Why do teens get zits?
If there’s any proof that youth is overrated, it’s zits — red oozing pustules of them, whiteheads and blackheads, all over the face and neck, from ages twelve up to twenty.
Acne vulgaris came up during my interview about BLONDES on Michio Kaku’s show, Science Fantastic. Does acne play a role in sexual selection? My hunch is that it does, and today I found some support while skimming the annals of Medical Hypotheses.
The evolutionary theory behind acne, according to the article by Dale Bloom, is that it plays a role in mate selection. Fact is, pimples are as repulsive as they are conspicuous. They suggest disease and trigger a “disgust” reflex. At the expense off a teen’s self-esteem, they signal “stay away from me sexually.” Those big red spots are stop signs.
The reason ? To delay pregnancy. Think about it: Pubescent people don’t make the best parents. Women who recently got their first period have bodies and brains unprepared for pregnancy and childbirth. Even in ancestral times, pregnancy put very young women at an extreme disadvantage, compromising their health and that of their babies. With the baby diverting precious gluteofemoral fat, adolescent mothers may inadvertently arrest their own physical and mental development. And it goes without saying that teen boys are unfit fathers — in fact, the prefrontal cortex doesn’t even fully develop until a guy’s early twenties. Case in point is Alfie, the tiny, squeaky, grim-looking Gameboy-playing 13-year-old British boy who became a dad earlier this month. (Curiously, Alfie appears too young to have pimples yet, and his girlfriend’s face is as smooth as porcelain.)
Are pimples Nature’s way of steering away potential mates until a young person has reached true reproductive maturity? Bloom thinks so, calling them a “high-order psychoneuroimmune interaction,” the body protecting itself by becoming temporarily unattractive when it is most vulnerable. It’s an interesting idea. I, for one, had so many pimples in junior high that I wasn’t at risk for even a kiss. So do teen pregnancy rates coincide with Stridex sales? Do flawless girls get knocked up more often than pimply ones? If so, perhaps dermatologists should start prescribing birth control.