Biologique Recherche Lotion P50V-1970 is supposed to be a gentler version of the brand’s original P50 formula from the 1970s; however, it contains several ingredients that are far from gentle! This is a surprisingly problematic exfoliant for anyone’s skin, especially those with dry, sensitive, or thin skin that this product is said to be best for.
Packaged just like all the other P50 Lotions in a translucent bottle with an opaque white cap, Lotion P50V-1970 isn’t a traditional lotion but rather a liquid. You’re directed to apply this at least twice daily using a cotton pad, sweeping up from the chest to the hairline.
With the exception of the original Lotion P50 1970 formula, this is one of the most problematic skin care products we’ve ever reviewed. This P50 formula contains phenol, an incredibly potent ingredient that exfoliates skin in a way that is much stronger—and thus much more irritating—than AHAs like glycolic acid or BHA (salicylic acid).
In fact, phenol is so potent and its potential side effects so dire (it readily penetrates skin and gets in to the body where it can present health risks) it isn’t allowed to be used in cosmetics in many parts of the world. We suspect this restriction has only added to the allure of Lotion P50V-1970. Phenol is carefully used for some medical purposes, including as an oral anesthetic and in some topical, potent anti-itch products, but it’s not a good ingredient to use for daily skin care—far from it!
One of the things phenol does that makes it extra-concerning when applied to skin is that it anesthetizes (numbs) it. That’s why it is sometimes used in oral medications to treat a sore throat. On skin, this action means you will be less able to tell when your skin is being irritated, but as we explain in More Info, skin can be good at hiding when it’s irritated.
None of this is about “reconstruction of the epidermal shield” as claimed; the formula is actually capable of breaking through this shield, which won’t give your skin the means to repair itself (instead, it’ll be working overtime to repair the damage from phenol).
Lotion P50V-1970 also contains the AHA lactic acid and BHA salicylic acid, but phenol is what’s doing most of the exfoliating. Given how little phenol is needed to exfoliate skin (we cannot stress enough just how strong it is), the amounts of the AHA and BHA ingredients are likely below 1%, not terrible for BHA but far below the 5% minimum AHAs like lactic acid need to exfoliate.
This exfoliant also contains vinegar, likely used to adjust the pH to 2.9. But vinegar’s acetic acid content promotes further irritation, not to mention the combination of phenol and vinegar gives an odor to this otherwise fragrance-free product that has been described by many as “formaldehyde-like”, and that’s spot-on.
We’re aware that this exfoliant and the other P50 Lotions have a cult following. Many people love these products, and they’ve been highly requested by our readers. That’s why we want to take this opportunity to tell you our conclusions aren’t based on personal opinion or our own experience but instead on what the research on these ingredients has shown to be true, for better and for worse.
Some of the ingredients are great for skin, no question, but since there are leave-on AHA and BHA exfoliants (including those rated four stars) from several other brands that deliver all of the benefits without irritating, drying ingredients, why expose your skin to unnecessary troublemakers?
Please, for the health of your skin, consider any of the options on our lists of Best AHA and Best BHA Exfoliants from several different brands and avoid this P50 formula. It simply isn’t worth the risk.
Note: This product is also sold in a 1.7 ounce size for $28 or an 8.1 ounce size for $101.
- Exfoliates skin.
- Fragrance free.
- Contains drying, irritating phenol.
- Phenol’s natural anesthetic effect masks how irritating it is.
- Exfoliates skin, but with significant trade-offs.
- Although no fragrance was added, the mix of phenol and vinegar isn’t appealing.
References for information on phenol:
Chemical Research in Toxicology, December 2007, pages 1,769-1,777
Journal of Investigative Dermatology, February 2000, pages 354-364
Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, December 1985, pages 476-490
References for information on vinegar/acetic acid:
The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, June 2015, page 50
mBio, March-April 2014, ePublication
Encyclopedia of Toxicology, 3rd Edition, pages 33-36
References for information on sulfur:
Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, May 2012, pages 32-40
CMAJ, April 2011, pages E430–E435
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, March 1988, pages 553-558
Irritating Ingredients: We cannot stress this enough: Sensitizing, harsh, abrasive, and/or fragrant ingredients are bad for all skin types. Daily application of skincare products that contain these irritating ingredients is a major way we unwittingly do our skin a disservice!
Irritating ingredients are a problem because they can lead to visible problems, such as redness, rough skin, dull skin, dryness, increased oil production, and clogged pores, and they contribute to making signs of aging worse.
Switching to non-irritating, gentle skincare products can make all the difference in the world. Non-irritating products are those packed with beneficial ingredients that also replenish and soothe skin, without any volatile ingredients, such as those present in fragrance ingredients, whether natural or synthetic.
A surprising fact: Research has demonstrated that you do not need to see or feel the effects of irritants on your skin for your skin to be suffering, and visible damage may not become apparent for a long time. Don’t get lulled into thinking that if you don’t see or feel signs of irritation, everything is OK.
Generally, it’s best to eliminate, or minimize as much as possible, your exposure to ingredients that are known to irritate skin. There are many completely non-irritating products that contain effective ingredients, so there’s no reason to put your skin at risk with products that include ingredients research has shown can be a problem.
References for this information:
Journal of Dermatological Sciences, January 2015, pages 28–36
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, August 2014, pages 379–385
Clinical Dermatology, May-June 2012, pages 257–262
Aging, March 2012, pages 166–175
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77–80
Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124–135
Food and Chemical Toxicology, February 2008, pages 446–475
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003, pages 789–798
The P50, P50V and P50W balancing exfoliators are the unique fruit of 30 years of reflection and experience. P50 balancing exfoliators speed up the epidermis' natural exfoliating process and the reconstruction of the epidermal shield. The fortified epidermis can then fulfill its protective functions completely, enhancing skin's self-regeneration potential. Lotion P50, our most famous and coveted product, is the keystone to Biologique Recherche skin care treatment. It is applied in the morning and in the evening. It gently exfoliates the skin, regulates excessive sebum secretion, moisturizes and helps maintain the epidermis' acid pH.
Biologique Recherche is a skin care line created by French husband and wife team Yvan and Josette Allouche, who are respectively a biologist and a physiotherapist. As the story goes, Yvan prepared skin care solutions for Josette’s patients, and the formulations soon became a word-of-mouth hit. In 1970, the pair started selling the products to dermatologists and estheticians, and a developed enough of a following that today the products are available in 70 countries.
The star product for Biologique Recherche is its P50 Lotion, which is an exfoliating solution. Nearly 50 years after its creation, it remains a top seller and has spun off variations for different skin types and concerns. While these products get exfoliation right – they feature proven AHA and PHA ingredients usually formulated at the ideal pH for exfoliation – they also include ingredients like vinegar, sulfur, and phenol which are harsh and damaging to skin.
Biologique Recherche range extends beyond their coveted leave-on exfoliants to also include cleansers, moisturizers, and serums, many containing pretty hefty price tags for relatively lackluster formulas. Nevertheless, this brand’s air of French exclusivity, limited availability, and devoted following of the P50 Lotion and spinoffs are enough to keep this brand at the forefront among beauty junkies around the world.
For more information on the brand, visit www.biologique-recherche.us.
About the Experts
The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.
Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.