Vanity + Wearables

Lotion P50, I love you.

Lotion P50 1970 -

A little over two years ago, Anna Beth told me about a miracle skin care product she’d been using, Lotion P50. Because Anna Beth is one of those people who appears to be aging in reverse, I assumed it was made from unicorn placenta and crushed diamonds, and immediately set out on a quest to learn more about the magical elixir she promised would give me the skin of a fetus while causing only mild, temporary facial paralysis.

I read a whole bunch of articles about the stuff that night, most of them promising an intense tingle that would follow applying Lotion P50, with the added warning that one could also feel as though their skin were burning off of their face. Temporarily. As a member of Generation Sea Breeze, I’m inherently convinced that if I can’t feel a skin product working, it’s not actually doing anything. Gimme that tingle. Gimme that burn.

There are a number of Lotion P50 formulas available, which is really confusing. This extensive article at Skin & Tonics is super helpful—it decodes the various formula names, and explains what the various ingredients in each are and what they do (and how they smell). More recently, Into The Gloss did a simplified write-up that’s a good place to start if you’re unsure of which formula you want.

And yes, I chose the one Into The Gloss refers to as being “for masochists”: Lotion P50 1970.

I admit the whole process of getting to the point of actually making face-to-liquid contact felt a little scary. Aside from all of the warnings about possible allergic reactions and restrictions on certain ingredients in various countries (fortunately, Americans are free to coat both their faces and throats with carbolic acic—they don’t call this land of the free and the home of the brave for nothing, after all), the website I ordered from, Rescue Spa, doesn’t display prices for their products with out creating an account and logging in. I’m sure there’s a reason for that, but it all seemed shady as hell and I felt like maybe I was actually selling my soul or joining a cult? Both of which would be totally OK with me if it meant my skin would look good, but I hadn’t even used the stuff yet, you know?

But it all went fine. Rescue Spa’s service is great, in fact—fast shipping, nice packaging, and a bunch of free samples in the box. Prices for Lotion P50 1970 range from $27–$98, depending on bottle size. If you’re not sure which formula you should order, you can contact Rescue Spa and they’ll help you figure it out.

But does it work? And do you still have skin?

LOTION P50 IS THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD. Or at least it’s the best thing I’ve ever put on my face. And yes, I still have skin. It does burn, and the first few times I used it, I really did feel like my face was on fire. Now, though, I look forward to the sensation! I’m sure part of it is that my skin has become accustomed to it, but it really just feels good now. I like the brief numbness that follows, too.

Results were immediate. My skin felt softer and smoother right away, and the next morning, my face was glowing and hydrated. The longer I’ve been using it, the more I love it. My skin is far less prone to dullness now, and I don’t get dry patches anymore. My skin feels balanced, and it looks clean and fresh. I had already gotten breakouts mostly under control with Retin-A and Aczone, but Lotion P50 has taken that to another level. There’s a smoothness and clarity to my skin now that I’ve never had before. Makeup applies soooooo nicely now, and lasts longer, too. I’ve run out a couple of times, and it’s not pretty—my skin almost immediately goes back to looking dull and drab.

Some notes:

I apply Lotion P50 after washing my face, morning and night, using a cotton pad. I like Muji Cut Cotton—I separate it into layers, and because it’s so thin, it doesn’t soak up too much of your product. I use exactly six drops of Lotion P50 every morning and every night. That’s the minimum amount I find I need to cover my whole face and neck. Some people like to dampen their cotton pad with water first to dilute the Lotion P50 a bit, but I don’t feel that’s necessary for my skin. I did start out using only once a day because I was nervous about irritating my skin, but by week two, I was using it twice a day. My face does look a bit red right after applying Lotion P50, but it normalizes by the time I’m done flossing/brushing/lotion-ing.

Product absorption after applying Lotion P50 is maximized, which may or may not be a positive thing depending on what other things you like to put on your face. If you use any AHAs, for example, you might want to let your skin chill for 20-30 minutes before application. There’s a warning on the bottle to not use Lotion P50 in conjunction with products containing AHAs or retinoids, and I imagine that’s due to possible increased irritation. Personally, I still use Retin-A Micro 0.08% every night (after applying a barrier oil—more on that in a minute), and if anything, it just seems to make the Retin-A more effective. I haven’t experience any increase in irritation, and I have pretty sensitive skin. Maybe the pH-balancing effect of Lotion P50 is enough to offset any irritation? I don’t know, I’m not a scientist, I just have a face with skin on it.

