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Everything You Need to Know About Biologique Recherche: The Magic of Lotion P50 and Why Heat and Silicones are “the Worst” for Your Skin

Dr. Philippe Allouche on the brand's approach to exfoliation, premature aging and more.
Biologique Recherche skincare tips

These days, almost every skincare company has an acid in its lineup. There's Pixi with its Glow Tonic, Glossier with its Solution, and Tarte with its Knockout Tingling Treatment, to name just a few. 

But long before the hype, Biologique Recherche was the OG brand to offer an acid-based skincare product. In fact, it's been around since the 1970s!

Of course, I'm talking about Lotion P50, the cult favourite exfoliating and balancing lotion that has been called "Jesus in a bottle." In case you're wondering, the "P" stands for peeling, and the "50" is for 50 days, or two epidermal cycles—the time it takes for it to transform your skin!

P50 was first concocted in 1970 by Dr. Yvan Allouche, a French biologist, for his wife, Josette, a physiotherapist. She started using it on clients and giving it to friends, and soon earned a following through word of mouth. That led to the creation of their company, Biologique Recherche, in 1977—for which Yvan came up with the formulations and Josette developed the application techniques.

Today, their son, Dr. Philippe Allouche, carries on his parents' legacy by heading up creation, innovation and research for the brand (which is now sold in more than 70 countries). With a background as an MD specializing in internal medicine, he takes a thoroughly holistic approach to skincare, using only the purest raw materials and rigorous treatment protocols.

Biologique Recherche Dr. Philippe Allouche

Dr. Philippe Allouche of Biologique Recherche. 

Dr. Allouche was recently in Canada to present the latest additions to the Biologique Recherche range, Lotion P50 PIGM 400 and Protection U.V.

I sat down with him to not only chat about the new products, but to also get his candid thoughts on everything from exfoliation to anti-aging. To find out what he thinks we should be doing with our skin, read on!

Let's start with Lotion P50, your most famous product. What makes it so special?

The P50 is a quite an active product. The one you have in Canada [Lotion P50T], because of the regulations, you get a very mild P50 which produces no reaction.

Is the original Lotion P50 still the best?

P50 was first done in 1970. In 2000, I found that it was too adverse. It was too challenging for the skin, along with environmental challenges and the fact that more women were going to the plastic surgeon and the dermatologist. 

So I developed a new Lotion P50, which is milder. But some countries want the P50 1970. For example in America, they like strong exfoliation, and we have a lot of clients from Eastern European countries, they love exfoliation. There is phenol inside it; it's one percent of phenol. It's not forbidden by the FDA but it is forbidden in this country [Canada]. We still keep it because you know, I have to go with the market as well. We just ask them to do three months of the 1970 and then go back to the regular one.

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 1970

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 1970

So you don't actually recommend P50 1970 anymore?

Not in Canada and especially not with the cold, the sun. You have a lot of [Fitzpatrick] phototype 2, 2A here, and extremely strong weather in summer and winter. It's a disaster for the skin. 

So it's better to go with the milder version. This is why we developed the P50T. The Lotion P50T you have here, it's the most healthy P50 that you can find on the market. It is probably the best P50 we have in the world. We developed a very mild P50 with no aggressive molecules, and there are a lot of antioxidants inside. It's suitable for extremely sensitive skin as well. 

Can all skin types use P50, or are there some people who shouldn't use it at all?

Some people cannot use P50. People who have extremely sensitive skin. This is why we developed the micellar lotion [Eau Micellaire Biosensible] as an alternative. 

Biologique Recherche skincare tips

Biologique Recherche Masque Vivant, Serum A-Glyca, Lotion P50T and La Grande Crème

How many versions of P50 are there?

We have different P50s in each category. For regular skin, P50 and P50 1970; for sensitive skin, P50W; and for aging skin, P50V and P50V 1970. Plus P50T and now P50 PIGM 400.

P50 PIGM 400 is the newest one. Who is that for?

It's the P50 for pigmentation. Pigmentation is a big problem, and it's because the skin is more sensitive due to all the problems we are facing in the environment and from the ozone. It makes your skin more susceptible to spots. You have the age spots and the solar spots. They are two different things. 

What is interesting with pigmentation is that we have a system where we can recycle the cells. The name of the cells are lipoproteins, and they are going through a special process where we can recycle the membranes of the cells. The lipids and the proteins of the cells can be reused to create new cells and new membranes. 

With the aging process, we lose that possibility to recycle the lipoproteins, and they become pigmented by the lipofuscin. This is why we have the age spots. Age spots are a demonstration of the slowing down of the whole metabolic process and the recycling process of our bodies.

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 PIGM 400

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 PIGM 400

How does P50 PIGM 400 treat pigment?

