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  • Writer's pictureLiz Hilliard


Let’s talk about vanity. It’s a word that gets a lot of bad press. And rightly so since it’s defined as “inflated pride in one’s appearance”. But for the sake of argument, I’m going to use it loosely here by turning it around and standing it on its head. I believe we all need a healthy dose of it. I fully own my mine which has led me to research the healthiest ways to fuel my body nutritionally and strengthen my body efficiently and effectively to not only look my best, but more importantly to feel my best. A good dose vanity has led me to health and happiness. If we let unhealthy vanity rear up, it can lead to an inflated ego, self-comparison and doubt, inauthenticity, and unhappiness. So, I suggest we use vanity positively to feel and look our best.

Some of the things I value most are A) having a mindset of gratitude that I choose every day for this beautiful life, B) maintaining my focus on healthy nutrition, C) my workout, and the WHY behind this post D) healthy, glowing skin.

I work from two basic premises when it comes to my skin care; our thoughts and words are powerful and science-driven products work.

Because my thoughts and words are powerful, they eventually find a home on my face. Like Dolly Parton said in Steel Magnolias, “Honey, time marches on and eventually you realize it’s marchin’ right across your face.” So, if I’m not keeping my thoughts and words cleaned up on the inside there’s really no cosmetic cream, Botox, or cosmetic surgery that can lead to beauty on the outside.

I use science driven products like Retin-A, and the older I get, the more money I allow myself to spend on over-the-counter skin care…Hello, Vanity!

Before the age of 25 anything beyond a good cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen is almost always a waste of time and money. Sorry but TikTok is not your best friend when it comes to skin care. My 12-year-old granddaughter is convinced she needs a good moisturizer, foundation, concealer, and nightly face mask. And she has well, the skin of a 12-year-old, as in gorgeous. But the upside is that she’s learning a lot about budgeting her money!

When I was 34 and still somewhat unenlightened about skin care I visited my dermatologist for a checkup. He put my face under an ultraviolet light that showed the skin damage I was already experiencing from being in the sun without facial sunscreen. It was shocking since on the surface I thought I looked pretty good. However, lying beneath the surface was the beginning of what could eventually become skin cancer. He was involved in a research project involving RetinA which at that point was somewhat new. He wanted to discover if using the product could alleviate the skin damage that had already occurred as well as side effects of its use. I was definitely game since one of the possible side effects was a reduction of facial lines.

Fast forward 35 years and I’m still using Retin-A on my face about 3 times per week. I use a prescription form, not the kind you can buy over the counter which are generally much more diluted with other additives. My choice of retinoid these days is prescription grade .01% Tazorac. When I began the trial in my 30s I was using .025% Retin-A 3 nights per week with a basic inexpensive moisturizer day and night along with sunscreen during the day. My skin noticeably changed and brightened within the span of 2 to 3 months. A year later my sun damage was gone. And since I have a family history of skin cancer that was a huge deal!

But back to looking good/vanity. I had to learn to control the redness, flaking, and exfoliation you will definitely get with retinoid use and become my own chemist on when, how, and how much to use. The payoff has been unbelievable and still brings dividends to this day! I really haven’t experienced deep lines in my face at all; even at 69 years old. Yes, I do Botox for crows’ feet that naturally occur as I age, but the fine lines pretty much are non-existent because of Retin-A, good nutrition, and hydration.

Also, and because I get an immediate albeit temporary payoff and can now afford it, I use some pricey skin care products and moisturizers like La Mer moisturizing Soft Cream and La Mer Concentrate. I’m currently coveting D.E.J Boosting Serum by Revision and Biopelle Tensag Intensive Serum 40. The Biopelle is literally made from snails, so I call it my snail serum. I swear by this one as my #1 go-to the night before I do TV, press or of any type of event.

Tip: Over-the-counter skincare products typically do not change the composition of the facial skin cells. Only a Retinoid can change the composition of your skin. However, over the counter products can and do improve the appearance of skin, making it look smoother and brighter while adding hydration and sometimes firming temporarily.

With that said, there’s a lot of nonsense out there about cleansers, toners, and the like that from my experience just aren’t needed. What’s needed is a good cleanser that actually removes the makeup and leaves your skin glowing and clean. My go-to for the last 10 years or so is Obagi Foaming Gel. It completely cleans my face of makeup at night making my other products much more effective.

Note: I don’t typically use a foundation on my face unless I’m in front of a camera lens. There’s no reason to cover healthy skin with makeup. I rely on blushes and tanners to add contour and extra color most days.

Tip: For my morning face cleansing when make-up is not an issue, I have a small pump bottle and fill half of it with water and half with cleanser. I don’t think many of us need a strong cleanser in the morning plus this saves me some $$.

Final word on my skin care: If I could only have one treatment product it would be a prescription strength retinoid (not over the counter), a basic moisturizer and sunscreen.

What are some of your favorites over the counter skin care products that your swear by?

I would also love to hear about your experiences with Retinoids! Have you tried them? Did you experience any side effects?

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Lee Kennelly
Lee Kennelly
Nov 24, 2023

Beauty queen


Nov 22, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great advice always !!


Nov 21, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I am also a big fan of Retin A. I have been using it myself for almost 20 years. It is a game changer.


Nov 14, 2023

Hi Liz! This is great advice. I’m local to Charlotte and would love to get any recommendations on skin care technicians you use. I’ve been floating around and everyone offers different opinions on care and treatments. You’ve proven you have great results so who do you see? Thanks!!!

Liz Hilliard
Liz Hilliard
Nov 14, 2023
Replying to

Great question! Charlotte fortunately has lots of quality aestheticians, and since I’m drawn to a more science based approach and love a great derma plane facial paired with topical treatments to stimulate cell turnover and skin tightness, here are my favorite three at the moment!

1. Skin Spirit located in Myers Park at 1041 Providence RD, Ste 180. This one is a bit pricey but but worth it! If you say you’re a subscriber to my blog they will give you $50 off any treatment! I had their Diamond Glow facial with Reina Richberg recently and loved the way my skin glowed up to a full week post facial!

2. Infinity MedSpa located in SouthPark at 2809 Coltsgate Rd Suite 100, Charlotte,…

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