acne in their teens, regardless of race, tended to make higher salaries in the long-term, and the general relationship between acne and better grades was more significant in women than men.
The researchers hypothesized that something as genetically-coded as acne may relate to one’s education and earnings for a number of reasons. For one, the students who had acne were more prone to report feeling isolated socially and less attractive, and the researchers thought these feelings may influence individuals to bury themselves in studying rather than socialization, improving their grades as a result. The relationship with gender, particularly how the results tended to be more significant among women, were consistent with past research indicating how acne can have a larger mental toll on women.
The study’s findings are also interesting since kind of contradict the negative perceptions around acne. A previous study, for example, found that both adults and teens are more likely to perceive teens with acne as being more shy, more likely to be bullied, less social, and less successful in finding a job. But even though the study seems to point to a silver lining for anyone who had a hard time with their skin while growing up, the research only indicates a correlation, meaning having acne as a teen doesn't necessarily mean you're going to graduate as class valedictorian with a high paying job. Still, it's nice to think that there may be an upside to having acne after all.