What we did with P50 PIGM 400 is make a different pattern, a different physiological path of pigmentation. We made a product that will not only boost exfoliation through the active ingredients of the P50, but also protect and recondition the epidermis to become fully functional. 

How should people be applying P50?

You're putting it on a cotton pad and you're patting, patting, patting.

Not wiping, right?

No. Maybe on your nose you may rub a little bit, because it helps to get rid of all the dust and the blackheads. But it has to always be gentle. You can even do pressure with it.

One hand is holding the skin, and the other one is patting the P50 [in an upward direction]. Actually, when you're doing your cream, you do the same thing.

Why an upward motion? Does that have to do with lymph drainage?

No, no, no, lymph, it's stupid. Sorry, but it's a stupid concept. The lymph, it's the blood. When you're working on a face, you're working on the water, inside the epidermis.

It's because of gravity and also you have what we call tension lines. Surgeons, when they make a suture, they go with the tension line. The tension lines are also extremely important for the way you apply your products. When you do movements, you do it along the tension lines. 

Langer's lines of the face

Langer's lines of the face (Photo: ResearchGate)

What do you think about all the P50 copycat lactic acid products that have come on the market, such as Glossier Solution and Tarte Knockout Tingling Treatment?

Nobody has matched it. We take five days to do the product itself. Five days! Can you believe that? The process is extremely complicated. This is why the product has never had a copy. They try, but they could not. It's a very special process. And it takes time—nobody wants to take time. We have the luxury of time.

It's definitely not like other acids.

No, because it's mild. It's two percent. Two to five percent. It's not 10. Ten becomes too much, it becomes a big exfoliator. Two to five, it's a moisturizer and it respects the sebum. It's not really an exfoliator.

It's not an exfoliator? How would you classify it?

Alpha-hydroxy acids have two possibilities. They have what we call a plastifying action. Plastifying means we are putting a lot of water into the epidermis. The second action is exfoliation. But it depends on the pH and the percentage of the hydroxy acid.

In P50, we have alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids and polyhydroxy acids. Polyhydroxy acids balance the side effects of the alpha hydroxy acids, and replenish the antioxidants. Nobody else does that. 

How important is it to use P50 twice a day?

It's very important to use it twice a day.

Can you overdo it?

What is important is to respect the sebum secretion. With P50, I think we really do respect the sebum flow. Sebum secretion is a great natural filter against UV.

Wait—sebum can protect your skin from the sun?

Yes. There is a lot of research done by different universities that shows sebum is a natural UV filter. It is also anti-germ, antibacterial. 

And there is a very special channel that goes directly from the follicles to the brain, which we call an endocannabinoid channel. Which is like weed. [laughs] It's to calm down. You see, when you are very stressed, what are you doing? You are making and secreting more sebum.

I thought excess sebum production was a cortisol response.

It is. A part of it is due to hormonal causes and cortisol. But it is also brain stimulation. You have to understand that the epidermis and the brain are of the same embryonic origin, so there is a subtle link between them. It can go through the follicles, it can go through the lipids, because you have similar lipids in the brain and the epidermis. 

Cold water is extremely important as well.

Right, I know that Biologique Recherche facials never incorporate steaming or hot towels. Why is heat bad for the skin?

First of all, we are about to get a very serious study about that so you will have your result soon, within two years. You can see how much the cold is important now, especially with athletes for reducing inflammation. And there are cold facials as well. We were probably the first ones to promote the cold facial. I don't want to be Mr. Big, but I did it 15, 20 years ago. Even my parents were saying, "You're crazy." I said, "No, I'm sure it's helping inflammation, it's firming the skin."

Steam is not good because you are unbalancing the pH of the skin. If you're raising the temperature of the skin, the skin becomes more alkaline. And if it is more alkaline, there's less exfoliation. 

There's also a higher incidence of rosacea these days. It's a big problem because you have extremely sensitive skin and sebum secretion and [dilated] capillaries. It's too many problems at the same time. We've found that steaming the skin increases the damage of the capillaries, making them more fragile and more likely to develop rosacea. 

Still today, you can go to salons and have your skin steamed like a lobster!

Do you think even daily showers are too much heat for the skin?

It's too much. I suggest to everybody to splash their face with cold water after the shower. That is what I am doing all the time.

You can also use an ice cube. Put the product on and put the ice cube on the tension lines, on the wrinkles. But quickly. It's great.

We even have special spoons [the Cryo-Sticks] that reduce heat in the facial.

Biologique Recherche Cryo-Sticks

Biologique Recherche Cryo-Sticks

Why do Biologique Recherche facials never include extractions?

It is too harsh. The extractions are something terrible. Even if it's done with tweezers, it's not good. We prefer ourselves to go very slowly and progressively with the P50 and slight exfoliation to get rid of the blackheads. We can clear them, but we need three weeks.

