Skin & Tonics

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Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 1970 Original Formula vs. Lotion P50 New Formula: A Comparative Review

“He’s all about this smelly, watery stuff. I’ve been meaning to ask you about it. It’s banned in the UK or something.” That’s a text I received back in February from one of my dearest friends, regarding her skin care loving husband’s latest craze. Not willing to live the rest of my life without knowing what the name of this smelly, watery product was, I did a little prodding. It turns out her husband’s latest skin care obsession was the cult classic, Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 1970 original formula, a high-end, spa-exclusive, exfoliating acid toner with an avid following and a “burn” that is cherished by those who use it.

The original Lotion P50 is a flagship product for the French company, Biologique Recherche. The “burn” is a sensation produced by the inclusion of an ingredient called phenol. I’ll talk more about phenol in just a bit, but right now the relevant thing is that its use has been banned in the European Union. As a result, the original formula is no longer sold anywhere in Europe, though it is still available in select US spas under the name Lotion P50 1970 Formula. The slight name change was made to distinguish it from the newer, phenol-free formula, Lotion P50, which is sold in exclusive spas worldwide.

There was only one logical course of action I could take after this conversation with my friend: buy a whole bunch of P50 and put it on my face.

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50

What are they?

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 1970 (original formula) and Lotion P50 (new formula) are both exfoliating acid toners. These products are designed to strengthen the epidermal shield, exfoliate skin, regulate excessive sebum secretion, hydrate skin, maintain the skin’s pH, as well as prevent and treat ingrown hairs.

The Lotion P50 range actually consists of 6 different product options. There is the Lotion P50, which is the full strength version, Lotion P50V, a medium strength version, and Lotion P50W, a mild version for mature, drier skin types. All 3 strengths are available in both the original formula and the newer, phenol-free formula.

Lotion P50 isn’t as easy to come by as many skin care products. Only a few exclusive spas actually carry the Biologique Recherche line to begin with, and of those spas, even fewer actually sell it online. Those that do sell it online require customers to create and log in to an account before the prices are revealed. All of them strongly recommend consulting with a spa specialist (either over the phone or online) before purchasing, to ensure you’re getting the appropriate Lotion P50 for your individual skin type. I actually consulted with 3 different spas. I consulted via email for 2 of them, and the other over the phone. I provided information about my skin type, skin concerns, and my history of acid use (not the psychedelic kind). Two of the 3 spas recommended the full-strength Lotion P50 1970 for me, and the other recommended the medium strength Lotion P50V 1970. I bought both the new and original formulas for both strengths, but the full strength versions are the focus of this review.

Ingredients for Lotion P50 Original 1970 Formula (w/ Phenol):

Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Phenol, Niacinamide, Vinegar (Acetum), Ethoxydiglycol, Magnesium Chloride, Lactic Acid, Arctium Lappa Root (Burdock Root) Extract, Salicylic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Sulfur.

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50

The classic Lotion P50 formula boasts multiple actives. Here’s my ingredient breakdown, starting with the much loved and loathed phenol:

Phenol

If you are over the age of 40, or if you’ve ever watched a medical drama set in the past (I recommend “London Hospital” if you’re into that sort of thing), you might remember the use of carbolic soap as an antiseptic cleanser, which was popular in clinical settings from the early 1900s until the 1970s.  The antiseptic ingredient in carbolic soap is a volatile, slightly acidic component called carbolic acid, which is another name for phenol. In addition to being antiseptic, phenol is also a mild anesthetic. It has been shown to posses skin-lightening properties as well. Its role in the P50 formula is primarily antiseptic, but I would venture to guess that the burn (and subsequent numbing) it imparts when it comes in contact with the skin also played a strategic part in its inclusion. Lotion P50 fanatics love the burn.

If you live in the US, you’ve probably encountered phenol before. It’s the active numbing ingredient in the throat spray, Chloraspetic (and the ingredient responsible for that spray’s distinctive smell), one of the active ingredients in Carmex lip balm, as well as a component of the ubiquitous mouthwash, Listerine (listed on the label as “Thymol,” which is actually a phenol compound).

Though it’s clearly allowed in personal care formulas in the US, its use has been banned for years in the EU due to safety concerns. Though you won’t melt or keel over if exposed to the amounts found in personal care products, it’s a well-established corrosive, toxic if inhaled or swallowed, and capable of damaging or burning skin in concentrations greater than 1.5%. Additionally, even prolonged exposure to lower concentrations have a propensity to cause contact dermatitis – this is largely why carbolic soap is no longer seen in clinical settings.

I despise fearmongering, and I hate that skin care is one of the most common targets of such a slimy phenomenon. However, phenol is sketchy. No, your face won’t fall off – mine didn’t – and you won’t die of kidney failure from using a personal care product that contains phenol; not even if you drink an entire bottle of Listerine. But there is a high irritation risk with its usage, even in small amounts, and I’ve personally come to the conclusion that the risks outweigh the benefits of using a phenol product long term.

Phenol Material Safety Data Sheet

Niacinamide

You know I love Niacinamide. I wish I could photograph it so I could whip out my phone and show people photos of it, the way normal people do with pets and children. Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3 that works well for overall brightening, lightening hyperpigmentation, and acne. This is a well-documented skin care ingredient. One study even showed it to be effective for reducing fine lines in addition to treating redness and hyperpigmentation:

Niacinamide: A B Vitamin that Improves Aging Facial Skin Appearance
Dermatologic Surgery, 2006

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is my favorite alpha hydroxy acid. It is the gentlest of the alpha hydroxy acids, due mostly to its large molecule size, which prevents it from penetrating the skin too deeply and causing irritation. However, there is some clinical evidence that lactic acid, though less irritating, is also more effective than glycolic acid for stimulating cell turnover. Additionally, it brings some skin care benefits to the table the glycolic acid doesn’t – lactic acid helps strengthen the skin’s protective barrier by increasing the production of natural ceramides in the skin. Lactic acid is also more hydrating than glycolic, and like glycolic, it also has hyperpigmentation lightening properties.

