RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

Woman in Laboratory

Bringing numerous product innovations to the market like the first self-acting laundry detergent in the world, the first ever liquid hair shampoo and the first hair spray, just to name a few – we have shaped the lives of millions of people. Henkel looks back on a great history of innovations that revolutionized markets multiple times, and this tradition still continues to this day. We are well-known for our iconic brands such as Persil or Schwarzkopf, that were – and are – developed with leading technologies.


We build on strong consumer insights and knowledge around changing consumer behavior and trends. Continuous investments in research and development over generations have created a wealth of knowledge and patents. Together with universities and other research institutes, the international research team at Consumer Brands is constantly developing innovative products to delight our customers and consumers and exceed their expectations.

OUR R&D FOCUS AREAS


Consumer Brands Research areas

Our research and development activities benefit from our special approach as a multi-category platform. It creates unique research synergies through similarities in the R&D focus for hair and textiles. Solving common issues and technology challenges in the fields of raw materials, formulations, packaging concepts and production methods, help us to develop new technologies and formulations that form the basis for product innovations in our markets across all regions.  

Hair – a very special fibre

The visible part of the hair, the hair fibre, is not living tissue. The living hair roots are anchored deeply in the skin of the scalp and form complex "mini-organs" that are composed of different cell types to produce the visible hair fibres. By studying the biological processes in the roots we are able to develop specific hair care products which not only nourish the hair fibre but also support the living part of the hair – the hair root – in its distinctive functions. The use of a recently developed reconstructed tissue model of the hair root offers us the chance to evaluate the optimal combinations of bioactives.

The efficacy of our hair cosmetic products can be verified on real hair by means of a multitude of biophysical test methods and can be substantiated statistically. Standard measurements such as hair gloss, volume and ease of combing can be made as well as analysis of the inner strength and thickness of the hair and numerous other characteristics. Environmental influences and styling procedures like repeated combing, blow-drying or straightening can be scrutinized to specifically develop products that prevent hair damage such as split ends or hair breakage.

Our tests with real hair strands give us information on the lastingness of hair colorations. Measurements following the use of advanced weathering equipment can be used to examine the resistance to fading due to light, washing and rubbing of our hair colorations. Currently we also focus on hair cosmetics with the ability to color dark hair without damage. The effect of care and styling products on colored hair is also investigated, working closely with the scientists in our product development areas. Here our research insights for textiles helped us, especially the approach to our “Fiber Renew Technology” that allows insights about reviving colors, renewing fibers and preventing of piling for optimal care. 

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Test salon, Hamburg (Germany): Reception

Test salon, Hamburg (Germany): Reception


Test salon, Hamburg (Germany)

Test salon, Hamburg (Germany)

Salone-test, Amburgo (Germania): valutazione del colore

Test salon, Hamburg (Germany): Color assessment

Our test salons in Hamburg and Düsseldorf (Germany) form an essential part of our product development for new hair related products.

The test salon is equipped in a similar way to a modern hairdressing salon. A team of top colorists and stylists consisting of hairdressers and master hairdressers test all types of hair related products developed by our business unit Consumer Brands. The products tested are destined to be introduced worldwide into the local markets. They are used in professional hairdressing salons or by consumers themselves at home. 

Prior to testing, a briefing is given to the test salon from the Marketing and Research & Development departments. Close cooperation with both departments is paramount.

An order for a trial in the test salon usually involves testing the properties of a new product such as color, care, shine, volume or hold. The trial involves the hairdressers performing a so-called "half side application test" following a standard test design. During this type of test a product which is currently on the market is applied to the right side of the scalp and a new optimized version of the product is applied to the left side of the scalp. This procedure allows a direct comparison of the two formulas as well as a clear choice of a test winner. Prior to use in the test salon all products have been tested in the laboratory and have been dermatologically certified. Not only does the test bring along insightful information about the new product, but also the models receive further insights about their hair as a personalized hair consultation is done based on a digital hair analysis. In addition, they will leave the test salon with perfectly styled and / or perfectly colored hair. 

Some of our products are not designed for use in hairdresser salons but instead are for consumers to use themselves at home. A “self-use” test is performed for these products. The numerous mirrors in the test studio enable the self-user to view themselves from every angle and they also provide the test studio team with more insight into the application techniques used. An interesting fact about a self-use test is that the volunteers choose a follow-up appointment themselves according to when they would use the product again if they were at home. In this way we are able to imitate the true reality of the market.

