For years, I avoided using products from French brand Biologique Recherche® — specifically, the hero acid exfoliating lotion, P50 1970TM;. Skincare obsessees rely on BR because it’s one of the more “active” lines out there. This means the product formulas contain active ingredients that drive results on skin, such as the aforementioned exfoliating acids.
My skin is sensitive, so I was nervous to test the waters with anything that delivers burn-your-face-but-make-you-glow results. Plus, up until recently, I was pretty satisfied with my selfies thanks to the bounce of twenty-something skin. Eventually, I blew out 30 candles on my birthday cake (and then 31, 32, 33 . . .), and my skin started showing more signs of aging. There was a delicate line etched across my forehead, a little less bounce in my cheeks, and an overall dullness shadowing my complexion.
There’s a level of mystique around BR. It’s not readily available — typically, you need to go to a spa and have a pro recommend specific products for your skin type. You won’t find it at the mega beauty chains (Sephora®, Ulta®) or department stores. And BR spas are not widespread either; in fact, I can only count three locations I know of in NYC that offer the brand’s treatments. That said, the label has still amassed a devoted following. It’s a name often whispered by models, celebrities, and makeup pros when describing their skincare routines.
So, finally, after hearing countless beauty editors sing the praises of Biologique Recherche’s anti-aging benefits, I caved and tried one of the famous bespoke facials at Rescue Spa℠ in NYC. Who was I to pass up something so rare? Much to my surprise and delight, my skin did not react negatively to the P50 1970 or any of the products used on my skin. I left a convert and soon stacked my bathroom cabinets with BR products. This year, I was invited to the I was invited to the Garden of the Gods Resort and Club℠ in Colorado Springs, C.O., which happens to be a Biologique Recherche mecca. I jumped at the chance to be back on a BR-trained esthetician’s table.
There, I met Rebecca Johnston, the executive spa director and lead esthetician at Strata Integrated Wellness Spa at Garden of the Gods Resort and Club. She gave me a two-hour facial that left my mind relaxed, skin lifted, and face looking radiant — even in the dehydrating Colorado air. I also learned a ton of insider secrets about the BR brand and way of taking care of the skin.
“A Biologique Recherche facial is a non-aggressive approach that quite specifically builds better skin,” Johnston explains. “Why so popular? Quite simply, it really works! It began as an ‘outside the box’ brand and continues to innovate. I didn’t start using BR until I was 54. I can honestly say that 15 years later, my skin is healthier than it was in my thirties. My skin was ‘younger’ then, but not healthier.”
If this sounds relatable (it was for me!), keep reading to learn exactly what happens during a BR facial. And expect a handful of savvy skin tips along the journey.
You Book an Amount of Time, Not a Specific Facial
The way we are all used to booking facials is to review a spa menu and choose the best option for our complexion needs. Don’t be shocked if you don’t have those preset choices for a BR treatment. “Many BR practitioners schedule time rather than a specific facial name,” explains Johnston. “The skin is ever-changing, even within a 24-hour period, and we really are that specific!”
When you put down your credit card for these luxe treatments, you’re not only paying for time with the esthetician, but also his or her analysis of your skin and a bespoke treatment plan.
“I do a very extensive intake for each new client,” Johnston says. “I know their specific concerns and what challenges [they] might have from a lifestyle standpoint. From the first touch of their skin, I know quite a bit. From there, the skin pretty much tells me what needs to be done. We might be working on a specific goal, like preparation for a wedding or special event, but by and large, I want my clients to look their very best every single day.”
The Facial Is Steam-Free
I remember my very-first facial in college (late-night pizza and “jungle juice” cocktails were not keeping acne at bay). At the old-school spa I visited, the esthetician heavily steamed my face to help open pores before extractions. While this is an effective method to detoxify the skin, it can also cause inflammation — especially for those who are sensitive.
“No heat or steam is ever to be used in our facials,” says Johnston. “I recommend no heat on the face at all. Also, watch the amount of heat you subject your body to. If your body is hot, so is your face! [After] hot baths, saunas, and showers, you must cool your face immediately. Or, even better, wrap a cold towel around your neck while indulging.”
Though there was no heat used in my BR facial, it did end with cold therapy, specifically cryotherapy balls gently massaged over my skin. “Our iced stainless steel facial spoons further reduce any inflammation,” Johnston notes. Try this at home by keeping a jade roller or gua sha in the fridge, and use it to gently massage in your favorite face serum when you feel a bit puffy.
[Editor’s note: If you take blood thinners, talk to your doctor before using a gua sha or roller tool.]
Face Scrubs Are Also Banned
When Johnston assessed my skin, she noted it seemed to be thinning (I’m 34 years old, which is a bit early for this to happen). She blamed my addiction to bi-weekly face scrubs in the shower.
“There are signs of developing sensitivity, and, [since you live in] NYC, environmental assaults on your skin are a given,” she warns. “I suggest you focus on calming and gently regenerating topicals.” She also encouraged me to use skincare that offers environmental protection, explaining that in addition to outside factors (sun, wind, cold, heat), we are also subjected to “inside pollution.” This is manifested in the form of computer screens, cell phone exposure, fragrances, cleaning chemicals, stale air, and more. Sunscreen is one of the best blockers for this type of pollution and free radicals.
Bottom line, Johnston says, “Never scrub your face. Gentle exfoliation (think P50) will reward you many times over.” Let’s explore this more: to exfoliate the skin, Johnston and other BR estheticians rely on the brand’s hero product, P50 1970 Lotion. (Read my extensive review of it here.) The toner-like liquid contains a medley of potent acids and ingredients (such as salicylic acid, lactic acid, and cider vinegar) to essentially eat away dead skin and inspire better cell turnover. The philosophy is that when you exfoliate skin properly with products (re: those with these types of acids), you won’t need to do it topically to get that fresh-faced look and feel.
