If you've been reading here for while, then you've no doubt heard me mention Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 about a million times.
The cult-favourite exfoliating toner—which has been called "Jesus in a bottle!"—is the reason why I've become such an advocate for regular gentle acid exfoliation.
I first started dabbling with it when I managed to score a sample back in my magazine editor days (it wasn't even sold in Canada at the time). When the brand finally landed here in 2014, I was ecstatic to have a readily available supply, so I could finally commit to their recommended twice-daily application. And... WOW. I can't think of any other topical product that will make such rapid, dramatic improvements to your skin.
So you can imagine my alarm when, a few months ago, this reader's email landed in my inbox:
Dear Michelle, I was told today that, by the end of the month, P50 will no longer be available in Canada. Something to do with Health Canada deciding that the pH is too low. I gather that the entire Biologique Recherche line will be pulled, too. — Melanie
Our favourite acid toner has just been reinterpreted, as Lotion P50T.
What is Lotion P50T?
It was specifically created for countries, such as Canada, that require skincare products to have a certain minimum pH.
I tracked down the regulations in question, from Health Canada's new Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist (published December 2015):
The gist of it is that consumer products are only allowed a maximum 10 percent alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) concentration, with a minimum pH equal to or greater than 3.5. (For professional use, up to 30 percent concentration is permitted, with the same minimum pH.)
As for the AHAs, they don't disclose the exact percentage, but do say that P50T contains "slightly less," in order to reach the higher pH level.
Lotion P50T Ingredients
The good news is that Lotion P50T contains all the same exfoliating ingredients we know and love:
- Alpha-hydroxy acids: Specifically, lactic acid (derived from milk sugars) and citric acid (from lemons and oranges). The activity level of AHAs can vary, depending on how concentrated they are and the pH of the formula. In Biologique Recherche products, the molecules have a high acid ratio and low salt—which means they are both exfoliating and hydrating.
- Cider vinegar: Created from fermented apples, cider vinegar contains citric and malic acids. Thanks to its high tannin content, it also has purifying and astringent properties.
- Beta-hydroxy acid: Salicylic acid is naturally synthesized by certain plants, such as willow, and has an anti-inflammatory effect. Compared to AHAs, it penetrates the pores more easily in order to dissolve dead cells that may be causing obstructions.
- Poly-hydroxy acid: Gluconolactone is present in honey and fruit juices. It's a less penetrative exfoliant than AHAs, but also less irritating.
But it's not just the acid exfoliating agents that make the product great. Here's what else is in there:
- Niacinamide: My favourite ingredient for fading skin pigmentation also has an anti-inflammatory effect that can help with acne.
- Horseradish, burdock and capsicum extracts: The horseradish has antibacterial properties and can help regulate sebum production. Capsicum is purifying and antiseptic, while burdock is moisturizing, healing and calming. Burdock also has the unique ability to balance combination skin, hydrating dry zones while purifying and regulating oily areas.
- Magnesium chloride: It has healing, antiseptic and sebum-regulating qualities that can hep with acne and eczema.
- Arnica extract: It has a soothing, protective and anti-inflammatory action.
- Natural moisturizing factors: These are ingredients, such as urea, lactates and sugars, that mimic the substances found in healthy skin.
Here's the full ingredients list for Lotion P50T:
Ingredients (Lotion P50T): Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Sodium Gluconate, Niacinamide, Propylene Glycol, Lactic Acid, Magnesium Chloride, Vinegar (Acetum), Citric Acid, Cochlearia Armoracia (Horseradish) Root Extract, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Capsicum Frutescens Fruit Extract, Serine, Urea, Allantoin, Sodium Lactate, Sodium Salicylate, Sodium Benzoate, TEA-Lactate, Sorbitol.
The only thing I don't love is the propylene glycol (which is derived from petroleum). It wasn't in the brand's original formula, Lotion P50 Original "1970," which you can still buy in some countries.
Who Can Use Lotion P50T
Unlike its predecessors, ALL skin types can use Lotion P50T. The brand specifically states that it is safe for:
- Sensitive skin (because of the proportion of acid, and the soothing arnica extract);
- Oily skin (because it helps regulate sebum production and purifies the pores); and
- Dehydrated skin (because of the high humectant content and natural moisturizing factors).
Before, you had to go through a "skin diagnosis" with a Biologique Recherche rep to determine which version of Lotion P50 would be best for you—and they'd almost always start you on the mild one (P50W), with the intention that you'd work your way up to a stronger formula later, if your skin could handle it.
I assume they're still doing the diagnosis thing, but now, there's only one choice.
I know you're wondering how it compares to the others, so let's talk about that next.
Lotion P50T vs. Lotion P50
We know that ALL chemical exfoliators require an acidic environment in order to be active.
Lotion P50T, with its pH of 3.5 to 4, is still considered acidic on the pH scale:
However, it is the mildest version of Lotion P50 that Biologique Recherche now makes. The brand doesn't disclose this, but I understand the other versions have pH levels that are between 2.5 and 3. Here's a quick overview of those:
Lotion P50 Original "1970"
The original formula—and in my opinion, still the best. It was never sold in Canada, due to the phenol (a numbing antiseptic that has some safety concerns).