On that note, I included a my other most favorite skin care product, Herbivore Botanicals Orchid Oil, in my photo for a reason—the two pair together beautifully. I apply three drops of Orchid Oil to my face every night immediately after using Lotion P50, and the combination is incredible. My skin immediately feels calm, refreshed, and hydrated—three things I need more than ever after moving to a dry climate! I wrote a lengthy post about my love for Herbivore Botanicals Orchid Oil a couple of years ago—definitely check it out if you’re looking for good nighttime hydration. As an aside, the price is now significantly lower now than it was when it was introduced, and it really does last a very long time—I just started my third bottle a few weeks ago, and I’ve been using it nightly since November 2014.

Lotion P50 does smell kind of weird, I guess? Some people think it smells like onions or garbage, but I don’t get that—to me, it really just smells medicinal, much like throat spray with faint undertone of vinegar. The smell dissipates from your skin pretty quickly, too.

Other worthwhile reviews of Lotion P50:

All The Pretty Pandas (includes buying options for the US, Canada, and France)
Skin & Tonics
Into The Gloss
Caroline Hirons

I’d like to conclude this post with a quote from Daniel, who I turned on to Lotion P50 soon after I decided using it, and who shares my obsession with chemically shedding dead skin:

“Every day I look forward to burning my face off with acid and then feeling it go all numb.”

Yessssss. Join us.

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  • Reply Stephanie April 24, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Rescue Spa is not far from where I live, and I hear great things from my friends! I actually didn’t know they had an online store either. Great to know! I started using the NUXE facial oil awhile back after I read your post about it, how does the Herbivore facial oil compare?

  • Reply Susanna Boxall April 24, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    I love the P50 1970. The price seems outrageous at first, but 1) it lasts forever (the sample size lasted me 4-5 months) and 2) the results are quite dramatic. To save $ I put Paula Choice’s AHA in the am, the the p50 in the pm. Like you, I also worship at the altar of Hervibore, but I use the lapis oil instead. Instead of a cotton pad, I sprinkle a few drops of P50 on my face and quickly rub it around with clean fingers to minimize product waste. The combination has been a game-changer. I am hoping that adding OTC Differin will zap the few remaining chit zits. BTW, I am so happy you’re back blogging – I will always be indebted to D16 for giving me the knowledge and the courage to tile my kitchen and bathroom.

  • Reply Malia April 24, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    I’m almost sold. But you reminded me of the Japanese menthol eye drops my friend once lent me without warning me (she loves them, but I screamed and everyone stared). It sounds like a similar sensation as the Lotion P50, just for your eyeballs.

    I think it was Z! eye drops, which is similar to this:

    • Anna @ D16 April 24, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      I’ve heard of those, Malia!! Not sure that’s the sensation I want for my eyes, though, haha. (I fixed your link, btw!)

    • SoSuSam April 24, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      Haha–my cousin once brought menthol eyedrops back from Japan and gave me a bottle. They are certainly something! I’d completely forgotten about them…thanks for the reminder. I love Lotion P50, which I discovered not long after trying the menthol eyedrops, so perhaps there is a connection. 🙂 At least for me.

    • Anna @ D16 April 24, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      Have you tried the Japanese eye drops with caffeine?! I’m very curious about (and terrified of) those.

  • Reply Stephanie Zell April 24, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Do you use this and then put on moisturizer in the am?

    • Anna @ D16 April 24, 2017 at 1:24 pm

      Yes! Wash face, Lotion P50, moisturizer (with sunscreen), then my BB cream.

  • Reply nancy m April 24, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    i also love that you’re back blogging! 🙂
    i totes just bought the oil, and am thiiiiiis close to getting the p50. i want to feel the burn.

    • nancy m April 28, 2017 at 10:00 am

      update! Bought the small bottle of p50, tried it last night, and LOVE IT. It smells terrible, but not as burn-y as I expected. my skin looks glorious today. thank you thank you!!!

    • Anna @ D16 April 28, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      YESSSSSSSSS!!! Welcome to the cult, Nancy. 😉

  • Reply Tricia April 24, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    I’ve been ramping up my acids toward using P50. Were you using an acid toner before you started with the P50?

    • Anna @ D16 April 24, 2017 at 6:05 pm

      Tricia, no, not in recent years. I did use one from Paula’s Choice ages ago that was too harsh for me, so I was worried P50 would be a disaster, but it’s proven to be really quite friendly to my skin. I never know what’s going to make my face freak out, but this didn’t.