“It’s the ‘stinky’ liquid we all love, love, love,” Johnston echoes. “Nothing will make as big a difference on your skin than P50. And, of course, it is incorporated in every facial.”
Serums, Lotions, and Boosters Are Key
As mentioned, BR is known for offering highly active ingredients. “Our serums have the highest concentration of actives in the market,” Johnston boasts. That, combined with a vast range of formulas, is the recipe for custom-facial success. We’re talking 25 serums, 25 creams, and 15 masks, which can be cocktailed for your skin type or concerns.
“In the treatment room, the combinations we can create are almost endless,” Johnston enthuses. “Every face is different; every lifestyle is different; and every facial should, therefore, be unique.”
There are also a host of boosters, Johnston adds, which can be chosen for specific, added benefits. “Boosters have intense, immediate, and oftentimes, lasting effects on the skin,” she says. “Since our focus is always on the health of the skin, every single step of the facial — from cleansing to boosters to masks — would be considered part of an ‘aging-well’ program.” Again, this leads back to the concept that BR facials are super customizable.
Your Face Will Be Intensely Massaged
While lymphatic drainage and facial massages have been gaining popularity thanks to the rise of at-home face rollers and new spas focused on this technique, it’s been a part of the BR facial DNA before it became a trend.
“Lymphatic techniques are incorporated to make sure not only the surface, but also the tissue itself is cleansed and that fluid movement is activated,” Johnston explains, noting she typically spends 20 minutes kneeding the face. “Our massage prepares the muscles for the lift that is apparent with every BR facial.” She notes that the neck, back, and shoulders are also massaged and relaxed, so fluid can drain down and away from the face.
Even the way famous P50 1970 is applied incorporates this massage technique. “P50 is pressed into the skin, always moving upward and out, following the muscles,” Johnson notes. “I press slightly at the end as close to the hairline as possible.” Her final party trick involved giving my mouth a good squeeze. She calls this the “pouty lips” massage — and it lived up to its name.
Cutting-Edge Skincare Gadgets Are Used
In addition to powerhouse ingredients, an array of high-tech gadgets are incorporated during facials. These machines assist with BR’s overall mission to sculpt the face, as well as help the formulas seep deeper into the skin.
The first device she used was the Biologique Recherche Remodeling Machine. Johnston calls this device (which offers intense electro-currents via squishy pads rubbed around the face) the “secret weapon.” For the record, it doesn’t hurt — but I did taste metal in my mouth, and felt a warm pulsing sensation. “Using three different currents, I penetrated serums selected for your skin and worked for 20 minutes lifting, refining, and sculpting,” she explains. “Working muscles and tissue, we achieved a lift and what has come to be known as the Biologique glow.”
The second was Aria LETTM; (Lymphatic Enhancement Technology). “I discovered this machine about five years ago and believe it is one of the best procedures I can do for the face,” Johnston says of the gadget, which includes two wands that help with lymphatic drainage. “Using noble gasses and negative pressure, we increase oxygenation of the skin and gently influence the lymphatic system to move, cleansing the skin internally.”
What You Do After Your Treatment Matters
Johnston describes what you can expect after a BR facial: “Immediately, you should have calm, hydrated, lifted, and glowing skin. Pores and wrinkles are minimized, and the skin is smooth without irritation. You should enjoy the lift for around seven days (depending on the character of your skin when starting), although for many, it lasts longer.”
That said, getting a BR facial isn’t a one-and-done deal for a flawless face: You have to be diligent about your skincare routine at home. “Think of face work in much the same way as you would exercise,” Johnston says. “Would you go to the gym once and expect the results to last months and months? No, we have to have consistent input for the skin to rebuild.”
She typically recommends weekly treatments for six to eight weeks before tapering off. According to Johnston, the minimum treatment schedule is once a month. “Each cell in a healthy epidermis will take about a month from birth to sloughing off, so with a monthly treatment cycle, every cell in the epidermis will have been treated at least once,” she explains.
If the dollar signs are adding up in your head and making your eyes bulge, know that you can stretch out treatments a bit longer. Even if you can just do it every three months, it’s better than nothing. Investing in your skin is a commitment.
How you take care of your skin at home also adds up. “Parallel to the treatments is the necessity to have a fabulous homecare regimen,” Johnston notes. “Treatments without great homecare just doesn’t make any sense at all — 80 percent of the success comes from consistent, well-planned home care.” This routine extends to the neck and décolleté. Not sure where to start? Many BR clients (including me!) walk out of their first appointment with a bottle of P50 1970 in hand to help them kickstart a new routine. It’s one of the fastest-working products — in my opinion — to deliver tighter, fresher skin.
Johnston also reminds clients not to skip cleansing twice a day. (“You need more than water!” she adds.) And, of course, “Wear SPF every day,” she advises. “It is as necessary as brushing your teeth every morning regardless of where you live or how much time you spend outdoors.”
Finally, Johnston believes that nutrition and lifestyle are just as important as products and treatments. “I can see and feel stress on my clients’ faces,” she explains. “Those who have pursued a clean and healthy diet (interpret that as little to no sugar along with general nutritional awareness) have better skin. Sugar breaks down collagen and elastin.” She advises to eliminate sugar, other “white” products (like white bread), vegetable oils (corn, safflower, canola, etc.), and artificial sugars. “Drink lots of water, eat fresh food, sleep, and limit your stress,” Johnston adds. “You are halfway there!”
Complimentary treatment was provided to the author for the purpose of writing this article.