Learning from the Skin

Each person’s skin is different, and yet all skin does some truly remarkable things: it protects the body, assists with breathing, regulates body temperature, and generates substances that are important for both it and the rest of the body. And the skin is an unrivaled sensory organ. Which are all good reasons to take care of it and protect it. Furthermore, human skin is also the best teacher for Beiersdorf research – its biology continually offers new starting points for the development of innovative ingredients and products.

At Beiersdorf’s research center in Hamburg, a multidisciplinary team of human, cell, and molecular biologists, immunologists, and biochemists unlock new processes in the depths of human skin each and every day. In doing so, they look very closely – using electron microscopes and with biochemical, molecular biological, and cell dynamic procedures. They search for new ingredients that protect, support, or promote the biological processes in the skin’s cells in a natural way. As a component of our products, these ingredients later help vitalize the skin and optimize its functions.

A group of physicists and bioengineers support Beiersdorf’s skin researchers in their work, for example measuring test subjects’ skin characteristics using the latest biophysical methods with regard to wrinkles, elasticity, thickness, and moisture. This is how the company ultimately demonstrates that Beiersdorf’s innovative skin care products have a positive effect on the complexion and strengthen the skin’s structure. Because that is the mission of Beiersdorf research – to develop customized products that are carefully formulated, painstakingly tested, and naturally effective.

Skin Function and Structure

With a surface area of up to two square meters and a weight of up to 12 kilograms, the skin is our largest organ and is responsible for a variety of tasks. With the help of about 1.5 million tiny nerve endings in the skin, it is possible to perceive vibration and pain, to touch, and to feel pressure and temperature stimuli. As an “intake organ,” the skin can absorb substances from the environment into the body – such as when applying skin care products. The acid mantle prevents germs from entering the body. By excreting sweat, the skin protects us from overheating. And it goes without saying that the skin is a highly specialized protective barrier against moisture loss, cold, ultraviolet light, mechanical irritations, and pathogens.

The Structure of the Human Skin

The Epidermis forms the outermost skin layer


The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin which in turn consists of several cell layers. In the lowermost layer new skin cells (keratinocytes) are generated which thereafter move to skin´s surface. Within two weeks only, they move to the top of the skin, die, harden, and build a layered scaffold of cornified cells which stabilizes water-impermeable lipid membranes. At the top of the skin single corneocytes scale off. In this way the skin completely renews itself approximately once every four weeks. Also situated in the lower region of the epidermis are the pigment cells (melanocytes) which generate the pigment melanin and ensure that on exposure to UV-radiation the skin develops a protective tan.

The Dermis is the link between Epidermis and Subcutis


The dermis is markedly thicker than the epidermis and consists of two layers: the relatively thin papillary and the thicker reticular layer. The surface of the papillary layer with its many bumps (papillae) interlocks with the epidermis and serves as its basement. Every papilla is supplied by a tiny capillary vessel. Also situated within the papillary layer are defensive cells, lymphatic vessels and endings of nerve fibres able to perceive vibrations and sensations of touch. Both dermal layers contain a network of collagen and elastic strands synthesized by fibroblasts which make the skin more elastic. This network is continued into the reticular layer.

The Subcutis is the lowermost skin layer


The Subcutis is situated below the dermis and consists of connective and fatty tissue. It not only serves as a fat storage, but also as padding, shock absorber and insulation for the body.

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