  • Reply SoSuSam April 24, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I love Lotion P50. (I spied it in a photo of your bathroom cupboard from the other day and was psyched to know you use it, too! Always happy to find another fan of the burn-and-numb.) My skin is extremely sensitive, so it took me TWO MONTHS to use it daily at full-strength…but even when I was using it very sparingly, it made a big difference. Like you, I use the 1970 version and find it has transformed the quality of my skin. As for the smell, I think the non-phenol (non-1970) versions smell hugely of vinegar, but the 1970 versions just have that medicinal smell you mentioned. Oddly, while many people seem to find the non-phenol versions more tolerable, I find they burn my skin whereas the 1970 version is perfect. 🙂

    I wish I could use the Herbivore Botanicals oils (I have my eye on Phoenix). I remember your post about the Orchid Oil from a while back and it sounded perfect as I do love facial oils and use them every day. But I’m allergic to jojoba oil, so their oils are not for me. I currently use Kahina Prickly Pear Seed Oil, which is brutally expensive but just lovely. I’ve also used and loved Snowberry Massage Oil (as a leave-on facial oil), which is much less pricey and quite good. Ah, as you can see, I could babble about facial oil and Lotion P50 for hours! I’ll try to stop now.

  • Reply Sarah G. April 24, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    I’m one of the unlucky few who had a horrible allergic reaction after trying this. Every time I read a glowing review I’m tempted to give it another shot (I won’t, but I’m tempted). Glad it’s working for you!

  • Reply Tal April 24, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Is it cruelty free?

    • Anna @ D16 April 24, 2017 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Tal, none of the ingredients are animal derived and they don’t test on animals, but they do sell their products in China.

    • Chris April 24, 2017 at 10:32 pm

      Interesting – I tried the Phoenix a while back and my face did NOT like it. Only thing that’s ever really bothered it. I wonder if jojoba oil and my skin don’t play well either!

    • Jen April 25, 2017 at 11:18 pm

      Chris, my face didn’t like the Phoenix oil either. I didn’t have a bad reaction, per se, I just started to develop dry, flaky patches all over my face 🙁

    • Anna @ D16 April 26, 2017 at 6:24 am

      I’ve never tried the Phoenix oil, but I wonder if there’s something in it that’s causing these reactions in some people? The CoQ10, maybe? Skin is just so individual and specific…

  • Reply Christina April 24, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    I just experimented with some Vit C serums and my skin is a disaster! I somehow have managed to clog every pore I have. I might try the Lotion P50W for super sensitive skin to get me back on track. I’ve just ordered several things from The Ordinary so I’ll see how I do.
    Thanks for blogging again!

  • Reply Jules April 24, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    I love your skincare posts–so much so that I called to schedule an appointment with my dermatologist immediately after reading this post. I’m having the worst rosacea flair up (going on about a month now) and I’ve got to get to the bottom of it before I try anything else on my face. I can’t wait for her to prescribe to me that magic pill that will make my bumps and itching disappear forever! This time she’ll do it; I just know it!!

    • Laura May 5, 2017 at 9:42 pm

      I know it sounds gross, but have you tried Selsun Blue? It finally cured my horrible rosacea.

  • Reply Amanda April 25, 2017 at 8:35 am

    I always read your skincare posts with extra interest, because being 40 with hormonal/adult acne is the bane of my existence, and I appreciate that I’m not the only one enduring it. I’m definitely going to order the P50, especially because it lists lactic acid in its ingredients, and I’ve recently been reading about lactic acid being helpful with the hormonal cysts I tend to get. That being said, I’ve recently switched from straight tretinoin to using Epiduo (a combo of a retinoid and benzoyl peroxide), and I’ve been having great results, so far! I have sooooo much hyperpigmentation that needs to heal, though, and it sounds like the P50 will help with that, too. Thanks for trying out expensive skincare and telling us about it! 🙂

  • Reply Julie April 25, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Oh man! I am a skincare nut, I cannot believe I have never heard of this stuff! I am so intrigued!
    I have extremely reactive skin that used to be super oily, but as I get older I am getting drier patches. I looked in the mirror yesterday at work, and realized my skin was so flaky around my mouth that it looked like I had some sort of food crust on my face, I was mortified. I also tend to be acne prone and very red in general, especially around my period (aka right now). My skin gets so dull and yucky. I do love skin oils, right now I am switching between plain seabuckthorn seed oil and Poetic Blend’s Hero oil, it’s lovely!
    Will be buying this ASAP!

  • Reply jana April 25, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    “I just have a face with skin on it.” hahahaha

  • Reply beks April 25, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    I think we have similar skin; fussy, newly 40 with both lines and acne (wtf?!) so thanks for being brave and sharing your recommendations!

    You may want to check out vegan products with fantastic packaging!

