This Toner Stinks But It Will Change Your Life

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Biologique Recherche P50Photography by Daisy Walker, Set Design by Phoebe Shakespeare

The original exfoliating solution that resets all of your epidermis’ bad habits

From the niche new beauty brands doing something different, to the industry’s evergreen icons, Sophie Bew opens up AnOther’s dream vanity in a new series...

  • Who should use it? Anyone who hates blemishes and loves hydrated skin... so, er, everyone?
  • How long until I love it? Two long months.
  • How planet-friendly is it? Short answer please! The bottles are plastic but recyclable and excess packaging is kept to a minimum, sans cellophane. Animal cruelty is EU standard and the brand is a founding member of Oceano Scientific-Sport research association, which aims to protect the oceanic environment. 
  • How do I use it? Steep a cotton pad (or two if you’re feeling fancy – one in each hand) and then press around the face – the active ingredients penetrate better. And be sure to use SPF!

With the punishingly vinegary pong of Biologique Recherche’s P50 lotion, also comes its pleasure. Like the last series of crunches at pilates, pressing the astringent juice onto cleansed skin feels at once stingy and deliciously worthy. This exfoliating toner engineered back in the 70s, boasts a potent combo of hydroxy acids that comprise a true skincare pioneer – we’re talking all kinds of AHAs, BHAs and PHAs (these separately penetrate different layers of the skin in order to remove dead skin cells and sebum) like lactic acid, malic acid, citric acid, salicylic acid, as well as a cast of crazy characters like cider vinegar, sulphur, horseradish, magnesium chloride, sorrel and onion. In short, it stinks. It is the original exfoliating solution. 

The Paris-founded facialist brand recommends using the product for two full epidermal cycles (approx 50 days, hence P50) before expecting to see results. That’s two loyal, slightly irritable, months. I’d given up half-heartedly using this toner at least twice before but the hype was too much to bear: I gave it one last shot. After 60 days of nightly usage I was unwittingly hooked. A sebum regulator and PH rebalancer, it cured my like-clockwork monthly hormonal breakouts and left me with comment-worthy plumper, dewier skin; it was suddenly clear that not only did this product work, it made all my other products more effective too. My skin was drinking everything up, and retaining it too, like never before. In case proof were needed, when my bottle was empty the breakouts returned – like clockwork.

It’s admittedly tough stuff but there’s a P50 for everyone. I use P50W (for sensitive skin) and even this left my cheeks occasionally red in the first weeks but it soon corrected itself. Then there’s the original P50 – stronger, for oilier skin (the very first used the now-banned phenol, found in mouthwash). P50V is for dry skin and P50 PIGM400 specifically tackles skin tone and pigmentation. It’s fussy too: you can’t use it alongside retinols, nor other exfoliants as the combination would be deemed too harsh (though I do take one day off a week to use an enzyme exfoliant – don’t tell). But if the above isn’t testament enough, once the two months were through, I gladly handed all nine of my beloved – and expensive! – retinol items to my mother. She was thrilled.