05/11/2005, Düsseldorf

 

 
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Name Wolfgang Zengerling
  Research & Development, Sustainability
Phone 0049-211-797-9336
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Name Simone Gleumes
  Corporate Communications, Brand Communications
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The battle of the cultures on our skin

The team of researchers from Colorado State University was astounded. On examining 1200 natives of Papua New Guinea for skin impurities, they found no acne, no pimples and no blackheads. Viewed scientifically, the secret of the natives' clean pores is probably the balanced bacterial state of their facial skin. This is something that men and women in the industrialized world can only dream of. However, one of Henkel's research teams has identified a completely new approach that can result in clean skin in our own latitudes.
We associate flawless, glowing skin with youth and health. As a consequence of stress and environmental factors, ever more people suffer from skin impurities. This problem is no longer restricted to adolescents; about 85 percent of us have acne at some time in our lives.

Henkel's Corporate Research and skin care product developers have found a completely new approach to improving the care of impure skin. The inspiration came from a proven process in the food sector. Probiotic cultures in yoghurt protect the intestine against undesirable bacteria and strengthen the body's defenses. "We have simply transposed this principle to the skin," explains microbiologist Dr. Dirk Bockmühl, speaking for the 15-member Henkel research team.

From yoghurt to wash gel
Just apply a couple of yoghurt masks to your face, and all your pimples will disappear? Unfortunately it was not that easy for the Henkel researchers. Nevertheless, they had a clear objective, namely the systematic multiplication of the organisms that play a key role in maintaining the equilibrium of the skin flora and preventing skin impurities. At the same time, the product would have to reduce the numbers of harmful bacteria. In the initial stages of the research work, the team first put the bacterial cultures of the face under the microscope. There are between 10,000 and 10,000,000 organisms on each square centimeter of skin on the forehead, and the Henkel researchers found that 65 percent of the organisms on greasy forehead skin belong to the species Propionibacterium acnes. This produces excess acid, causing impure skin and, therefore, pimples and blackheads. In contrast, the protective bacterium Staphylococcus epidermidis accounts for only 30 percent of the organisms.

Innovative research method accelerates development
Using the innovative fluorescence-in-situ hybridization (FISH) method, a search was carried out for active substances that would restore the natural equilibrium of the skin flora. This pioneering method enabled the bacteria to be made visible with fluorescent dyes. Bacteria can be observed directly on the skin. Test series that used to take weeks can now be carried out at revolutionary speed.

The active agents Ginseng and Epica, in particular, soon had the desired effect. After just one week the skin flora of the volunteers showed a considerable improvement. "The project team was therefore able to drive its idea forward to the ready-for-market stage in a very short time," says Dr. Roland Breves, Head of Hygiene Research at Henkel. "Our product really does promote the multiplication of protective bacteria and reduces harmful bacteria, just as the research team initially imagined."

This new type of action mechanism based on the "yoghurt principle" distinguishes the Henkel care series from conventional antibacterial products, which usually have a blanket effect, destroying not just harmful bacteria but the whole bacterial culture of the facial skin. Just a few hours after using such a product, however, the previous situation is restored, with Propionibacterium acnes again predominating.

Victory of the good bacteria
Naturally, the team of scientists carried out a study to verify the success of this new approach. Volunteers between the ages of 22 and 34 applied the prebiotic substance - consisting of wash gel, toner and fluid - twice a day for a period of three weeks. The result speaks for itself. After just one week, 90 percent of the volunteers showed a clear decrease in the number of Propionibacterium acnes. Moreover, there were already 2.4 times more good than bad bacteria on the skin.

For this success, the interdisciplinary team was awarded the "Research/Technology Invention Award" in 2004. This prize recognizes success-oriented research achievements at Henkel.

This revolution of the good cultures on our skin is no longer restricted to research laboratories but has now found its way into the shops. In France, Spain and Portugal, the innovative Henkel product can be bought under the name Diadermine Purity. In Germany, the prebiotic care line from Henkel carries the name Aok Pur Balance.