I've reached a point in my skincare journey where asking myself, "is this supposed to make my face feel numb?" is a thing that happens - more specifically, two weeks ago. *rolling my eyes at myself* I took it upon myself to buy a sample of Biologique Recherche P50 Lotion 1970 because 1) why not? 2) why not? I'm not exaggerating when I say that this product has a cult following - and once I fell into an internet rabbit hole of glowing reviews for it, I couldn't not try it.
My skin is, in one word, annoying. In high school I suffered from minor breakouts and uneven texture but for the most part, I never felt plagued by acne. By my senior year I felt like I had control over my skin, and while I was still a teenager with bad sleeping habits and not-the-cleanest makeup brushes, things weren't so bad. It was when I started college, though, when my skin started becoming more problematic. Hindsight bias tells me that this was probably in part caused by me wanting to experiment with weird natural remedies (i.e. grapeseed oil as a moisturizer and frequent yogurt masks) and adopting 'cool girl' French approaches to beauty (i.e. cleansing with only micellar water). But (!) I was just trying to find the products that were right for me.
I've gone through bottles of Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate, a tub of First Aid Beauty's Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration, one and a half bottles of Josie Maran's Argan Cleansing Oil, and a few of Lush's Celestial Moisturizer - just to name a few. My skin would respond well to some of these products but never consistently. Then when I studied abroad my junior year of college, I felt the most self-conscious I've ever felt about my acne. I came home the end of May and went to the dermatologist for an eczema flare on the back of my legs (h0t) and figured while I was there, to ask my derm about what we could do about the unwelcome pimples on my face.
I brought in a shopping bag full of the products that made up my skincare routine to my next appointment, most of them from Kiehl's, and basically none of them made the cut. The causes behind my problematic skin were hormonal and comedogenic. To be clear, you can suffer from comedogenic acne even if you always wash your face before bed - because I did. So I scrapped (stored away) all of the products that were clogging my pores and switched to using a gentle Cetaphil like cleanser in the morning, a benzoyl peroxide cleanser at night, followed by a light moisturizer and benzoyl peroxide lotion for problem areas. I wasn't supposed to wear makeup during the day, but because I happened to be starting an internship (ironically) in the beauty department of a major women's magazine, I did anyway.
My skin started to clear up, not dramatically, but enough to notice a difference. But my new routine was phase one of my dermatologist's acne regimen; tretinoin gel was the second. Tretinoin is a type of retinoid/vitamin A (you often hear about the anti-aging benefits of retinoids) that boosts skin's cell turnover. All of this equals brighter and clearer skin. But to make room for the better version of your skin to come through, tretinoin gel has to push out all of the gunk that's in there already. Needless to say, things got worse before they got better; think more pimples and flaky skin that made it harder to cover up those pimples.
About three months into my new routine, my skin's texture started improving but for every week of 'clear skin,' I would have a subsequent two weeks of 'bad skin.' It was a mix of stress from school, lack of sleep, and hormones. But I couldn't get over the fact that I treated my skin well - better than people I knew who had clear skin - so why didn't I get to reap the benefits of that?
I began to incorporate a few new products into my arsenal. Replacing Cetaphil with Glossier's Milky Jelly Cleanser, and adding Kate Somerville's ExfoliKate (I had a few samples from the beauty closet), and May Coop's Raw Sauce into the mix. Then I started reading into liquid exfoliants, because my skin never responded well to being scrubbed and tugged, and bought my first bottle of the Paula's Choice CLEAR Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution with 2% Salicylic Acid. I loved this stuff. But I felt like I had to order a new bottle every month and when I passed the three-month mark of using it, that it wasn't making as big of a difference as it was at first.
I wanted to find a liquid exfoliant that was going to keep my skin clear and help fade the scars that I had just gotten from picking at two painful cystic pimples. Two days after I started using tretinoin gel for the first time in about three months (because I changed insurances and didn't want to have to pay over $100 for a refill) my skin looked awful. So I decided to google the name of this fancy French skincare brand that is only sold in an online store of a spa in Philidelphia (?) and order an overpriced sample of its cult followed product. Until recently, I didn't like the idea of buying products for acne prone skin because I felt like they were always too drying and too harsh. Biologique Recherche Lotion p50 has acne fighting ingredients in it, yes; but it's a multi-functional product.
The Biologique Recherche website describes their lotion p50 series as "balancing exfoliators [that] speed up the epidermis' natural exfoliating process and the reconstruction of the epidermal shield. [It] gently exfoliates the skin, regulates excessive sebum secretion, moisturizes and helps maintain the epidermis' acid pH." There are six versions of this toner, each formulated to benefit different skin types, but I went with the original formula: the p50 1970. The original one contains phenol, an antiseptic, that smells very strong and will make your face feel numb after initial use. It might seem crazy that you're supposed to use this product everyday. I thought it was prior to actually reading the instructions and realizing that you're supposed to rinse with a gentle cleanser after application.
My verdict on this is that as someone with sensitive and combination (on the drier side) skin, this product hasn't irritated my skin or aggravated any of my past skin woes. I've never had my face feel so smooth or clean after cleansing. I had a small hormonal caused breakout yesterday but other than that, my skin is clear. I'm only wearing makeup to cover up scars from my post-tretinoin breakout. My sample size is about halfway done after two weeks of use. I'll likely order the full size of this next week but might opt for the newer formula because it doesn't contain phenol. The downside is that it's going to be a pricey buy, like annoyingly so. Fortunately, I don't spend a lot on make up to counter my expensive skincare habits.
I think the p50 lotion amplifies the ingredients of the products I use after it - which are the Fresh Soy Cleanser, Origins' Original Skin Essence Lotion, and Dr Jart's Ceramidin Cream.