More on lactic acid:

Comparative effectiveness of alpha-hydroxy acids on skin properties
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 1996

Lactic acid chemical peels as a new therapeutic modality in melasma in comparison to Jessner’s solution chemical peels
Dermatologic Surgery, 2006

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that is often used as an acne treatment. It is a naturally occurring ingredient, usually derived from willow bark, but also occurs in other sources. Salicylic acid has been shown in multiple studies to improve skin barrier function and collagen production. It’s best used in concentrations from 0.5% – 2%. The reason BHA is such an effective treatment is because not only is it antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and exfoliating – it also has the ability to travel deeper into the skin than many other skin care actives, including AHAs.

Here are a couple of relevant abstracts about the benefits of salicylic acid that I found interesting:

Clinical evidence on the efficacy and safety of an antioxidant optimized 1.5% salicylic acid (SA) cream in the treatment of facial acne: an open, baseline-controlled clinical study.
Skin Research & Technology, 2013

Treatment of acne vulgaris with salicylic acid pads.
Clinical Therapeutics, 1992

Sulfur

Sulfur: it stinks, but it’s a fairly effective treatment for acne due to its antibacterial and exfoliating properties. Thankfully, any trace of the smell in this product has been completely eclipsed by the phenol.

According to CosDNA, sulfur scores between 0 and 2 as a potential irritant. Phenol is listed as a level 2 hazard, and salicylic acid is listed s level 1 hazard.

 

Ingredients for Lotion P50 New Formula (Phenol-free):

Water (Aqua), Gluconolactone, Lactic Acid, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Citric Acid, Ethoxydiglycol, Magnesium Chloride, Malic Acid, Vinegar (Acetum), Phytic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Cochlearia Armoracia (Horseradish) Root Extract, Arctium Lappa Root (Burdock Root) Extract, Rumex Acetosa Leaf Extract, Myrtus Communis Extract, Commiphora Myrrha Resin Extract, Allium Cepa (Onion) Bulb Extract, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Flower/Leaf Oil, Sulfur, Sorbitol, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50

It looks as though when Biologique Recherche reformulated Lotion P50, they seized the opportunity to devise a more effective product. In addition to what appears to be a higher concentration of lactic acid, they’ve included additional acid actives in the new formula as well. They’ve also kept the best ingredients from the original formula, including niacinamide, salicylic acid, and sulfur. Here are some additional highlights:

Gluconolactone

Gluconodeltalactone is a PHA (poly-hydroxy acid), which is a gentler type of AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) and is suitable for dry, sensitive skin. It contains antioxidants, and is also an effective anti-inflammatory. In addition to its exfoliating properties, there have been numerous studies done on its anti-aging and UV protection benefits, as well as its efficacy as an acne treatment. If you’re interested in learning more about Gluconodeltalactone, here are a few study abstracts worth taking a look at:

A comparative study of gluconolactone versus benzoyl peroxide in the treatment of acne
The Australasian Journal of Dermatology, 1992

A polyhydroxy acid skin care regimen provides antiaging effects comparable to an alpha-hydroxy acid regimen
Cutis, 2004

The use of polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) in photoaged skin
Cutis, 2004

Malic Acid

Malic acid is an apple-derived alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). It increases cell turnover, and is an effective lightener for hyperpigmentation. It’s often used in conjunction with Vitamin C to treat melasma.

Phytic Acid

Phytic acid is a gentle AHA derived from fruit seeds and grains. Like other AHAs, Phytic acid promotes cell turnover, lightens uneven skin tone, and diminishes fine lines.

Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Flower/Leaf Oil

Thyme oil is an essential oil that is often used in acne treatments for its antiseptic and bactericidal effects. One 2012 study actually showed it be a more effective antibacterial agent than benzoyl peroxide or alcohol.

Thyme may be better for acne than prescription creams
Society for General Microbiology. | ScienceDaily, 2012

 

According to CosDNA, salicylic acid is a level 1 hazard, and sulfur scores between 0 and 2 as a potential irritant.

Performance

Appearance

The bottles for both Lotion P50 formulas are identical (except for labels, of course). Both of them are light pink, plastic bottles donning white plastic caps with a gold trim. The dispensers are the standard plastic-with-a-hole-in-it variety.

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50

The Lotion P50 itself is clear, and the same consistency as water.

pH

pH is another area in which the newer Lotion P50 formula is superior to the original 1970 formula. AHAs are optimally effective within a pH range between 3.0 and 4.0. The pH for Lotion P50 1970 is 3.5, while the pH for the new Lotion P50 formula is 3.0. Both pH levels are effective, but AHA results increase in both speed and efficacy at the lower end of that 3-4 scale.

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50

The pH for the original Lotion P50 1970 formula is 3.5.

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50

The pH for the new formula Lotion P50 is 3.0.

Smell

Lotion P50 Original 1970 Formula (w/ Phenol):

The original Lotion P50 1970 formula smells exactly, and I mean exactly like Chloroseptic. The smell is very strong and very medicinal. I actually grew to like it over time, but there are many people – even fans of this product – who very vocally hate the way this product smells. The smell only lingers for about 5 minutes on my face, but my bathroom smells like Chloraseptic for hours after I’ve used this toner.

Lotion P50 New Formula (Phenol-free):

The newer P50 formula just kind of smells like your standard, run-of-the-mill acid product. It’s medicinally plain with base notes of nail polish remover. The smell dissipates almost immediately after application.

Application

Normally I turn my nose up at any set of product instructions that tell me to apply with a cotton pad. Not this one, though. This product needs cotton pads. With both formulas, I pour a bit of P50 on a cotton pad and smooth it over my face and neck immediately after cleansing. If I’m applying a BHA and/or any other pH-dependent acid products, I’ll apply them immediately after the P50. Then I wait between 10 and 20 minutes before finishing the rest of my skin care routine.

