For Dr. Horst Wenck, Corporate Vice President for Research at Beiersdorf, know-how, courage, determination, and creativity are the characteristics of a good researcher. He started out his career at Beiersdorf in 1987 after graduating from Hamburg University with a chemistry degree. Between 1988 and 1991, Dr. Wenck was in charge of product development at Beiersdorf’s US affiliate. And for eleven years now, the 52-year old has been head of the research unit in Hamburg.
A lot of progress has been made since then, though, hasn’t it?
Vast progress! Scientific knowledge doubles around every 8 years, so our knowledge is 5000 times as extensive as it was back then. In those days, it wasn’t possible to work as systematically as today because people simply didn’t know enough about the skin, the treatment of the skin or its biological, chemical, and physical principles. Skin research in those days was limited to a description of phenomena using simple techniques such as photography and microscopes, but it was impossible to investigate the causes of these phenomena. The horny layer´s function as an important protective barrier wasn’t discovered until the 1950s.
What is the main focus of Beiersdorf’s skin research?
Beiersdorf conducts intensive research into the skin’s energy metabolism. We now know relatively precisely what happens in the skin’s cells and understand how the skin repairs itself and what happens as we age. The skin is one of our body’s most active organs. To perform its functions optimally, it needs energy. In simple terms, if we give the skin active ingredients that stimulate its metabolism, it will be healthy and function optimally.
What impact has 100 years of Beiersdorf skin research had on the global development of the skin care market?
Throughout the generations, we have always been able to set standards as the result of hard work. For example, we introduced sun protection factors which enable a scientific comparison of the efficacy of sunscreen products. Beiersdorf researchers came up with the idea and it soon became established as a global standard in this product category. Since 1975 we have specified sun protection factors on NIVEA Sun products – long before it became a legal requirement. Another example is the development of the first stable water-in-oil emulsion with a more liquid consistency for NIVEA Milk in 1981. This innovation greatly facilitated the application of a quickly absorbed skin care product to large areas of skin. The development of the first genuine liquid emulsions that didn't contain alcohol in the nineties provided the basis for pump-spray deodorants and sun protection sprays. Another major breakthrough in our research was the broad spectrum UV filter system for NIVEA Sun in 2001. It provides extremely effective protection against sunburn, premature aging and cell damage.
What role do individual consumer needs play in the research and development of new skin care products?
A very important role! Our initial ideas and prototypes are tested by volunteers under real life conditions. The dialogue between consumers and developers provides us with insights that can be directly used for product optimization. We have 35 test rooms and the appropriate technology to measure even minimal skin changes and to validate and document efficacy at our Hamburg Skin Research Center.
And what about the future?
It’s going to be just as exciting as the last 100 years have been. We’re already working on a new generation of active ingredients that will take skin research into the next dimension...