Biologique Recherche P50 Lotion: What It Does, How to Use It, and More


When it comes to fancy French skincare products, Biologique Recherche’s P50 lotion (which, um, isn’t even a lotion, but more on that later) is the crème de la crème. Like, if you’re even *remotely* into skincare, you’ve prob heard of this iconic product. The cult-favorite formula has won numerous awards and is hyped up by celebs, editors, skincare gurus, aestheticians, and even dermatologists. But, like, is it really worth it? Because as anyone who has spent five seconds on social media knows, just because someone ~famous~ talks about it, doesn’t mean it’s actually good.

And as someone who has heard of P50 for years but had never actually tried it (whoops!), I decided it was a good time to review it for myself. And to help me out with all of my maaaany questions—like, uh, how do you even use it?—I reached out to celebrity facialist Aida Bicaj for the important Biologique Recherche P50 intel and created this guide for you. It covers all things P50, including how it works, the benefits of using it, and the different versions you can try.

Even though Biologique Recherche calls P50 a lotion, it’s really an exfoliating toner that comes in six different liquid formulas for a mix of skin types and concerns (though they all work pretty similarly). All versions of P50 help break down dead skin cells, unclog pores, enhance skin-cell turnover, and hydrate and balance your skin barrier, depending on which formula you try. Also cool: P50 helps boost the efficacy of whatever essences, serums, and creams you layer on top, says Bicaj. Basically P50 supposedly does everything, which is kinda unheard of in the skincare world.

This is the OG Biologique Recherche P50 formula and also the strongest. It contains a cocktail of powerful exfoliators like phenol, vinegar (!), lactic acid, and salicylic acid to help resurface your skin. It’s a good option for “tough” skin that’s accustomed to using acids, or anyone with super-oily or acne-prone skin, says Bicaj.

The formula is similar to P50 1970, but this one doesn’t contain phenol (phenol, FYI, is a compound with antiseptic qualities that’s hotly debated in the skincare community, so the brand offers a P50 without it). This one’s also great for for anyone with oily skin, blackheads, or acne that’s not prone to redness or sensitivity.

These medium-strength formulas are ideal for dry or dull skin types. In addition to AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs—aka all of the smoothing and unclogging acids—they also include vitamin B3 (aka niacinamide) to help minimize inflammation and brighten skin. The P50V 1970 formula contains phenol, and the newer P50V does not.

If you’ve got sensitive skin or are entirely new to using exfoliating acids, P50W is for you. It’s the gentlest of the P50s and the best option for anyone who tends to experience redness or irritation, says Bicaj.

This version is designed specifically for people dealing with hyperpigmentation, like dark spots or melasma. It’s gentler than the OG P50, but still effectively exfoliates dead skin cells to even out your skin tone and also helps regulate melanin synthesis too, says Bicaj.

So you won’t find this stuff at Sephora, Ulta, or any other mass beauty retailer. P50 is only sold at authorized retailers and spas (like Aida Bicaj, Joanna Czech, Rescue Spa, and Paul Labrecque to name a few), so you’ll have to either go in-person to make a purchase, or order from one of those retailer’s sites.

Biologique Recherche doesn’t allow retailers to disclose price info online, so you’ll need to log-in to each retailer to not only purchase a bottle, but to also see what it costs. Spoiler alert: Biologique Recherche P50 costs $31 for a 1.7 oz bottle, $70 for a 5.1 oz bottle, and $106 for a 8.5 oz bottle. So, yeah, def not cheap.

Anyone using retinol should avoid all versions of P50, since the two can’t be used at the same time, says Bicaj. (Too many active ingredients = a recipe for irritated, angry skin.) “You should also avoid using P50 for at least one week after a chemical peel or laser treatment,” she adds. Another reason to lay off P50? If you’re spending a lot of time outside, since the acids in P50 can make skin more sensitive to the sun.

The goal is to apply P50 twice daily all over your face, neck, and chest after cleansing, and before your serums and moisturizers, says Bicaj—but, very important note, you’ll need to work up to that frequency, and not every skin type will be able to handle it.

During your first week of using P50, pre-moisten a gauze pad or cotton round with water first (it will help slightly dilute the P50 to reduce any risk of initial irritation), then saturate the pad with P50 and press it into your skin using gentle upward motions, says Bicaj. After a few weeks of using it twice a day, try skipping the pre-moisten and just saturate the pad with P50 and do your thing.

It’s worth noting that a little temporary redness and tingling when you first start using P50 is normal, but if your skin looks or feels irritated for a prolonged period of time, you should stop using P50 asap. And be aware: If you’re working with hyper-sensitive skin or rosacea, you may only be able to tolerate the gentlest version once a day, or once every other day max.

You want my Biologique Recherche P50 review? My honest, genuine thoughts on whether this toner is worth it? Okay, I’ve tried a lot of exfoliating toners in the past, and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen results like I do from P50. After using P50 for about a month, my skin looked smoother, brighter, and noticeably less congested (my naturally oily skin is prone to blackheads). It’s one of those things that once you start using it, you can’t really go back, hence the cult-like following.

And I totally get that $100+ is a lot to shell out for a toner, or any skincare product for that matter, but P50 is so much more than that IMO. Think of it like a pro facial in a bottle—it does it all and leaves your skin freaking glowing. That’s not to say you can’t get somewhat similar results by using a mix of other toners, but if you can afford it, I’d recommend giving this one a try first.

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