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A good cleanser is the foundation of good skin. I am probably fussier about my cleansers than any other product, setting the bar high for low (if any) surfactants and enough anti-aging ingredients to multitask as a mask. Ao Skincare Prepare Cleanser ($39.95 in the shop) cleaned up on every count.
Surfactants are the things that make cleansers and other products foam. Even the mild ones can be drying, so I generally look for cleansers that avoid them. The trade off can be that the skin doesn’t feel quite as clean as it would with a more traditional wash.
The quality that I first liked about Ao Prepare is that my skin seemed really clean, but also soft and nourished. The secret is in the formula’s gel to water ratio. This cleanser would suit almost any skin type, age or gender. However, I really do like that it is gentle enough for mature skin and that it has so many active ingredients my skin probably thinks it is a serum on contact.
Some of those actives hail from the indigenous plants of New Zealand. Ao is backed by a New Zealand doctor, and I’m already a fan of his sunscreen Protect ($59.95 in the shop), which includes ferulic acid and the powerful antioxidant, astaxanthin. A couple of notable New Zealand botanicals in the cleanser are totarol, an antioxidant that is also helpful for acne, and New Zealand tree fern, which has a component in it that gives the skin an instant tightening effect.
Kiwi oil — still on the New Zealand theme — is also a great addition, as it has vitamin C, vitamin E, essential fatty acids and even an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) component for some gentle exfoliation. But it’s the addition of stem cells (the important meristem ones) from the gardenia plant make this cleanser seem extra special. As well as being a tad exotic, these particular plant stem cells are supposed to boost collagen production.
Other ingredients to give this cleanser serious serum envy are niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3), free radical-fighting ferulic acid, and vitamin C. You will also be pleased to know that there are no nasties and even the preservative, dehydroacetic acid, is relatively benign.