Biologique Recherche P50: Liquid Gold

A cult classic for a reason.

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 is a cult skin-care item that is frequently called Jesus in a Bottle. The French skin-care brand was launched in 1977 by a biologist and a physiotherapist, Yvan and Josette Allouche, who set out to create a science-backed beauty product that would rebuild the surface of the skin. The result, Lotion P50, is a liquid exfoliant that approaches skin sloughing in three ways. “Controlled, soft, and progressive,” says their son, Dr. Philippe Allouche, who is now the company’s research and creative director.

Lactic acid, niacinamide, salicylic acid, and phytic acid all work to deliver a glow gently, yet extremely effectively, hence its reputation. The fact that it smells unpleasant—due to the inclusion of apple cider vinegar—can be looked past because the results of Lotion P50 speak for themselves. The product exfoliates, regulates oil production, and balances the skin’s pH.

Apart from updating the original P50 formula to remove phenol, which is now banned in Canada and the EU, not much has changed in the more than five decades it’s been around: the manufacturing process still involves five days of stirring, and the branding is the same as it was when launched. In an industry where everything needs to look good on a top shelf, Allouche has no intention of a package refresh. “Why should we do that?” he says. “It’s what’s inside. It’s enough for us.”

The Biologique Recherche product range is well over 100 SKUs, but the Lotion P50 is really the one that people obsess over.

Photography by Carl Ostberg.