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I Got a Facial at Biologique Recherche in Paris—The P50 Lotion They Used Makes My Skin Glow Like Nothing Else

It’s not every day you find yourself breezing through Jardin du Luxembourg on your way to get a facial at the iconic Biologique Recherche Spa in Paris. It was a treat—in honor of a big-deal birthday I was celebrating en vacances with a friend—but also an appointment that I’d booked with extra urgency given the feeling that advancing in age called for a more advanced skincare routine.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m no stranger to investing in beauty products. But I wanted a timely assessment, conducted by the best of the best: A French aesthetician. After all, it takes nothing more than a quick stroll around Paris to find yourself desperate for the skincare secrets of the women who live there. Their smooth complexions, minimal makeup and skill at playing up their natural beauty tell me that there’s either something in the water or they know something we don’t.

That said, Biologique Recherche (which just opened an L.A.-based location) is also a cult favorite brand that’s beloved by French women. After being told it’s one of their best-kept secrets by a French friend, I was more than ready to get their credible take on my skin. (It didn’t hurt that the Ambassade I visited, which sits along the Southern bank of the Seine, looked like it was straight out of a movie.)

After my treatment, my skin actually glowed. I went makeup-free for the rest of the day and willingly posed for pics with my friend. It was our final day in Paris, so we dined al fresco, drank wine and gave up sleep and still, my normally-dehydrated skin remained flawless. I was thankful that before departing the boutique, I had gotten the product rundown from my beautician. Of all the products she recommended investing in, she said the one with a special je ne sais quoi (my words, not hers) was the P50 Lotion.

Here's why she was absolutely right.

Biologique Recherche

What is Biologique Recherche’s P50 Lotion?

It wasn’t until my birthday experience in Paris that I finally heard about the famed P50 Lotion, but according to my friend and travel partner, the stuff is pretty much skincare gold. It’s actually more toner than lotion, designed to help balance your skin barrier and boost the efficacy of whatever else you layer on top (moisturizer, serum, oils, etc.) P50 is also an exfoliant you can use a few times a week to slough away dead skin cells, resurface your complexion and maximize hydration.

Keep in mind, there are a variety of P50 Lotion formulas.

The OG P50 1970 is the strongest version available and it’s designed for skin that’s accustomed to exfoliating ingredients like lactic and salicylic acid. (It also contains phenol, which is controversial in the skincare world, so the brand also offers a phenol-free version, simply called P50.) Depending on your skin type, there’s a full range to choose from. My skin is sensitive and dry—and tends to overreact to acids—so my aesthetician recommended P50W, a gentler version meant for acid beginners that contains all the same superstar ingredients like vinegar and horseradish, but in a milder concentration. Just what my complexion needed.

How P50 changed my skincare routine.

Pre-Paris, I exfoliated a couple times a week, using an oil-based cleanser and a pulsating brush to free debris from my pores. It was alright, but no P50. The magic of P50 is that it removes my skin’s dullness (a miracle in the winter months) and tightens my pores at the same time. I swipe it over my face and neck using a clean cotton pad morning and night a few times a week before layering on my regular products. Twice a week, I layer on a Biologique Recherche moisturizer/mask called Crème Masque Vernix afterwards and my entire complexion feels brighter. My friends have even noticed. At a recent dinner with a couple of pals from high school I hadn’t seen in a while, they couldn’t stop talking about my skin. (They texted immediately after demanding links to P50.)

It’s worth noting…

­Some reviewers say that temporary redness and tingling can occur upon the first few uses. I didn’t experience this, but I think that’s because I went with the milder formula. It’s also hard to find in the U.S. and on the pricier side. I shelled out 100 euros (about $108 USD) in Paris for 8.4 fluid ounces. Again, the results went beyond anything else I’d tried, so I felt it was worth every penny. Still, this is a splurge.

Do I feel like I’m aging backwards? Kind of.

Truth be told, I’m very much the type of person who owns her age. My four-year-old loves to humorously count the wrinkles on my forehead and I love to laugh along. In other words, I’m not fazed by looking older. That said, I am happy to have discovered a product that erases signs of stress and dehydration and bolsters the results of my other skincare products.

Bonus points: Every time I apply it, I feel like I’m being whisked back to that dreamy spa experience in Paris. Oh la la.

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