09/28/2005, Düsseldorf

 

 
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Name Wolfgang Zengerling
  Research & Development, Sustainability
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Prebiotic cosmetics restore natural bacterial balance
Culture revolution for perfect skin

For many people, long-lasting beauty and perfect skin are important indicators of their quality of life. Now, by using prebiotic substances, Henkel researchers have developed the first mild, natural way of correcting imbalances in the skin's bacterial flora.
You are looking forward to an important business meeting or a long-anticipated date, but what should be a happy occasion is blemished - literally - by skin impurities. This is a familiar situation to many men and women of all ages. And even if the business presentation turns out to be a complete success and acne is rarely a barrier to a harmonious relationship, people with dermatological problems often feel uncomfortable in their own skin.

Henkel's skin researchers have found a completely new approach to establishing the bacterial balance that characterizes perfect skin: prebiotics in cosmetic products. This idea came from a concept that has already attracted widespread interest in the food industry. Probiotic cultures, which protect the body against undesirable bacteria and strengthen its powers of resistance, are increasingly being used in yogurts and fitness drinks. "We have simply transferred this principle to the skin," explains microbiologist Dr. Dirk Bockmühl. However, he and his colleagues in Hygiene Research are less interested in probiotics, which is the utilization of living bacteria, than in finding substances that promote the multiplication or metabolic processes of useful bacteria - i.e. prebiotics.

More was needed than the regular nightly application of yogurt masks for stressed skin. From the very start, the clear aim of the 15-member project team was to identify active substances that favor useful bacteria and simultaneously inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms. First of all, the researchers took a very close look at facial skin. They found that, of the 10,000 to 10,000,000 bacteria that are present on every square centimeter of the skin of the forehead, 65 percent of those on greasy skin belong to the species Propionibacterium acnes, which produces excess acid that is responsible for inflammation of the skin. Only about 30 percent of the bacteria are coagulase-negative staphylococci, which protect the skin against infections and environmental influences.

The researchers' next step was to examine a number of substances. An innovative method known as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) enabled the bacteria to be observed directly on the skin for the first time, so the researchers were able to carry out the tests series much faster and more accurately. Substances that showed the desired prebiotic action included ginseng and tea extract. A study carried out with volunteers confirmed the effect observed in the laboratory. After just one week, the number of Propionibacterium acnes clearly decreased as a proportion of the total microorganism count in 90 percent of the tested 22 to 34-year-old women. Moreover, there were already 2.4 times more good than bad bacteria on the skin.

"The project team was able to drive its idea forward to the ready-for-market stage in a very short time," says Dr. Roland Breves, Director of Henkel Hygiene Research. The systematic use of substances that naturally regulate microbiological balance is a mild alternative treatment, especially for people with sensitive skin, since conventional antibacterial preparations destroy not only the bad but also the beneficial bacteria on facial skin and can thus even cause irritation themselves.

The prebiotic "culture revolution" from Henkel has already found its way onto the shelves. The product innovation is available under the name Diadermine Purity in France, Spain, Portugal and Russia. The prebiotic care line is on the market in Germany and Austria as Aok Pur Balance and is designed for impure skin in people over 20. In September 2005, a product for teenage skin was also launched: Pure soft from Aok First Beauty. And there is more to come. Future product developments will utilize and expand the newly developed technology.


"Henkel - A Brand like a Friend." Henkel is a leader with brands and technologies that make people's lives easier, better and more beautiful. The Henkel Group operates in three strategic business areas - Home Care, Personal Care, and Adhesives, Sealants and Surface Treatment. In fiscal 2004 the Henkel Group generated sales of 10.592 billion euros. More than 50,000 employees work for the Henkel Group worldwide. People in 125 countries around the world trust in brands and technologies from Henkel.

This document contains forward-looking statements which are based on the current estimates and assumptions made by the corporate management of Henkel KGaA. Forward-looking statements are characterized by the use of words such as expect, intend, plan, predict, assume, believe, estimate, anticipate and similar formulations. Such statements are not to be understood as in any way guaranteeing that those expectations will turn out to be accurate. Future performance and the results actually achieved by Henkel KGaA and its affiliated companies depend on a number of risks and uncertainties and may therefore differ materially from the forward-looking statements. Many of these factors are outside Henkel's control and cannot be accurately estimated in advance, such as the future economic environment and the actions of competitors and others involved in the mar-ketplace. Henkel neither plans nor undertakes to update any forward-looking statements.