Each product is subjected to the “hurdle" of the test salon before entering the market. The test salon self-use test process provides an insight into how consumers will use the product, so any problems can be detected and eliminated beforehand. A typical example is the instructions for use; because our volunteers use the products themselves in the test salon as well as at home we can ensure that the instructions are clear and easy to understand.

A test salon approval is only given when the product, packaging and instructions for use have all been fully evaluated and conform to our high standards.

The skin – protecting us against the environment

Like all living organisms, the skin is subject to ageing and its performance decreases with time. We support the skin in its various functions with innovative cosmetic products and effectively counteract ageing processes with novel combinations of bioactives. Our detailed understanding of the skin combined with our deep knowledge regarding tissue models allows us to develop highly effective products. In this way, we can provide our consumers with products whose effectiveness is proven in clinical trials.


We have successfully engaged in work on alternative methods since the mid 80s; these cell-based methods are used to investigate the influence of ingredients and products on biological systems.

Whereas in the past simple cell culture techniques were used, Henkel experts have succeeded in developing complex three-dimensional tissue models over the last thirty years. These new tools facilitate research much closer to the conditions of use.

In order to construct tissue models representing the human skin, appropriate cells are multiplied and subsequently transferred to specially designed culture devices. Scientists have decoded those signaling pathways which enable the cells to interact with each other and subsequently build up a functional skin equivalent. After some days in culture the skin tissue is ready to be used in the laboratory for research and development purposes. Two types of skin models are used: a full-thickness skin model and a pure epidermal tissue.

These and other tissue models are used to prove the skin and eye compatibility of cosmetic ingredients. Furthermore, skin equivalents are being investigated to see if they can be used to analyze potential genotoxic effects of chemicals. Another important research area for these models is skin sensitization.

The Phenion® Full-Thickness Skin Model is exclusively produced at the Henkel laboratories and consists of both an epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, and the underlying dermis made of human primary cells. It is commercially available. Please visit www.phenion.com to obtain further information.

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Test di compatibilità della pelle

Skin compatibility test


Skin moisture measurement

Skin moisture measurement


Clinical Studies-image slideshows

Clinical Studies-image slideshows


Clinical Studies-image slideshows

Clinical Studies-image slideshows

Before being introduced to consumers, product performance and compatibility are evaluated in comprehensive clinical studies. Our studies are based on internationally recognized standards as well as on the assessment by our study participants. Participants in a study are chosen for their skin type, hair type, consumer habits, etc. For further characterization of our study participants a dermatologist will question them about their medical history.

Our clinical studies are conducted in specially equipped laboratories in order to prove, for example, the skin compatibility of a newly developed product. Generally recognized methods are used for testing skin compatibility, such as epicutaneous tests, but a wide range of use tests are also conducted.

The latest devices are available so that biophysical measurements can be carried out on the skin to detect the positive effects of products on hydration, sebum content and the barrier function of the skin.

Furthermore, contact-free imaging methods are used to prove changes regarding skin roughness or anti-wrinkle effects. Special devices are applied for the measurement of skin elasticity in order to show the skin tightening effects of our skin care products. Using a special microscope, we are able to look deep into the skin of our study participants; this harmless procedure enables us to measure product effects on the thickness of the epidermis and on the junction between the epidermis and the dermis.

The visible effects of a product on the skin are quantified using highly standardized macro photography combined with image analysis or expert judgment.

Sustainable packaging concepts – towards a circular economy

Packaging plays a key role in our modern way of life. Without it, most products would expire or get damaged before arriving in a store. When it comes to tackling the challenges of sustainable packaging, packaging designers are the key players. From integrating more recycled material in new packaging to making packaging easier to recycle after use: These experts create packaging that protects the products while also offering a better contribution to the planet.

Recent examples in our portfolio in this area are all free clear eco in North America – an ultra-concentrated liquid detergent with packaging made of 100 percent recycled plastic, Pril Strong & Natural, through the use of recyclable refill bags, or the solid shampoo bars in a recyclable folded paper box under the Schauma brand.

Our global R&D Network


Consumer Brands R&D Locations

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