    • Anna @ D16 April 25, 2017 at 3:28 pm

      I’m a longtime MMT fan! Love them. 🙂

  • Reply Tami April 29, 2017 at 7:02 am

    totally just placed an order!! can’t wait to feel that buuurrrrrrrn

  • Reply Adam April 29, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Ooooooo, I really want to try this!! Does it decrease fine lines?

  • Reply Jaimie April 29, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    OMG you lost me at phenol (I used to use it in the lab doing RNA extractions and you cannot pay me to put that on my face). However, after reading about the other formulations I did just buy the W formula, sans phenol. I use Tsubaki oil to moisturize after I wash my face, and have been trying to find a good exfoliant to add back into my routine (bonus points for being multipurpose as well, because I am lazy). My skin is dry/sensitive and it’s so hard finding products that work effectively and don’t irritate with regular use.

  • Reply Erin L April 30, 2017 at 11:42 am

    LOL Sea Breeze! I think I had a vat of that stuff on my bathroom vanity until at least 2005. I might have to give P50 a try! I’ve been looking to see if it would react well against seborrheic dermatitis: though the onion in it makes me think it may be ok (onion contains sulfur, which helps manage the condition.)

  • Reply jen May 4, 2017 at 6:41 am

    hi! i bought this lotion and have been using it 2X@day for a week. I’m feeling no burning, tingling, numbness… nothing at all. is there something wrong with me?! i’ve never used a chem exfoliator before and was expecting some pain? thanks Anna! ps. glad you’re back

    • Anna @ D16 May 4, 2017 at 9:07 am

      Jen, did you buy the 1970 formula? I think the other versions don’t have the same burn, because they lack phenol. Otherwise…maybe you’re made of steel? Hahaha.

    • Jen May 4, 2017 at 6:47 pm

      I do have the 1970! Steel it is lol thank you

    • Anna @ D16 May 4, 2017 at 7:19 pm

      I’m impressed, Jen, hahaha. Is it at least still having magical effects on your skin?

    • Jen May 6, 2017 at 7:45 am

      yes! it has made my skin smoother than it’s been since I was 30! (Now46) I’ve developed some brown spots over the years that I’m eagerly watching for change!

    • Brooke May 18, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Hey Jen, I bought the 1970 formula as well after reading Anna’s review and at first experienced no burning. I didn’t really notice anything except my skin did look nicer. I apply it now a bit more heavy handed. I just use my fingertips to pat it on top of my skin, not rubbing it in or anything. Now depending on the day I’ll get a slight burn and numbness. I think I must also have skin of steel! 🙂

      Anna, thanks of recommending this stuff! My skin looks so much better. I think the fine lines around my eyes have minimized temendously! Hurray!

    • Brittani June 2, 2017 at 11:57 pm

      Same!! Been using it for 3 days now, and barely register a tingle.. feeling bummed, as I’m a masochist.

  • Reply Stacey Galvan May 4, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Hola! Where do you fit the Retin-A treatment in? I also use Retin-A and I have a hard time figuring out what products I can use in conjunction with Retin-A and what order they all should be applied. Thanks!

    • Anna @ D16 May 4, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      Stacey, I use Retin-A at night, right after applying the Orchid Oil. Using barrier layer makes Retin-A slightly less effective, but it also prevents overdrying/flaking/peeling.

  • Reply Ginger May 10, 2017 at 12:59 am

    I’ve had this post open for a while in anticipation of ordering… I love a good face burn! Sadly Rescue Spa wouldn’t let me pay with an Australia credit card but ship it to my freight forwarding address in the US to be combined with other online purchases, BUT I did find another website that will (for the same price). I’m looking forward to trying it when it finally arrives Down Under! I just hope it doesn’t melt my face off because to make it worth shipping internationally, I ordered the US$98 bottle (GULP).

  • Reply Abi May 11, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    I love Pixie Glow Tonic but as my skin has got more used to it I feel zero burn or tingle and that is not really the sensation I am aiming for so this review has come at just the right time! I live in a small Andean town in Peru so I need to do some magical thinking to see how I am going to get this tingling elixir into my life but burn will be worth it I can feel it in my skin cellsl… Thanks Anna!

  • Reply Stella May 18, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Hey! Came across your post after hearing about this product constantly in recent weeks, so I decided to give it a try! I ordered the reformulated Lotion P50T (the only kind available in Canada). I’ve been using it for a couple of days, and aside from mild redness one evening, haven’t noticed any unpleasant effects while adjusting. The smell is tolerable, not as bad I I expected. However, one thing that bugs me about it, is that after I put it on, it leaves my skin feeling slightly sticky/tacky all day. I apply moisturizer after, followed by a light dust of face powder in the daytime (no foundation). It’s not the most pleasant feeling. Do you get this, too, or do you think it’s just the 150T formulation?

