On January 26th, 2020, I finally did it; I got the Signature Facial at Rescue Spa, the fancy shmancy spa in New York City known for being one of the few places where you can purchase products by Biologique Recherche. Their $150 trademark facial uses only the exclusive brand's products, and I had recently started using their Lotion P50 at home with complicated results, so I was looking forward to asking Biologique certified esthetician Olga Smagina all about the vinegary-smelling liquid I'd been patting into my face twice daily.
The following is an in-depth description of my introduction to Lotion P50, Rescue Spa's Signature Facial and microdermabrasion, and the effects that both have had on my skin in the following weeks. Disclaimer: This facial was not gifted and this is not a promo. I'm not wearing makeup in any of these photos, although I wish I was in some of the more unflattering ones. Journalism!
Biologique Recherche is a French brand that was started by couple Yvan and Josette Allouche, a biologist and physiotherapist. Their son Dr. Philippe Allouche now runs the brand, which has been around for over 40 years. Lotion P50 is a chemical exfoliator with a cult-like status (it's been called "Jesus in a bottle") that is said to regulate your skin's sebum production, reduce dark spots, get rid of acne, and make your skin glow. Know this; it smells SO bad. The smell has been described as "rotten nail salon," horseradish, and vinegar. Glossier founder Emily Weiss, who swears by the product, once said that her boyfriend had started calling her "trash face" after she applied it. Needless to say, I had to try it, and by the time I found myself in the waiting room at Rescue Spa, I had been a trash face for a little over 2 weeks.
The first time I applied P50 (with a reusable cotton pad after washing my face), it did exactly what it promised it would; it burned. It wasn't unbearable and only lasted a few seconds, comparable to the feeling of putting salicylic acid on a pimple, but on your entire face. My skin turned red, something that has never happened to me when applying skincare products. When I followed with moisturizer (Stratia Liquid Gold) the burn was instantly soothed and my face felt super clean.
The next morning I ran to the mirror to see my new glowing face, but all I found was a cluster of little red pimples around my nose (again, never happens) and random white heads scattered across my face. Was this a purge? Was this perioral dermatitis? I checked Google and was relieved to find that many people experienced the same thing. I decided to push on—I had spent almost $100 on this freaking (full size) bottle of skin vinegar and I wasn't going to give up now. For the next few days my skin purged a little more until it stopped, and while I hadn't yet gone through 50 days of use (the amount of time they say it takes before you notice results, hence the name P50) my skin did feel really soft and clean. Glowing and breakout-free? Not yet.
Before the facial, two weeks into using Lotion P50
When I met esthetician Olga Smagina and told her about "the purge" and the slight burning I still felt when I applied P50, she reassured me right away. "Please continue," she said. She explained that in her 12 years of experience with P50, she'd never heard of skin that didn't benefit from it. She told me it sometimes takes a few weeks for our skin to get used to it, the purge was normal, but the payoff was real.
The signature facial starts with an in-depth skin analysis, during which Smagina told me my skin looked sallow (i.e. dull) and that I had impurities (i.e. blackheads). We decided to add on microdermabrasion for an extra $50 because I was there, it was already happening, and I didn't want to be dull anymore. The next steps of the signature facial at Rescue Spa are deep cleansing, toning, exfoliation, extraction, prescriptive face mask, intensive protective finishing creams and a bio-reflex face massage.
Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive procedure that reduces the appearance of hyperpigmentation, acne scarring, fine lines, sun damage and renews the overall tone and texture of your skin. The tool they use has a rough surface that essentially sands away the surface of your skin. It's not painful but it's not pleasant. She finished the procedure by removing all the dead skin, applying a Biologique Recherche product that set my face on fire for 5 seconds and then made it go numb, and then gave me a face-massage. When I looked at my reflection after all was said and done, I was very red. Glowing, but very red.
Moments after the facial
Ten minutes later
Before I left, Smagina told me it would be best for me to not wash my face or apply any products until the next morning. I decided that I wanted to see the results of this facial clearly, so I wouldn't be wearing any makeup for the next week. By the time I got home my face wasn't red anymore, and it was really shiny. I had a few scabs from extractions of closed comedones, but aside from that my skin was the softest it's been, possibly ever.
The next morning, my skin felt really smooth to the touch and was peeling off in some areas (which is normal). I noticed that I had a few pinpricks of blood on my jawline (also normal) and my skin seemed to be on it's way to recovery.
2 hours after the facial
The next morning
Was this facial worth it? Yes. If you're not sure, just look at this makeup-free before and after. The lighting on my face is slightly different (although both have natural light on overcast days) but I can see the difference every time I look in the mirror. Rescue spa is a beautiful space, the staff is friendly and professional, and I felt like I was in good hands. I've had cheaper facials at other chains in the city and I would say that this one is worth the price.
Is Lotion P50 worth it? For me, yes. I've been using it for around 4 weeks and I haven't had a breakout since the initial purge. I usually have at least 1 or 2 breakouts per week, but my skin has stayed clear. After I apply it my skin looks glowy, but I don't see a constant overall glow yet. A bottle costs about $90, which is a lot, but considering I only wash my face (with Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk or HoliFrog Superior Omega Nutritive Gel Wash) and moisturize, I can afford to splurge on one of a few skincare steps. If you don't want to dish out that much cash, consider another acid exfoliator like Pixi Glow Tonic, Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid or REN Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic.
Two days later
Three days later
Before the P50 facial
4 days after the P50 facial
Here are my tips if you decide to get a facial at Rescue Spa; tell your esthetician about your skin concerns. I have a small spot of dermatitis under my bottom lip that gets easily irritated and she mostly avoided the area.
I wouldn't get a microdermabrasion facial if you plan on going to an important event for the next week. Wait until you have a weekend that's free and a few days to recover afterwards.
After this kind of facial, and if you use Lotion P50, your skin has increased sun sensitivity, so it's more suceptible to sun damage and sunburn. Wear sunscreen with at least 30 SPF every single day (something you should already be doing).
Have you ever tried Lotion P50, or any other product by Biologique Recherche? Review it below and help the next person who is considering trying it.
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