When I apply the Lotion P50 1970 formula, it burns. It’s supposed to burn. People love the burn. The first time I used it, I had an idea of what I was in for and it still surprised me a little. It wasn’t unbearable, but it was intense. The burning sensation is a “cool burn,” and only lasts in its purest form for about 15 seconds before melting into an overall facial numbness from the phenol’s anesthetic properties. The numbness lasts anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. If I’m putting skin care products on immediately afterward, the sensation is really interesting. By the third day or so, I totally understood why people are so into the physical sensation of this product. Unfortunately, the original 1970 formula made my face turn beet red. Between the redness, the burning, and the numbness, it was hard not to be preoccupied with how irritated I knew my skin was.

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50

Left: My skin just after applying the new Lotion P50 formula
Right: My skin after applying the original Lotion P50 1970 formula

The new formula Lotion P50 doesn’t burn at all, though it does have that familiar, low-powered electric fence, acid tingle. It doesn’t last as long as the burn does, or even as long as some of my stronger AHA products such as the Paula’s Choice treatment I reviewed earlier this week. My face does not change color when I use the newer P50 formula.

Results

Lotion P50 Original 1970 Formula (w/ Phenol):

I used the Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 1970 for about 4 weeks. In that time, my skin’s texture visibly improved quite a bit, and though my pores aren’t very large to begin with, they began to appear smaller after just the first 3 days of use. The texture change was especially apparent on and around my nose, which is where my pores appear largest. I also experienced some overall brightening, which leveled out around week 2 and sustained throughout the products usage. The brightening effect wasn’t as dramatic as what I experienced with the 10% AHA Paula’s Choice treatment, but it was visibly noticeable.

There were some downsides to the 1970 formula for me. For one thing, I know my skin was irritated immediately after application – the redness made that very apparent. But I also found that my skin was drier than usual, a trend that was consistent throughout my usage of this particular formula. I did not experience any breakouts as a result of using this toner.

Lotion P50 New Formula (Phenol-free):

Just before hitting the 4 week mark on the 1970 formula, I switched to the newer, phenol-free formula. The second I felt that acid tingle I knew something special was about to happen. I am now 6 weeks into the new formula Lotion P50. My pore size stayed small, my complexion stayed bright, but because I wasn’t experiencing the drying effects of the 1970 formula, my face was actually able to reach a state of glowiness that was just out of reach with the original formula.

By week 2, Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 was my new Holy Grail toner. I’ll be updating my skin care routine to reflect this change soon, but let me tell you right now: I understand why this toner’s status is so legendary.

I actually attempted to try the Pixi Glow Tonic Beauty Elixr last week, which is a glycolic acid toner that is often touted as a P50 “dupe.” I gave up after 4 days. I actually noticed a subtle decrease in the quality of my skin texture by day 4, and I was missing the tingle. Then I tested the pH for the Pixi Glow and saw that it was a 4.0, and I decided I wasn’t in the mood to be disappointed.

I texted my friend a couple of weeks ago with a message for her P50 1970-loving husband. I said the ingredients in the new formula were better, that the pH was more effective, that it was just a better product in general. “The burn is overrated!” I said.

His response? “The masses disagree.”

Touché.

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 1970 Original Formula (w/ Phenol)

Pros Cons
  • Exfoliating
    Smoothing / improves skin texture
    Reduces Pore Appearance
    Helps reduce PIH severity
    Burns when applied
  • Drying for dry skin (my skin type)
    Post-application redness
    Smells very strong
    Burns when applied

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 1970 New Formula (Phenol-free)

Pros Cons
  • Exfoliating
    Smoothing / improves skin texture
    Brightening
    Reduces Pore Appearance
    Helps reduce PIH severity

  • None

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 Original 1970 Formula (w/ Phenol)

B 16/20 Efficacy 14/20 Ingredients 20/20 Application 14/20 Wear 20/20 Packaging
Total: 84 Rating system details »

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 New Formula (Phenol-free)

A+ 20/20 Wear 20/20 Application 17/20 Ingredients 20/20 Efficacy 20/20 Packaging
Total: 97 Rating system details »

Where to Buy

There are 3 spas that I know of in the US that carry the Biologique Recherche product line. Before ordering from any of them, I highly recommend talking to a product specialist at the place you're ordering from so they can determine which formula is right for your skin.

I've order Biologique Recherche  from both Rescue Spa and Vicki Morav, and shipping was ridiculously fast from both places. They also both included an obscene amount of Biologique Recherche samples with each order.

Toska Spa carries the original P50 1970 formula, but not the new formula.

Store Price Offers
Rescue Spa New formula and original 1970 formula $59 buy
Vicki Morav New formula and original 1970 formula $59 Get 10% off order of $150 or more with code: Happy2014 buy
Toska Spa Original 1970 formula only $57 buy
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89 comments onBiologique Recherche Lotion P50 1970 Original Formula vs. Lotion P50 New Formula: A Comparative Review

  1. KB

    Girl! I can’t believe you put up with the burn for nearly month! Your skin looks angry in that photo you posted! Thanks for the review and kudos for the dedication to your skincare passion! It helps is all out.

  2. Gwen

    What an incredibly helpful review! I’m so glad you took this on. My husband actually read half of it over my shoulder – he was totally into the idea that there are *pH strips* on a beauty blog ;)

    … Can I asked how much of each product you used in about a month? I’m totally interested, but it would be great to know how long one of those bottles would last.

    • Kerry

      Hi Gwen! There’s enough in the medium sized bottle (the $59 one) to last around 2 months with twice daily usage. I just recently splurged on the large bottle – there’s at least 4 months in that one and at $92, a better deal in terms of price per ounce.

      EDIT: Accidentally typed “weeks” instead of “months.” It lasts a couple of months, not a couple of weeks! I’m spendy, but not that spendy. ;)

    • Mia

      FYI, I put a few drops on my fingers and apply it directly to my face nightly. My bottle has lasted well over a year this way.

  3. Tina

    Do you plan to replace the current Benton toner in your current skin care routine with the Biologique toner permanently given the results?