  • Reply Amy G May 22, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Hi Anna!
    First, I just feel compelled to say Thank You!, I tried the Lotion P50 and I am in love! I really appreciate your insights on skin care.
    Second, I really missed you while you were taking a blog break (well deserved). I’m a long time reader, and every blog entry is such a treat. Thanks for coming back and for putting your creativity out there…I get so many benefits from your blog. That’s it, welcome back. Missed you. -Amy G

  • Reply Kendra May 24, 2017 at 1:17 am

    You. Are. A. Lifesaver. I moved out to Phoenix from the muggy Midwest (right about the time of this blog post) and my face instantly became dull and dry but I took your word and bought both of these products. HALLELUJAH! I officially sold my soul to Lotion P50 and Herbivore, but my skin is so happy and tingly. 😉 Thank you!

  • Reply imogen May 27, 2017 at 9:55 pm

    by the way THANK YOU Anna! Although I have not yet tried Lotion P50 (the “W” version for me) I will…but I have been using the facial brush you recommend and WOW. And I also now use the Fresh Foaming Cleanser you recommend. Although I don’t have acne, I’ve never exactly had glowing skin. I would describe the way it used to be as dull, combination-type skin. It is no longer dull and the “combination” aspect of my skin has evened out in a way I’ve never experienced before. And just last night someone commented on the clarity and glow-y-ness of my face. WOW. So thank you thank you thank you. I’m a facial brush convert. And tonight am ordering my P50W. (Side note: I would have been totally turned off by the need to preregister on the shoprescuespa site had you not included that heads up in your post. Again, THANK YOU!) I don’t wear any makeup (except for lipstick) but am on the search for an under-eye concealer type thing. I will share one of my favorite facial oils: Aesop’s “Fabulous Face Oil”. I might try it side-by-side with your Herbivore Botanicals…very curious.

  • Reply Patti P. June 29, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Thanks Anna! I’m 42 with pretty okay skin but always looking for something good to add to the arsenal. I’m super happy with your LotionP50 recommendation and have been using it at night and in the morning. I’m also a fan of REN Glycol Lactic Renewal Mask (plus most of REN’s other products). I remove makeup with Now Solutions Avocado Oil. Still searching for the perfect paraben, sulfate free foundation to even out my fair skin.

  • Reply Gen August 31, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Hey, what is your full beauty routine, can you recommend any cleansers and moisturizers? Thanks for the post! I’ve been hesitant to try lotion p50 because of the known purge phase

  • Reply Cas January 5, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    why it has to be applied with a cotton pad, so the effectiveness will be maximized? what’s the reason behind that?

  • Reply Leone September 15, 2019 at 12:08 am

    ZOMG! I’m normally so very skeptical of these “potions”, but I am always enamored by your skin care posts. So, I bought a smallish bottle of this stuff and can I tell you I am amazed at the results! I was wary due to the fact I have very sensitive that is very prone to breakouts and redness. This stuff kills! My skin is baby smooth and it seems to help all the other serums/lotions I use soak into my skin! Do I love the antiseptic smell? No, but it dissipates quickly. KILLAH!

  • Reply Molly May 1, 2020 at 7:39 am

    SO GLAD YOU’RE BACK. Sorry for the yelling, but it’s very exciting. Would love to see an updated skin care post. I’m sure others who are more skin-care obsessed than I would love all the details, but I’d personally like to see a simplified/holy grail list of your recs. For example, if you had to chose between P50 and PCRTADSE7AHA, which would it be? Or do they serve completely different purposes? Obviously, I’m a dolt when it comes to skincare. Just looking for a little something to improve my mid-40’s sundamaged mashed potato face, not looking to add a whole new routine to my life which I probably won’t keep up with. Not your problem though! I’m loving the kitchen posts – your little NM step/cloud doodads are my favorite!!!

    • Anna Dorfman May 1, 2020 at 7:41 am

      Molly, I would choose Lotion P50 over pretty much everything in my life except my dog and my family!! And I will do another skincare post soon, I promise.

    • Molly May 1, 2020 at 9:41 am

      Aw thanks for gracing my ramblings w a response! Def lil Fritz and his whispy ear whisps trump all else!

  • Reply joana May 1, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Anna! I know this post is old, but I remembered you writing about it.
    Wanted to ask if you think P50 is a good option for when your skin looks dull and just shitty from serious lack of sleep? That grey zombie look? Thank you!

    • Anna Dorfman May 1, 2020 at 2:46 pm

      DEFINITELY. It’s really what saves me from looking like a grey zombie every day. It is the most amazing skin product I’ve ever used. Seriously!

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