Once upon a time, people thought that disease was (a well deserved) punishment for sins. That was before germ theory of disease, and before Pasteur and vaccinations, but there is still a superstitious bit in us still believes that, especially when it comes to acne.
Acne is a complex condition that includes faulty skin keratinization, increased sebum production, and acne bacteria overgrowth, followed by follicular rupture and inflammation. A complex condition will have a complex relationship with your body and the environment. Avoid people who tie acne (or any other health problem) with “morals”. And avoid people who blame you for being sick or have bad skin! Indeed, avoiding bad people (if and when you can) is a great way to improve your life.
The effect in not as direct as “eat chocolate, get a pimple” and this is why it may not be easy to appreciate. Apparently, the negative effects of a “Western” diet on acne (and other skin problems) are through the so called glycemic index, increased insulin and general inflammation, plus an effect on the gut bacteria. Not a direct route, but improving the diet can improve skin health.
Women experience sleep problems more frequently than men, may be because we are more susceptible to anxiety and the changes in sleep patterns related to the menstrual cycle. Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality cause disease, immune imbalance and increased secretion of stress hormones. Acne and sleep also affect each other: we sleep badly when we have acne problems and bad (or insufficient) sleep worsen acne.
Acne causes anguish, no doubt about that, and we also worry about the likelihood of acne related problems like skin picking, secondary infection, scarring, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and acne recurrence. There is less information about how the other direction works, but it seems that stress in professional and personal life, and anxiety, increase acne frequency and intensity.
Taking care of your skin
Here I have to go against the current. In my opinion, the more you mess with your skin, the worse the acne will be. Too much touching, peeling, make-up, etc., will definitely worsen your skin, and may result in damaging of the skin barrier, scarring and cystic acne. And remember: cosmetics can definitely cause acne.
I can’t go now into what is my preferred way to control acne, but I have written several articles on the subject. For example, see this blog post.
Time in the sun
Increased exposure to the sun increases acne, and acne is exacerbated in the Summer (heat, sweat, etc.). The effect might not be large enough to worry you, but sun damage and photoaging will not improve your skin appearance or health.
Smoking is terrible for the skin (slower healing, aging and wrinkles, hair loss, inflammation, etc.) but there is no clear influence on acne. Just like with sun, there is more to the skin that acne.
Make-up, beauty routine
Avoid heavy makeup, clogged pores will likely end up as an acne lesion. Make sure you are not allergic to the sunscreen or makeup, very often we confuse allergy and eczema with acne.
DISCLAIMER: These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.