    • Kerry

      Hi Tina! I’ve actually been using the P50 in conjunction with other hydrating toners I’ve been testing, and it’s worked out really nicely. This toner is really more of a daily exfoliating treatment and the Benton toner is a hydrator, so I think they’ll perform well together. The order would be: P50 > BHA > wait 10-20 minutes > Aloe toner. :)

  4. Antje

    I have one more bottle of glow tonic and I had really hoped you don’t like this one better. The price difference is so significant that I am arguing back and forth. I am sure curiosity will win out eventually. Thank you for the detailed review and the sourcing options. I had halfheartedly tried to find an online retailer but gave up quickly because it was just too cumbersome. Thank you!
    PS: my Walgreens/Duane Reade sticks pepta-bright. Any chance you are reviewing that in the future?

    • Kerry

      Don’t worry, Antje! I don’t think the Pixi Glow would have been so underwhelming to me if I hadn’t been using P50 for the past 10 weeks. It’s not that it’s ineffective, it’s just significantly less potent. Also, I must say, the Pixi Glow smells infinitely better than either P50. :)

      I haven’t heard of Pepta-bright before! I’ll have to look that one up. Is it an acid toner too?

  5. This is a great comprehensive review! Especially for someone, like me, who hasn’t heard of this before. Thanks for including so much about Phenol!

  6. Alice

    With every review you post I love your blog even more. They’re informative without leaving me feeling lost. Would you be willing to share what your routine looks like currently? I buy things and then I’m never sure if I should use them together, what order, etc.

    • Kerry

      Thanks Alice! :)

      My routine is always changing since I’m constantly testing new products. At the moment, I’m trying out a few Hadalabo products, a couple of Su:m37 items, and a couple of Caudalie products.

      In terms of product order, thinnest to thickest is my general rule, but I make exceptions for products that are pH dependent, such as AHA or BHA treatments. I do plan on writing a post soon about building a skin care routine, which will include some information about what ingredients should and shouldn’t be used together.

      I’ll also be updating my baseline skin care routine in a couple of weeks, which are the products I go back to when my skin needs a break.

      • Alice

        Thank you for answering! I’m excited to see your post on how to build a skincare routine. My skin has been going through a lot of changes lately and I’ve found myself trying to “fix” things I had never worried before like PIH, sensibility to some products and hormonal breakouts.

      • ellie

        omg! just read you are trying out caudalié products. is the spray toner included? paula’s choice gave it a POOR rating so i was scared of continuing usage : ( its sitting in my med cabinet 98% unused

        • Kerry

          I haven’t tried any Caudalie toners yet. What’s the name of the one you have sitting in your medicine cabinet?

  7. charlotte

    Hi Kerry, very informative as always. So is this more of a preventive toner for pigment prone skin?

    • Kerry

      Hi Charlotte! Yes, I think it helps lessen the formation of hyperpigmention, but it doesn’t mitigate it completely, at least not for me. I’m extremely PIH prone though, so that’s a consideration. I think of that benefit as secondary to the improvements I’ve seen in my skin’s overall brightness, texture, and pore appearance. :)

      • charlotte

        Ok. I am battling some serious hyperpigmentation patches …so my current skincare routine is fixing that problem.
        So i guess this toner is more suited in maintaining my skin tone after I have cleared all my hyperpigmentation right?

        Yes, I second more post on sunscreen. Also, body care :-).

        • Kerry

          Yes, it would help maintain your skin tone. I think it would help your other hyperpigmentationproducts do their work more effectively too, since the daily exfoliation would improve product penetration.

          I am definitely reviewing a slew of sunscreens soon! :)

          • charlotte

            Okay, definitely ordering one now, love that it has lactic acid and Niacinamide. Here’s to getting my clear skin back :-).

        • Charlotte

          Kerry, order it and it has already been shipped. Merci.

      • Ami

        Thank you for the review Kerry! Can’t wait to try this.
        Charlotte-I’m battling with sunspots and hyper pigmentation also. Do you mind if I ask what is your skincare routine like and what products are you using? Thanks!

        • charlotte

          Hi Ami, Sorry for my late response, for some reason i didn’t get comments updates. I don’t mind and would love to help. Okay, just a background I have oily, acne prone skin and comedones, so I try and look for clarifying and purifying products. What skin type do you have?

          Additions you need to battle hyperpigmentation/sun spots:
          10% Glycolic Peel or Toner
          Brightening/whitening Serum (must contain 2 of these ingredients, Vitamin C, licorice root. arbutin (bearberry), Niacinamide, songi mushroom, lemon peel, resveratrol )
          5-10% Glycolic gel

          Based on my research I would have liked to add Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail cream and sleeping pack to boost my routine, but I am nursing and still researching on the effect of snail secretions. But you should research these products.

          This might be long :-) but here ‘s my current beauty routine:

          Morning: Gentle Cleanser (Fresh Soy Cleanser)
          Toner: Innisfree Juju
          Treatment: Avon 10% Glycolic Peel Pads (wait 15 – 30 mins) – I have been testing Dr. Gross Alpha Beta Peel,
          Essence: Skip
          Serum: I Image Vitamin C serum
          Serum: Advanced Skin care Niacinamide & Bearberry Face Serum – wait 10 mins(was using Sure white was great but got little break outs)
          Emulsion/Moisturizer: Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation (has Licorice)
          Eye Cream: Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng eye cream and teamine eye complex (if my eyes are puffy/eye bags)
          SunScreen: I Image SPF 50 (wait 15 – 30mins to deeply absorb)
          Finisher: Becca Perfector
          Primer: Too face Poreless fr oily/sensitive

          Night:
          Make-up Remover: Jojoba oil or Laneige lip and eye remover
          Oil Cleanser: Sulwhasoo Moisture Deep cleansing oil or Jojoba Oil
          Foaming Wash: Fresh Soy Cleanser with Avon cleansing brush
          Toner: Innisfree Juju (I wanna start using P50 here)
          Booster: Dr. Jart Cermindin Liquid
          Treatment: Neutrogena Acne Stress
          Essence: Missha First Treatment
          Serum: Missha Time Revolution Night Repair
          Serum: Rohto hada whitening Serum (wait 15 – 30mins to absorb)
          Emulsion/Moisturizer: Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation or Sum 37 gel lotion
          Oil: Camellia seed oil (great for anti-aging or winkles)
          Cream: Dr. Jart Cermindin cream or Amore Pacific Furture Defense Cream
          Eye Cream:Sulwhasoo Essential Rejuvenating Eye Cream (best I have found for dark eye circles)
          Treatment: Peter Thomas Roth Hydrating 10% Glycolic gel (very thinly on hyperpigmentation and sunspot areas)

          Let me know, if you wanna know the products I use for weekly treatment…yep still have more products than these :-). Also, I have a routine, I plan to use once my hyperpigmentation is gone.

