Ahhh, the famous Lotion P50 by Biologique Recherche. I’m a sucker for anything that WORKS. Even if it’s crazy expensive ::whimpers:: (And even if it involves needles and anesthesia. Thankfully not at that point yet.)
After years of seeing this pop up in various articles and blogs (Emily Weiss, Caroline Hirons, Kerry at Skin & Tonics, and Sheryll at The Wanderlust Project)–all with glowing (haha, get it?) reviews–I finally decided to try it out for myself.
There’s a little mystique surrounding P50 due in part to the (perceived) inaccessibility, but there’s no reason for it. It can be easily ordered online. In this post, I summarize:
- the SIX(!) different versions of Lotion P50
- where to buy Lotion P50 online in the U.S.
- my phone consultation with Rescue Spa and Vicki Morav salon
- which versions I ultimately decided to buy and why
Differences Among the Six Versions of Biologique Rercherche Lotion P50
In the U.S., six versions of this cult classic exfoliating toner are available. (The ones I’ve purchased are in bold.) 2017 Update: Late 2016, Biologique Rercherche released a SEVENTH version called P50 PIGM 400 for hyperpigmentation.
- P50 1970
- P50V 1970
- P50W 1970
First, the versions are available in either the original “1970” formula containing phenol or the phenol-free “new formula.” But as Skin & Tonics explains here, the difference isn’t just the phenol; the new formula has significantly different ingredients and is a lower pH. Both Skin & Tonics and Caroline Hirons think the new formula works better, although the phenol in the 1970 formula is responsible for the trademark burning sensation loved by many a devotee (and which scares me).
Second, within the “1970” and “new formula” categories, the product is available in 3 strengths: P50 (full strength), P50V (medium strength, with vitamins and for older skin), and P50W (gentlest strength, for sensitive skin and active acne).
At the bottom of this post, I’ve typed out the ingredients of the 3 versions I ended up buying. Also see this photo for the differences in a nutshell; it doesn’t align exactly with what I’ve read from various sources and been told by Rescue Spa and Vicki Morav salon, but it gives you a sense of the differences.
Where to Buy Biologique Rercherche Lotion P50 Online in the U.S.
P50 isn’t widely available. Online in the U.S., you can find it on the websites for Rescue Spa and Vicki Morav. (Elite Skin Care also came up in a Google search, but I haven’t seen much about experiences with that site.) At each site, you must create an account in order to see the prices and order the products. Vicki Morav has free shipping for orders over $35; Rescue Spa has free shipping on orders of $100 or more. Both are reputedly generous with the free samples.
Rescue Spa & Vicki Morav Phone Consultation (Optional but Helpful)
I called both Rescue Spa and Vicki Morav for a consultation on which version of P50 would be appropriate for my skin. Interestingly, neither spa asked about my experience with exfoliators or skin sensitivity. I told both that I have dry skin in the winter and normal skin in the summer and that my concern was leftover red marks from acne.
Rescue Spa also asked for my age and whether I was pregnant or breastfeeding (1970 formula isn’t recommended if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding). Vicki Morav clarified whether I had any active acne (I don’t but if I did, the woman on the phone said that I would have been recommended the P50W). The woman at Vicki Morav said that I could use P50 even though I’m currently on tretinoin (I asked), but note that the P50 label instructs not to use P50 while using retinoic products.
Both consultations took 5 minutes or less. At the end, Rescue Spa recommended P50 1970. (Its website says that this version is the “most effective and most commonly used.”) Vicki Morav recommended P50 New Formula.
Biologique Recherche Lotion P50: Which Versions I Bought & Why
I ended up buying the versions recommended by Rescue Spa (P50 1970) and Vicki Morav (P50 New Formula) in addition to P50V New Formula, which Skin & Tonics has said is as effective as the full-strength version but gentler. Even though I’m no stranger to at-home chemical exfoliation (occasional glycolic acid peel, semi-regular use of acid toners and treatments), I wanted the V version to ease into the world of P50 or in case the full-strength versions got to be too much.
I bought them from Vicki Morav’s website, where they’re $27 for 1.7 oz., $61 for 5.1 oz., and $94 for 8.4 oz. I purchased them all in the smallest size so that I could try different formulas and because they’re carry-on size. Also, I don’t exactly go through toners like donuts, so three 1.7-oz. bottles should last me many months.
Vicki Morav included 5 (5!) samples of Biologique Recherche’s Masque Vivant. Rescue Spa claims, “If you do Masque Vivant at least twice a week you’ll never age.” Renee and I tried this out, and it lived up to its reputation of being effective…and smelly (see our review of Masque Vivant).
As for the Lotion P50, I’ve just started using P50 New Formula twice a day after regularly using the P50V for three weeks. Stay tuned for full reviews of all the P50 Lotions after I’ve had a chance to try them all!
And yes, they do smell. I haven’t tried the 1970 formula yet, but the new formula smells like intense fermented vinegar. BLECH! Mercifully, the odor fades quickly. They are also definitely potent, stinging mildly and turning my face red (usually just the center) for half an hour after application.
Feb. 2016 Update: As I discussed in this post, I stopped using P50 because they were too potent on my skin, especially when I’m using tretinoin (prescription-strength retinoid) at the same time. So I can attest to their effectiveness at (over)exfoliating but not to long-term effects on hyperpigmentation and texture. The 1970 formula smells strongly like an industrial-strength band-aid and has a cooling, tingling, burning sensation–but not in a painful way. The sensation subsides within minutes. As with the new formula, the 1970 formula leaves skin red temporarily.
Lotion P50 1970 Ingredients:
Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Phenol, Niacinamide, Vinegar (Acetum), Ethoxydiglycol, Magnesium Chloride, Lactic Acid, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Salicylic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Sulfur.
Lotion P50 Ingredients:
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 Extract, Rumex Acetosa Leaf Extract, Myrtus Communis Extract, Comniphora Myrrha Resin Extract, Allium Cepa (Onion) Bulb Extract, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Flower/Leaf Oil, Sulfur, Sorbitol, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate.
Lotion P50V Ingredients:
Water (Aqua), Gluconolactone, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Lactic Acid, Ethoxydiglycol, Vinegar (Acetum), Magnesium Chloride, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Phytic Acid, Spongilla Lacustris Spicule Extract, Yeast Extract (Faex Extract), Cochlearia Armoracia (Horseradish) Root Extract, Capsicum Frutescens Fruit Extract, Juglans Regia (Walnut) Seed Extract, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Sulfur, Sodium Salicylate, Salicylic Acid, Sorbitol, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Metabisulfite, Sodium Benzoate.