You're able to clear them up in a slower way.

A more respectful way. Definitely.

My skin became clearer when I stopped using silicones.

Of course!

What do you think of silicones in skincare?

We don't use silicones. Silicone is not a moisturizer. It makes an effect but it is not a moisturizer. First of all, it's too oily. It's saturating the lipids on the top of the epidermis and having a bad, reverse effect on the sebum secretion. It's blocking it. It is the worst.

I mean, even I was using silicone a long time ago when we didn't have anything else. But we found out in a study that it is one of the worst things for the skin.

Throw the products with silicones in the garbage. Don't even talk about them! No, no. [The companies using silicones] can do something else. If they want to go into skincare, they have to be serious. It's not just a question of selling products. We don't put things from the oil industry into the products for the face. This is crazy. Enough! Enough! [slams table]

Do you think companies use silicones now because there is a perception that oils are bad for the skin?

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From The Skincare Edit Archives

You know, everybody was against lanolin because lanolin can create allergies. But for the people who don't have allergies, lanolin is great! It's full of sebum, it's full of very nice lipids that you can use in a product. I don't use lanolin anymore. But for years, it was in the Crème Dermopurifante. It was the best cream we had. The best anti-acne cream. It was 25 percent lanolin and beeswax.

Biologique Recherche Creme Dermopurifante

Biologique Recherche Crème Dermopurifante

What do you use now instead of lanolin?

All different kinds of fatty acids. We're sometimes using wax from plants. There's a lot going on with the brand—we have a very nice, generous spirit in this company, all the PhDs I have working around me.

What's your process for creating new products?

We have a very special approach. We have a "criticize committee." When one of our PhDs is doing a cream, we gather everyone around and we are all critics. We are worse than you guys [the media]. "Your cream is not good, why did you put that in it?" And we criticize all the raw ingredients. "Where is the efficacy? No, we are against the way you did this!"

If it survives that process, it's a good product. We are probably the toughest people for selecting raw materials. I am a disaster for the whole industry. Nobody likes me.

You've just come out with a sunscreen, Protection U.V. Was that a difficult product to create?

You know what the difference is between Canada and the other countries for UV products? This is the hardest country in the world to get UV registration. Even tougher than South Africa and Australia. 

It's also more complicated [to get approval for] natural filters. The synthetic filters are something like a $28 billion industry worldwide. Nobody will ever drop that business. That's a big problem. 

Biologique Recherche Protection UV

Biologique Recherche Protection U.V

Do you think chemical filters are bad for the skin?

They are unstable, yes. And if the skin is sensitive, it is more likely to have a problem with them. 

The problem is also endocrine disruption, we know that. And they are a huge pollutant—destroying the reef, destroying the species that are eating the reef, some fish and some vegetal species. And they are going to coat the lakes as well. There's really an environmental danger with these filters. 

We understand that it's better to protect the skin than not protect it, for sure. But everybody should find something different to the filters that are polluting all the rivers and oceans.

Which filters did you use in your product?

We're using titanium dioxide and zinc oxide—micronized filters, not nano. Nano is banned around the world. The idea is to coat the skin and reflect the sun rays. The only problem is, [these filters] give the white clown face that is not so good. But there is no adverse reaction.

So we used botanical filters along with the mineral filters. We didn't go through registration for those yet; it will take 10 years to do that if we succeed. There is no product with only botanical filters. If somebody comes on the market today and says they're only using botanical filters, it's not true. Even ourselves, we are very specialized in sun protection and we could not do it. We had to add mineral filters.

What are the botanical filters?

We're using two different botanical filters. Karanja oil is from Brazil, and has great potential. And we're using rice bran extract to decrease the inflammation on the skin. They're not like mineral filters, which are white. But we can't solely use botanical filters because they're not regulated. 

I noticed the zinc oxide content is pretty low. Were you able to use less zinc because of the botanical filters?

Because we could balance it with the botanical filters. We don't want you to become all white. And you'll see, the product is not at all whitening. It's not greasy, not at all. I think it's quite a breakthrough formulation.

On top of that you can go in the water; it's waterproof.

It's an SPF 25. Why isn't it higher?

With this kind of product, you cannot reach more than SPF 25. But at least you have a safe product.  

SPF 50 doesn't protect the skin more than SPF 25. It's a question of time. When you have SPF 25, you need to reapply the product twice as often. When you're lazy, you're don't have to reapply the SPF 50 or SPF 100, but they are full of chemical filters because you cannot reach that SPF rating with minerals. Well, you can but you will be totally white, which is not great.

What new products are you working on?