          I got most of my skincare products from Sephora, Amazon, W2 beauty,and beautyKat

          Hope this helps.

          • Ami

            Charlotte, thank you so much for sharing your routine and products!
            I have combination, acne prone, blackhead, and sensitive skin. I didn’t have acne in my teenager years, it just start several years ago and continue to now in my late 20s. My skin doesn’t seem to like a lot if products so it’s difficult to find one that i can continue to use.
            I had try shiseido line but that broke me out so bad. I tried the tatcha line also and i love the rice enzyme powder but that seem to give me subclinical acne.
            Right now in the morning i use the whole benton line with paula choice bha liquid exfloit. In the evening i use missha first treatment, bha exfl, the ampoule and the master cream. I also use my own manuka honey and cucumer juice mask every night for 10 min. My skin seem to like fresh diy mask, it left my skin very dewy brighten and clean. Once a week i also use a clay mask and aqua d-tox peeling gel. That seem to help with my blackhead problem. But i still have one pimple here and there on my t zone especially my forehead and chin. Which i use tea tree oil for spot treatment. I don’t wear makeup so i dont use two step cleansing. I only use ceravae cleanser twice daily. At night i also do the tanaka facial massage while clean my face. I bought the ost serum but havent try it yet. My dermatologist also prescribe tretinoin A for me but i gave up using it since it didnt do much for me and if i start it again im scare of purging again :/
            You sure use lot of products! I’ll make sure to try some of your product for spot treatment on the sunspot. You also said you have different product for weekly treatment? Thank you for sharing :)

          • charlotte

            Hi Ami, I am totally happy help out and answer any questions you have. We need all need to get that glowy even skin, like Kerry’s :-)

            Your regular skin routine is very good. I would just suggest you add, SPF 50 sunscreen, use the vitamin C serum as this really prevents discoloration and guards against free radicals. And at night a serum that has rentinol or Niacinamide (this stuff is like botox).

            Since you are still breaking out after using Aha/bha exfoliation twice a day, I would like to suggest you test out some other options to see which one stops the occasional break out:
            Option 1. Rinse your face with warm salt water every evening before you apply your Aha/Bha, wait for 5-10 mins before applying any other products
            Option 2: Try a 5% benzoyl peroxide or AC Cure treatment at night

            For the weekly treatments: you basically do the same thing as I do in my normal skincare, clay mask ( I stream my face while the mask is on) , peel gels, and massage. I also use Dr/ Jart pore purifying sheet mask and skinmisso mask pack as I have really bad comedones in my nose and chin. Could you send me your mask recipe, I am really interested in trying that out.

            For to treat your hyperpigmentation/sunspots:
            I would suggest you try out Dr. Dennis Gross 14 day skin care kit (include peel pads and brightening serum) to see if it works for you but it really is good for super sensitive skin. Then put the 10% glycloic gel very thinly on the pigmented areas (if you decide to use the Dr. Gross kit, you will need to stop using the weekly peeling gel and skip the aha/bha when you use the Dr. Gross peel pads as the contain aha/bha as well, also use the brightening serum instead of the vitamin C for this routine)
            Once your sunspots/pigmentation has faded sufficiently for you, then you go back to your regular skin routine but add a serum with active arbutin (not more than 4%) at night, this will even out your skin tone in 2-3 months. I really like Rohto hada arbutin whitening Serum.

            I know I use alot of products :-), but this is not my normal skincare routine, I am using this routine for now cos I am battling hyperpigmentation (was 8 shades darker than my skin tone) and dull skin as well as my usual bad acne, blackheads and comedones.

            Do let me know how it goes.

          • Ami

            Charlotte,
            I do use sunscreen (ceravae with spf 30 or elta md spf 46 as recommend by Kerry in her blog). It just so hard to wait for other products to absorb before I can put sunscreen on in the morning. I’m always running late lol. I’m sure will try to buy some of the products that you use :) The mask that I use is pretty simple to make. I just grate about 2 in. of peeled cucumber and mix with 1 tsp of raw manuka honey, sometime I squeeze about 1 tsp of fresh lemon into it also. I use the round 100% cotton pad from target to absorb all the juice from that mixture, then gently pull off the layers of the pad to make sheets and apply it on freshly wash face for about 10 min. This really brighten my face and clean out my pore, especially the blackhead from the nose area. I know w2beauty sell the 5 layer cotton sheet also, I’ll have to get it with my next order from Alice. Let me know if you try the mask and how it turn out for you :) Can’t wait to update my routine now! Thank you for all the advices :)

          • charlotte

            I totally understand what you mean by running late. You know you can try Nature Republic – UV Lock Ultra Spray Sun SPF 50 (got it from W2 beauty) for days you are running late. It’s so easy to spray this in the morning, just before you leave home.
            Now, I have to add the 5 layer sheet to my list :-), will definitely try it this week, I am looking to clear pores. I will let you know how it goes.
            Thanks so much.

          • Ami

            Charlotte,
            I came across that mask on my search but i didn’t buy it. I’m not sure about the quality of those mask and it’s seem like it’s paper?and from china? My face is so sensitive so I’m always scare of what i use :/ I want to use 100% cotton or organic cotton. let’s me know how it turn out! I know there’s japanese brand call muji, but I haven’t try it yet. I didn’t want to pay the shipping fee hehe
            http://www.muji.us/store/health-and-beauty/skin-care/cut-cotton-layered.html

            Ami

            Amy

          • charlotte

            Amy,
            Yes, it is paper and ships from China. But that is a good point it should be 100% cotton. I saw some on w2 beauty will ask alice about it and will also view the link to the Muji ones.
            Hahaha..totally get you on the shipping, I subscribed for amazon prime.

