A TEENAGER who suffers from a rare condition has been given a new lease of life after being bullied for years. 

Zara, from Thurnscoe, is only 16 but suffers from a rare genetic condition which has left her skin loose and wrinkly, making her look much older.

She inherited the condition, called cutis laxa, from her mum Tracey Gibson, who, at 43, already looks like a pensioner.

Zara showed the first signs of the condition as a youngster, developing excess skin around her jawline, and by the age of 12 was regularly being mistaken for a fully-grown woman or even her 17-year-old sister Chloe's mother.

The teenager flew to America for plastic surgery to improve her confidence after being teased about her looks for years.

A surgeon offered to give her a facelift and nose augmentation for free after hearing about her condition, and the results were shown in a Channel 5 television programme aired on Thursday night.

Zara said: "The bullying was at its worst between the ages of eight and ten. Kids used to call me 'monkey' and 'granny'. I was even beaten up just because of how I looked. It got so bad I even stopped going to school for a while.

"I lived in fear of being asked how old I was. I was even mistaken for a teacher in school on a couple of occasions, which was just mortifying."

After hearing about her case, expert Dr Abhimanyu Garg asked to carry out tests on Tracey and Zara.

He found they were suffering from acute cutis laxa, a rare disease which affects only 30 people in Britain and can cause heart and lung problems.

Zara said the treatment has worked and she has now started a relationship with new boyfriend Ricky Andrews, 22.

She said of the surgery: "When I saw myself in the mirror when all the bandages came off, it was a mixture of surprise and happiness. I used to hate my nose, but now I love it. I feel much more confident and happier in general.

"Before I had the surgery, I was picked on for looking different, now I look the same as other girls my age."

Zara is now keen to go to college and would one day like to open her own beauty salon.