We are at this moment working on a very special spray that you will spray on top of all your products to make the sun protection. It's for when you're going into the sun, not for everyday protection.

What do you find people want to treat when they come for Biologique Recherche facials?

What are they asking for? It's not [to treat] wrinkles anymore, like in the '80s and '90s. Usually it's two things. Sagging and pigmentation spots. For the fine or deep wrinkles, they do Botox and fillers. They all do that. 

Biologique Recherche facial

A Biologique Recherche facial treatment

Are you against injections?

I'm not totally against Botox really. Fillers, there's no problem with that. 

How do your facials address sagging and pigmentation?

We developed different techniques for spots and for the contour; we are very good for that. It's not as dramatic as when you're doing an injection, of course. But you know, some women don't want to have an injection. It's risky and it doesn't stay forever, the filling effect. We give an alternative to deep wrinkle injections. The aim of the treatment is the structure of the epidermis.

What does that involve?

I work a little bit on the skull, we do some different pressures on the skull. It's a little bit of bioenergy as part of the treatment. It's complicated. Then I will use boosters with very special techniques. We also work on fascia therapy, which is working on the muscle itself. It's an integration of very serious techniques.

What are some of the topical treatments you apply during a facial?

Do you know what a vernix is? This is the wax you have on top of the newborn baby. During the first 24 hours of the baby's life, the skin is not mature yet. This is why Mother Nature created the vernix, to help the maturation of the epidermis. 

I created a biosimilar vernix to help the regeneration of the epidermis, to have better and stronger skin. The vernix is an extremely potent moisturizer. We have also added peptides to help with skin exfoliation and rebuilding. 

I do a lot of products that are biosimilar. We create our own peptides as well; we have a very expensive machine that can create customized peptides.

Biologique Recherche Creme Masque Vernix

Biologique Recherche Crème Masque Vernix

What about the "second skin" part of the treatment, the Seconde Peau, where they apply the patches that dissolve on contact?

It's a biomaterial, hyaluronic acid. We have a 3D printer to do that texture. It's not new in the industry, but what is new is that we use 85 percent very low molecular weight hyaluronic acid. 

It's medical grade and not usually used by the skincare industry. I developed that technology to use in different work, for burn patients. I decided to also use it for skincare. The idea is to rebuild the small wrinkles and some deep wrinkles, or to regenerate after plastic surgery or laser treatments. 

What would you say is the very best anti-aging treatment?

I hate anti-aging, first of all.

What do you hate about it?

We all have the natural resources inside our bodies for anti-aging. We have everything to fight against the aging process. The only problem we have is signs of premature aging. Aging too early because of the stress. Because of the outside. Because what we are doing on the skin.

What would be an example of harmful things people are doing to their skin?

Lasering your skin, especially when your skin is thin, is a danger. It's so thin, and then it's bombed more easily by the free radicals.

It's more vulnerable.

Of course.

What would be your advice for someone who wants to prevent premature aging?

You know what? I say this with all humility, but there's no magic bullet. It's whatever you do in your diet, or your relaxation, even the massage. There was a Mayo Clinic study where they found out that massage was creating positive hormones in the brain. Massage itself! Can you believe that? It's creating a very nice environment for the brain, which is vulnerable to cellular stress.

So facial massage is good.

Facial massage is good, body massage is good. The diet is important.

What do you recommend for diet?

Full of antioxidants. Well, everybody says that. I'm not a specialist in diet. You know, I'm good in skin, I'm not good in diet. Look at me!

Believe me, there are very simple things you can do. With the cold, avoiding heat; with the patting, not rubbing; and having a facial at least once a month.

At least once a month?

Once every epidermal cycle. 

We also know that with chemotherapy for cancer, they need to be active participants in their treatment. So in skincare, they also need to be active.

They need to be invested in the process.

They can't be like, "Do it for me!"

You also have to change your treatment at least every three months. Because otherwise you're always doing the same stimulation to the cells.

That's why you go for regular facials.

They reassess your treatments, they readjust it, they change it.

Biologique Recherche facial

A Biologique Recherche facial treatment

And then just be consistent with the right skincare at home.

And not too harsh exfoliation, or too often. 

Do you think most people are too harsh with their skin?

Yes, yes, yes! To tell you the truth, I'm not crazy about exfoliation. I like the soft exfoliation. 

The fact is, people do too much exfoliation and create extremely sensitive skin, with rosacea. I'm not talking about doctors. I don't want to criticize them; usually they know what they're doing. But I see beauticians who are scraping the skin and they don't understand what they are doing! Especially in North America. If you put exfoliator on thin skin, this is totally ridiculous. 

And all these machines that people do with the scrubbing, the microdermabrasion, the Clarisonic. This is crazy. CRAZY! That's enough exfoliation. It's totally unnatural. 

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