          • charlotte

            Hi Ami, How is your hyper-pigmentation, is it getting better?

          • Ami

            Hi charlotte! How are you? How’s your skin now? After i follow Kerry’s update routine my skin got better but it just relapse last week lol i think i ate too many cream cheese wonton or i’m sensitive to the new shampoo i just bought. I have very tiny itchy dots on my face and around the eye corner too. Also pimple around the mouth area :/ so right now i have gone cold turkey on all products except the really basic benton line. My hyperpigment seem to stop it didnt get worse but not better. I want to try the peter thomas product you recommend but i just got the paula choice weekly treatment so ill wait and see. Do you have any HG product right now? It so sad that p50 doesnt agree with me, i have two sample bottle that i havent gone bk to try.

  8. I’m a new subscriber, but have really been loving your blog! I’m currently using Skinceuticals LHA Solution — which has glycolic, LHA, and salicylic acids — as my exfoliating toner, but I’m curious to try this out after I’ve used that up, because it sounds really good.

    • Kerry

      Hi Emy! I haven’t tried the Skinceuticals LHA before, but it sounds like something I’d be into. How do you like it?

      • It seems to be doing a decent job at keeping my skin relatively smooth from the occasional dry patches caused by Retin-A. However, I was using Alpha-H Liquid Gold before that, so I’m not sure if Skinceuticals LHA Solution is adding much oomph to my skin. However, I’ve been using it the same way I used Liquid Gold (2-3 nights a week). Maybe I should use it as a toner 2x a day to see more results. :)

        • Kerry

          I had to check out the LHA solution on the Skinceuticals site after you mentioned it earlier. They recommend using it as a toner twice a day – it wouldn’t hurt to try!

  9. Alissa

    That phenol stuff does not sound good, yikes! I’ve heard quite a lot about this product, so your review is very helpful indeed…but it seems like even in its new formulation, it might be too much for my skin. I’ve really backed off most acids for a while, as I think I overdid it and damaged my skin’s moisture barrier.
    I’m guessing you take a break from the PC BHA/AHA products while using this, correct?

    Thanks as always for your excellent reviews!

    • Kerry

      Hey Alissa! I can totally sympathize about the damaged moisture barrier. :( That used to happen to me somewhat freqently, especially when I first started using Tretinoin. My skin is much more tolerant of acids these days, thankfully.

      If you want to try the P50 after you’ve given your moisture barrier some time to repair itself, you could always start with one of the lower strength Lotion P50 formulas – the P50V or even the P50W. It might even be that the P50V or W is more ideal for skin type in general. Rescue Spa and Vicki Morav both sell travel sizes of all the P50 products. The price per ounce is a lot higher for those, but the investment is lower – $25 per bottle instead of $59 or $92. That way if f you decide to try one of them out and it’s still much for your skin, you’re only $25 in the hole.

      I actually use the P50 with the PC BHA (daily) and the PC AHA treatment (weekly). I haven’t had any issues yet!

  10. Victoria

    Phenol is the active ingredient in deep chemical peels, the ones that give dramatic results b/c they cause a second-degree burn. Do you know if it’s outlawed completely in the EU, or just for personal products? Of course the peels have a higher percentage of phenol. I wonder what the percentage is for the lotion since it’s high up on the ingredients list. Are you giving yourself a mini-peel when you use it since it burns?

    • Kerry

      Hi Victoria! That’s an excellent question. I’m not sure if it’s outlawed in clinical settings. I know that its banned in personal care and household cleaning products, but beyond that, I’m don’t know.

      I’m not sure what the phenol percentage is in the P50, but I imagine it’s fairly low, even though it’s near the front of the ingredient list. 1 – 1.5% (depending on your source) is the concentration threshold before skin damage occurs.

      Clinical phenol peels are much more concentrated (~16-50%) and mixed with other solutions to help it penetrate – usually some kind of water and croton oil mixture. Because the concentration is so low in the P50, and the formula is so different from that of a chemical peel, I don’t think it’s like a miniature phenol peel.

      That said, it is an exfoliating acid treatment, so depending on your definition of “peel,” you could possibly call this a a very light acid peel. I personally tend to think of peels as having an acid concentration of 15% at the very least, but that’s not based on any sort of official documentation. It’s just a perception I have based on the acid % I see for products labeled as peeling products. :)

  11. Meredith

    I’m so glad I read your review of P50. I’ve seen it mentioned loads of times on Caroline Hiron’s blog, but I could never tell the difference between the formulas and what they did. Now I really want to try it. Your analysis is extremely helpful!

    • Kerry

      I found Caroline’s blog in the process of researching this product a couple of months ago, and suddenly felt like I’d been living under a rock for not knowing about it sooner! I absolutely love her blog, as well as her recent YouTube videos. I appreciate a skin care guru that loves luxury.

      I’m so glad my analysis helped. Do you think you’ll be trying it anytime soon?

      • Meredith

        Yes, I’m so glad she’s on YouTube now! I bought the Pixi Glow Tonic after reading about it on her blog, so once I finish that I think I’ll try the P50. Now I kinda wish that Pixi bottle wasn’t so huge.

  12. Natasha

    Great review once again! I’m now tempted to buy this but dang it’s expensive. I have the pixi glow tonic but it made me break out so bad!

    • Kerry

      That’s a bummer about the Pixi Glow Tonic, Natasha. :( I wonder which ingredient it is that your skin doesn’t like. Are you acne prone in general?

      • LHTEXAS

        I experienced the same w/ pixi glow tonic and also i couldnt stand the smell. It smelled like overly perfumy and flowery, something my grandma would wear and the smell lingered. I stopped using it just bc of that.

  13. Great review! I’ve hard about these for years but I’ve been too scared from what I’d heard to try it (my skin can be quite sensitive and reactive). Now I think I’ll try the lowest strength of the newer formula. Thanks for the info! :)

    • Kerry

      Starting with the lowest strength sounds smart! Also, Rescue Spa and Vicki Morav both sell travel sizes of all the P50 products. The price per ounce is a lot higher for those, but the investment is lower. It’s nice because if you try it out and it’s still much for your skin, you’re only out $25 instead of $59 or $92.

