I know how you feel. For years I struggled with acne, thinking that it started on the surface of the skin. I just figured out that I was wrong and I'm only now starting to see improvement. What I always have done was treat the symptom, acne, and not even pay attention to the real problem, which is mainly a build up of toxins a fungus called candida, and bad bacteria deep within my body.
The keys to healthy skin are:
Detoxify your system of toxins and candida
Replenish your system with the right foods, vitamins and supplements, which will be non-toxic and hostile to this candida fungus
Avoid any chemicals (drugs, antibiotics and chemicals found in food) that will hamper your system
Get 30 min. of aerobic exercise, 3x a week, and find time to de-stress (many people find that exercise and relaxation are one and the same)
I've read in a few natural healthcare books that acne does not start in the skin, but actually in your stomach, intestines and colon. For many people it's caused by a fungus called candida that grows in your gut. This candida thrives in people because of poor diet, especially those of us who grew up on a western diet, with a lot of processed foods. You may be thinking that you're eating healthy (I always did) but there are many foods we eat that our bodies aren't meant to handle. Foods like this, which the candida fungus favors, include:
Most processed foods (fast food, junk food especially)
Dairy, especially because companies that sell dairy rely on pumping their cows with hormones to increase milk production
For some people, whole wheat bread
Alcohol, especially alcohol high in yeast (beer falls into this category, which makes me sad )
Foods high in sugar (I've even seen some people say that fruit can be bad, because the candida favor the sugar in this. I'm not sure about this but you may want to research it).
On top of this, I recommend doing an herbal candida cleanse, which is something that can be found in any health food store. Also helpful is a general full body cleanse. This cleans out all of the toxins in your body. You'll find with any cleanse that you'll have to go to the bathroom a lot more. This is actually a good side effect, as most people generally have POUNDS of excess fecal matter stuck in their system. This backed up waste ends up leaking toxins through your body, and to your skin, causing acne and other health problems. A bonus cleansing was that I actually lost about 15 pounds, all excess fecal matter, just by doing a candida cleanse and a full body cleanse.
As for foods you should eat, you can search the web and find all sorts of sites on what foods are allowed in the candida diet. In general, these are the things I've seen recommended most:
Lemon juice (can be mixed with water)
Anything high in antioxidants, especially red, kidney and pinto beans
It's probably best to shop for these foods at a health food store. I've found places like Trader Joes or Whole Foods to be great. If you go to your normal supermarket, you'll only find foods that are filled with pesticides, artificial preservatives and hormones. Besides being bad for your skin, these chemicals can be cancer causing in the long run.
Also, I've read that compared to 100 years ago, even the most healthy foods we choose to eat are depleted of their nutrients. That's why it probably helps to take vitamins/supplements. I've found that these are the most beneficial for acne:
A, B, C, D, E
Calcium, if you're going to cut out dairy
A probiotic - this is something you can find in a healthfood store, which actually PROMOTES the growth of good bacteria in your system. If you have ever taken an antibiotic in your life, you may want to look into this. More on good and bad bacteria below.
You probably want to research how much is the daily recommended dosage of these vitamins and supplements, and when you should take each of these (with or without meals, etc.)
Also, DON'T go to a dermatologist unless he/she offers a natural solution for you. I've had the bad experience of dermatologists who offer only antibiotics as the solution. At first, antibiotics seem like a good idea because they are meant to kill acne-causing bacteria in your system. The problem is that they kill both good and bad bacteria. There is actually some bacteria that actually belongs in your system, but these drugs indiscrimantly kill all of the bacteria. In my case, the bad bacteria seemed to grow back quicker than the good bacteria, which caused an even worse acne problem. In general, it's probably best to avoid antibiotics as much as possible, unless a doctor tells you that they're completely necessary.
The reason many dermatologists provide these antibiotics is that they are produced by drug companies, and the drug companies essentially bribe doctors to prescribe their medicines, because these drugs are VERY profitable. No companies or doctors are promoting natural remedies for acne and other diseases, because natural cures like correct diet and herbal cleanses can't be patented, therefore little money can be made off of them. If you want to read more about this you should buy Kevin Trudeau's book that's critical on the US healthcare system.
Finally, get plenty of cardiovascular exercise and find time to RELAX! These recommendations are self explanatory.
Anyway, don't just blindly accept what I'm suggesting. The jury is still out on whether these recommendations are working for me, as I am still overcoming skin problems, but I feel more confident going the natural route as opposed to using drugs to cure my skin. I recommend that you read what I've written and research each idea to see what's right for you, because only some of the things that work for me work for you.