2010 got off to a rocky start for my hair and skin. Luckily, cosmetic karma was on my side. Armed with a hair-clarifying warrior, I went to battle with a crown of grease and emerged victorious. Then I fought off flaking skin with an intensely-moisturizing face balm. Even when my complexion brightened up at the touch of a vitamin-loaded serum, I wasn't convinced that I was in the clear. That is, until I became acquainted with Lather- a comprehensive collection of hair and skin care products that started as a small olive oil-based soap company.

Lather's debuted on Truth in Aging last fall with Marta's review of the Bamboo shampoo and conditioner.  While I'm reluctant to spend $20 on an everyday hair product- unless it really works magic- I have no qualms shelling out an amount in that range for something that will benefit my face- whether or not there's magic involved. As long as it's full of good stuff and makes my skin look and feel good, I'd be sold. While not all of Lather's products have formulas that pass my personal purity standards, the company is taking steps in the right direction, promising to eliminate all parabens and sulfates by this summer. Considering its very reasonable price points and its commitment to natural alternatives to synthetics, Lather certainly looked promising.

I went with the AHA Facial Therapy with Copper and Borage Extract ($24), a night treatment to re-texturize dull-looking skin. The packaging might not be fancy, but I would personally prefer the cost of a product to go towards what goes inside rather than out. Being accustomed to frosted glass pots and airless pumps, I have to admit that my expectations were low from the get-go. My apologies go out to Lather for being so jaded and superficial.

The fluffy, mint-green cream seems as if it might lack lasting power to moisturize skin through the night. Depending on the potency of my night regimen at any given time, my skin sometimes emerges from an (always insufficient) slumber looking parched and weary. However, the AHA Facial Therapy acted like a tall glass of milk, quenching my skin's thirst and lulling me to sleep at the same time. I could practically feel my face drinking it up as it was being coated in the lightweight, non-greasy cream. Come morning, my skin appeared youthfully brighter and decidedly less dull.

Perhaps applying the cream reminds me of drinking milk because the formula actually incorporates lactic acid derived from milk. Like other alpha hydroxy acids, lactic acid breaks up the glue between dead skin cells, sloughing them off and making room for regrowth of fresh skin. Because its concentration here is only 3%, the lactic acid is gentle enough to avoid dryness but strong enough to improve texture and open up penetration pathways for the formula's nutrients. And the nutrients are plentiful. Copper gluconate, a component of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, has shown to promote the synthesis of collagen and elastin. Additional antioxidants include green coffee extract, which has anti-inflammatory properties, and gingko biloba extract, which helps stimulate blood flow. Essential to the function of cell membranes, phospholipids help maintain a healthy lipid barrier to keep bacteria out.

On top of these nutrients, the formula features outstanding moisturizers like borage seed oil, one of the richest known sources of the omega-6 EFA gamma linolenic acid. Likewise, carrot seed oil, loaded with antioxidant beta-carotene which can rejuvenate aging skin, is no ordinary oil. The formula's two most concentrated moisturizers are soy glycerides, a natural antioxidant that filters out UV rays, and zemea propanediol, a pure glycol derived from corn (Zea mays). Essential oils from jasmine, neroli, and ylang-ylang contribute aromatherapy benefits. More commonplace emollients include shea butter and jojoba oil, both of which work to soften and soothe the skin. The only ingredients on our red flag watch are a couple of synthetic silicones, the controversial preservative and potential irritant phenoxyethanol, and the eco-toxin tetrasodium EDTA.

An excellent precursor to AHA Facial Therapy is the Cucumber Milk Facial Cleanser ($19), which leaves a soothing layer of extra hydration and antioxidant protection. Tag teaming with these two Lather products has made my complexion positively glow- so much so that you could mistake it for a subtle tan. I'd guess that this effect owes to the combination of re-texturizing and stimulating components, such as lactic acid, carrot seed oil, and gingko biloba extract. No matter which specific ingredients I have to thank, the cream clearly succeeds in turning over skin cells, smoothing complexion irregularities, and nourishing dry areas. These small improvements add up to one big anti-aging boost. And there is no need to limit this product to nighttime use. I found that it played nicely with my other products and provided sustained hydration throughout the day. The best part is that a tiny dab goes a long way, and a full tub costs as much as a dinner entree. Now that's what I call a good buy!

Ingredients:

deionized water (aqua), hydrogenated soy glyceride, propanediol (zemea), stearic acid, caprylic/capric triglyceride, glycine soja (phospholipids), decyl oleate, butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter, cetearyl ethelhexonate, lactic acid, cetearyl alcohol, gingko biloba extract, borago officinalis (borage) oil, ceteareth-20, cyclomethicone, stearyl heptanoate, hydrolized glycosaminoglycans, panthenol, dimethicone copolyol, glycine, coffea robusta (green coffee) extract, copper gluconate, buxus chinensis (jojoba) oil, yeast extract, daucus carota sativa (carrot) oil, xanthan gum, tilia cordata (linden) blossom extract, sorbitol, allantoin, phenoxyethanol, potassium sorbate, ethylhexylglycerin, tetrasodium EDTA, essential oils of jasmine (jasmines officinale), neroli (citrus aurantium) and ylang ylang (cananga odorata), oxynex K (PEG-8 and tocopherol and ascorbyl palmitate and ascorbic acid and citric acid)