  14. Wonderful, informative review – great as usual, Kerry. I noticed that these two have lactic acid AND niacinamide in them, which I find unusual… I always read that BHAs/AHAs and niacinamide would interact if applied on skin together and cause an unslightly ‘niacin flush’. Do you have any info/opinion on this?

    • Kerry

      Hi Lexie! What a great observation – it is true that Niacinamide can (but not always) react with AHA/BHA to cause flushing. Now that you mention it, I’m thinking the redness I experienced after using the P50 1970 original formula could have actually been a niacin flush and not irritation from the inclusion of phenol. If that’s the case, I wonder why I don’t have it with the new formula P50. Perhaps it has something to do with the difference in Niacinamide concentration? I’ll have to look into it! I love a good mystery. Thanks, Lexie! :)

  15. Betsy

    As a biologist in training, I shudder at the idea of putting phenol on my skin. It’s commonly used in the lab as an organic solvent, and it’s VERY powerful/dangerous. One of my faculty mentors was very nearly blinded in a phenol accident (his glasses saved his eyes, but his face was a mess for a while).

    Obviously the carbolic acid/hand soap kind is far less concentrated, but still. If I was going to get one of these, I’d get the new formula.

    • Kerry

      Oh my goodness! I’m so glad your coworker wasn’t blinded. That’s so scary!

      Thanks for sharing, Betsy. It’s great to hear some input from someone who has worked around the chemical.

      I’d add that in addition to omitting phenol, the newer P50 truly is a better formulated product, and therefore a smarter buy.

  16. kelly

    Just a FYI. You can also get the P50 and other Biologique Recherche products from Aida Bicaj spa. She is based in New York City in Manhattan. The web address is below.

    http://www.aidabicaj.com

  17. Erin

    I’m so happy to have discovered this amazing blog! What a great review.

  18. Jess

    I’m going to France next month and was wondering if the line is readily available from pharmacies or is it also only available from spas? Thanks.

    • Kerry

      Oh my goodness, I envy you! That sounds like a great trip. :D

      Biologique Recherche is not available in pharmacies in France. But you could visit the mothership and you SHOULD! And then tell me all about it! It’s located here: 26 avenue Champs Elysées, 75008 Paris, France

      I believe there is also a Guerlain boutique a few blocks away. You could make an afternoon of it!

  19. Lily

    Hi kerry! First time post but I’ve been following your blog for a while now. I emailed the shop rescue spa for more info on this product along with my current skin care and skin condition. Kim (the person who emailed me back) recommended me to use the Iribiol serum and Masque Vivant in conjunction since I’m looking to reduce my usage of 2.5% Benzoyl peroxide for my mild acne. I was just wondering if you had also tried those products as well. A little part of me feels like its a hook to spend more money than needed… But the products seem interesting.

    • Kerry

      Hi Lily! I have tried both of those products. The Iribiol serum is just okay. It’s a salicylic acid serum with a little zinc in it. I’m not sure what the BHA % is for it, but the results I saw with it weren’t as good as what I experience from my Paula’s Choice 2% BHA. Iribiol also contains SD alcohol as an ingredient, so that’s something to consider if that’s a concern for you.

      I really like Masque Vivant. It has some nice moisturizing and calming benefits. It’s a fermented yeast mask and it doesn’t have any added fragrance, so it smells really strongly of Marmite. I personally like the smell (it kind of makes me hungry), but a lot of people find it overpowering and weird.

      If you were going to add any additional Biologique Recherche products to your order, I would definitely recommend the Lait U cleanser.

  20. Ami

    Hi Kerry!
    I contacted 2 of the spas. I told them that I have acne prone, combination oil at the T zone, and sensitive skin. They both recommend that I try P50W 1970 and slowly increase to P50V 1970. But after what happened to you I really don’t want my face to get all red and burn like yours! Do you think I should try P50W of the new formula instead?

    Thanks!
    P.S I just read your morning routine update. You look gorgeous! I’m so jealous of your skin lol. Thank you for all the information!

    • Kerry

      Hi Ami! Yes, I would personally try the new formula P50W instead. I have a strong preference for the phenol-free version because it has a better ingredient list, the pH is a little lower (making the acids more effective), it’s less drying, and less likely to cause irritation. That said, a lot of people really love the original version with phenol – I imagine it gets recommended a lot because it has such a cult following. Maybe you could try a travel size bottle of each and see which formula you prefer?

      • Ami

        They don’t offer the P50W 1970 in travel size :( so I just order Lotion P50V 1970 and the new Biologique Recherche Lotion P50W from Vicki Morav since they have free shipping compare to Rescue Spa. Can’t wait to try these!

        • Kerry

          Ami, I would be really interested to know about your opinion regarding the phenol vs. non-phenol formulas once you’ve had a chance to try them both! :)

          • Ami

            I’ll keep you posted! I really hope my skin like it as yours did :)

          • Ami

            Hey Kerry! so here’s my update on the P50. The P50V 1970 was back ordered so I changed it to P50 1970 and P50W. For the first 2 days I used the 1970 and my face did turn bright red, but it toned down right away when I put on my Vit C and BHA. I didn’t really like the smell, my husband said I smelled like rubber whenever I used it lol. So I switched to the new formula and been using it twice daily, at the same time with PC BHA. For some reason if I use Vit C serum in the morning it will give me blackhead so I switched it and only use it for night time. I’m on my 7th day now and it really make my skin glow and shrink my pore size. oh I forgot to mention that I did got a purge phase with P50! Huge red angry closed comedones on my Tzone :/ I didn’t get flaking until the 7th days. I had assume that since I been using PC and tretinoin for a while, my skin will be ok but apparent not lol. So i’m planning to cut back on all the acids. I’ll be using the P50 once every other day and PC once a day. But overall I really like the new formula and will be repurchasing it, even though it smell like vinegar! So here’s my two cents, Beware, anyone out there who’s looking into trying P50, take it really slow and ease into it :D Use lot of moisturizer too!