Ingredients (Lotion P50 Original "1970": Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Phenol, Niacinamide, Vinegar (Acetum), Ethoxydiglycol, Magnesium Chloride, Lactic Acid, Arctium Lappa Root (Burdock Root) Extract, Salicylic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Sulfur.
The phenol-free version of the original formula, targeted at normal to oily, thick skin. This info's not from the brand, but I understand it has a concentration of 12.85 percent AHA.
Ingredients (Lotion P50): 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.
A vitamin-enriched formula for normal to dry and mature skin types. It contains ingredients that help lighten discolourations.
Ingredients (Lotion P50V): 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.
This used to be the mildest version, for sensitive skin. Again, this isn't from the brand, but I read that it has an AHA concentration of 9.3 percent (so new P50T would be even lower than that).
Ingredients (Lotion P50W): Water (Aqua), Gluconolactone, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Propylene Glycol, Lactic Acid, Ethoxydiglycol, Magnesium Chloride, Malic Acid, Vinegar (Acetum), Phytic Acid, Citric Acid, Quillaja Saponaria Bark Extract, Cochlearia Armoracia (Horseradish) Root Extract, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Capsicum Frutescens Fruit Extract, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Sulfur, Allantoin, Sodium Salicylate, Serine, Urea, Sorbitol, TEA-Lactate, Sodium Lactate, Sodium Benzoate.
Lotion P50 PIGM 400
UPDATE: There's now a second option for us Canadians besides P50T! This new formula is specifically formulated to help fade existing pigmentation, as well as prevent it from appearing in the first place. I'm guessing the pH is the same as P50T (if not higher). There's also a higher concentration of niacinamide, and the new additions of mandelic acid and botanical extracts.
Ingredients (Lotion P50 PIGM 400): Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Niacinamide, Sodium Gluconate, Lactic Acid, Sodium Lactate, Lactobacillus/Wasabia Japonica Root Ferment Extract, Magnesium Chloride, Mandelic Acid, Phytic Acid, Citric Acid, Gluconolactone, Magnesium Sulfate, Propylene Glycol, Palmaria Palmata Extract, Levulinic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Sodium Salicylate, Spiraea Ulmaria Extract, Vinegar (Acetum), Sodium Levulinate, Phenoxyethanol, Alcohol Denat., Microcitrus Australasica Fruit Extract, Prunus Persica (Peach) Leaf Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Ascorbic Acid, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract.
How to Use Lotion P50T
The directions for use haven't changed:
Step 1: If you're new to acids, start by dampening a cotton pad with a bit of water. (Shiseido Facial Cotton are my faves!) The water will dilute the acid until you become accustomed to it. After the first week, you can use Lotion P50T on dry cotton pads.
Step 2: After washing your face, apply a few drops of Lotion P50T to the pad, and swipe it across your face, neck and décollatage.
Step 3: If you find it too strong, you can spray your skin with a face mist after a few moments, to neutralize the acid. Otherwise, simply leave it on your skin and continue with the rest of your regimen.
Do this twice a day, on bare skin after cleansing (and before moisturizing).
And don't forget to use sun protection, as AHAs increase sun sensitivity.
Lotion P50T Results
The first thing I noticed is that Lotion P50T feels less "tingly" on the skin. Even though it has the same exfoliating ingredients, it's unfortunately not as strong, which I had anticipated.
BUT... I haven't noticed any negative changes in skin quality, which is the important thing!
Some of the benefits you can expect (and that I have experienced myself):
- Brighter, more even skin tone
- Fewer acne breakouts
- Less oil production
- Gradual reduction in pore size
- Fading of pigmentation
- Softened appearance of fine lines
Of course, I'd love to still be using the 1970 formula, if I could get it (and maybe I'll try to track it down on my next overseas trip!). But I'm satisfied with Lotion P50T—it's doing the same work of gently sloughing off skin cells, to keep my skin exfoliated, fresh and clear.
Although it's definitely possible to see similar changes in your skin from regular use of other AHA products, I think Lotion P50—no matter what version you get it in—is pretty special.
No other exfoliator has such a unique and effective ingredient mix. You rarely see lactic acid anywhere, which is my AHA of choice because it's safer and gentler than glycolic, and almost everyone can tolerate it. I also adore niacinamide for its pigment-targeting action. Bottle those up with a blend of antiseptic and anti-inflammatory botanicals, and you've got an absolute winner.
The bottom line? When people (like me) say that P50 is life-changing, they're NOT kidding. If there's one skincare product I'd encourage you to try, this is it.
Where to Buy
Find the Biologique Recherche line in Canada at:
- One2One Studio in Toronto
- La Chambre des Dames in Montreal
- Bren's Skin Care in Manitoba
- Little Spa in Vancouver
In the US, try Rescue Spa.