        • Ami

          The ‘burn’ from the original formula doesn’t seem to bother me much. It wasn’t as intense as i had anticipate :)The new formula gives me an itchy tingling sensation for about a min or two. Since the new formula has better ingredient, i’ll be buying that once i use up the travel size. What surprise me is that with four HUGE pimples from purging my face is so smooth and bright!

          • Kerry

            Hi Ami! I’m so glad you like the P50! But although it is possible that you’re purging since this is an acid active, I’m curious about your breakout. Usually purging doesn’t manifest as “huge” pimples, so I’m worried that you may be having a reaction to the product. Are the spots in areas where you would normally break out? Are they cystic pimples or do they look more like whiteheads?

          • Ami

            Kerry, i really hope it’s just purging! I’m going to let my skin clear up and slowly start over. I had only use the 1970 for two days and nothing happened. The pimples show up after i switch to the new one. Cross fingers!

          • Kerry

            Fingers crossed, Ami! I hope it’s just purging too – and it could be – but it’s better to be safe than sorry! :)

  21. ellie

    can someone explain to me why i NEED COTTON BALLS for this toner? why doesn’t kerry use her fingers like for the other toners? : 3 couldn’t you rinse your hands after applying? cotton balls soak up too much product

    • Kerry

      Hi Ellie! I don’t normally like cotton pads either. The reason I don’t like using my hands for this toner is that it’s both very watery and very strong. The watery consistency makes it very difficult to get even distribution with my fingers, and when the product builds up in specific areas of the face, it can cause irritation from the higher concentration of acids in those spots. A cotton pad gives me more even distribution. Also, I would suggest round, flat cotton pads over cotton balls. The flat pads use less product.

  22. Ami

    Kerry, they are the same spot where i’m normal break out. They are cystic i believe. They’re more red and bigger compare to my normal ones.

    • Kerry

      Keep a close eye on that breakout then, Ami! :) Usually a purging breakout manifests as smaller whiteheads as opposed to cystic pimples. Do you remember if you started seeing them after the P50 1970 or the new formula P50? If they don’t start going away soon, or if you start seeing more of them, take a break and see if they get better. I would be really bummed for you if you were having a product reaction and kept using it without realizing that’s what it was!

  23. Amy

    Do you think the Lotion P50 could be sprayed on (if you found a spray top that fit the bottle, or decanted it) instead of applied with a cotton pad?

    • Kerry

      That’s an excellent question, Amy! I’m really not sure. I would be worried about it getting in my eyes, but if I were to try it, I would definitely pat it with my fingertips after spraying to make sure all my skin was covered. If you decide to try it with a spray bottle, let me know how it goes. I’m curious!

  24. Lailèe

    Hi Kerry ! First may I just start off by staying that your blog is absolutely brilliant. I have surfed the internet for quite a bit trying to find a comparative review of the two Lotion P50 formulas, and there I found your post along with the many others on this lovely blog. As a teenager who takes skincare very seriously it’s so wonderful seeing a blog devoted to it. : ) I actually had a question regarding the two different strengths of the toner you purchased. I have teenage skin and was wondering what your thoughts were on the lower strength formulas. My skin isn’t overly sensitive, but I am very sun senstive. I also don’t have acne ( thankfully ). Prevention for me is very important and from the looks of it Lotion P50 looks great for keeping spots at bay, and I’d like to keep my milia under control, so I was wondering what your thoughts were. Once again, your blog is so lovely, do keep writing.

  25. Kelly

    Hi Kerry,

    Could you please list the ingredients differences from the P50 (new formula) and the P50V (new formula)?

    I purchased the P50 (new formula) and have experienced redness around my nose and cheek areas. I figured maybe I should try a gentler formulation such as the P50V.

    Thank you in advance.

  26. Thank you for writing such an in-depth review, I was a little torn in between the new formulation without the phenol (because I’m paranoid about what it’ll do to my body in the long-term) so I was wondering if it produced as effective results. Now I’m really excited to get a bottle!

  27. Miriam

    I had to “join the discussion” because like I mentioned in other comments, I LOVE BR Lotion P50 New Formula! I have been using it for about a month now. It changed my skin in a matter of days. I stopped using it for a few days (I travelled without it…) and I could see the difference on my skin… I am now one of the many proud BR Lotion P50 followers!
    I have to say that I am also following most of the steps in your skin care routine, and it really works for my skin. Still amazed…! Thank U ^_^

  28. Mary

    Hi Kerry, what an amazingly good article you have written. I’m sending it to my friends to read as it’s so comprehensive.
    Please, if you have time may I have the ingredient list of the P50V (not 1970) and then I can compare it to your P50 list above.
    Also do you happen to know the % of acids in both the new P50 and the P50V please?
    All the very best to you and thanks for this great post.

  29. Jamie

    Hi there,

    I have been using the p50 1970 for a couple months and still have some hormonal breakouts. SO I deicded to buy Paula’s BHA from your morning routine and the snail serum. Will this be ok to use together with the p50 1970?

    Thanks

  30. Toni

    New to your blog. so amazing. great information!

    Have you tried P50V? if so what were your thoughts? also I read your informative post about the mantle, is there a reason you prefer the Cerave Foaming over Cerave Hydrating cleanser?

    Thanks!

  31. Maximumjack

    Thanks so much for this post. I’ve been using the P50 1970 for a year now and I always forget how great it is until I stop, even for a couple of days. I buy the small 1.7 oz. bottle from Rescue Spa for $20-something dollars and it lasts me 6+ months with morning-only usage (I use tretinoin at night) so for those of you concerned with the price, it ain’t cheap but a little goes a long way. Since the ingredients in the different formulations aren’t posted on the RS site, I didn’t realize how promising the newer phenol-free version is! It definitely seems like an upgrade with the addition of PHA and Malic (I have terribly discolored, sun damaged skin…), plus my skin gets red, too, like yours. I can’t wait to try the phenol-free version next time. Thanks again.