Stimulating Skin’s Own Natural Defense Against Free Radicals

Our skin continually faces environmental challenges and stress. Without its regenerative capacities and its intrinsic defense mechanisms, our skin would accumulate damage, resulting in e.g. premature aging. Skin cells possess regenerative defense mechanisms against UV stress, intercepting harmful free radicals before they can cause damage. Scientists from Beiersdorf´s Front End Innovation in cooperation with Eucerin have now found a way to enhance this protective capacity. Licochalcone A, an active ingredient derived from licorice root extract, directly activates cellular safeguard mechanisms and helps the skin to defend itself. 

Beiersdorf Scientists
Beiersdorf scientists Dr. Dennis Roggenkamp (l.) und Dr. Jochen Kühnl.

Biological Mechanism for the Effectiveness of Licorice Discovered and Published.

Licorice (glycyrrhiza) has been known for its health-promoting effects for 3000 years. With their new findings, the Beiersdorf researchers contribute to the understanding of the diverse effects of this natural substance, again highlighting the important role of research for product innovation. Their current publication in the peer-reviewed scientific journal “Experimental Dermatology”* initiated a press release by the journal that was picked up by several online platforms. 

Licorice Beiersdorf
Licorice (glycyrrhiza) has been known for its health-promoting effects for 3000 years.

Double Protection for UV-Stressed Skin

The reception of these recently published results by the scientific community has been remarkable. “We did not expect such a significant response,” says Beiersdorf Researcher Dr. Jochen Kühnl, Head of the Experimental Toxicology Lab. Together with Dr. Gitta Neufang, Head of Medical Management at Beiersdorf, and Dr. Dennis Roggenkamp, Research Scientist in the Sensitive & Ethnic Skin Lab, Jochen Kühnl has been working intensively on making skin cells more robust against stress. To better explain the idea behind it, he says, “when it gets chilly outside, cold showers help to boost our immune system which protects us from colds. We asked ourselves if this analogy is transferable to the UV-protective mechanisms in skin and whether we can make it cosmetically useful”.

Microscopic Image Beiersdorf
A microscopic image of protective free radical scavengers in skin cells (fibroblasts): untreated (left), treated with licochalcone A (right).

Dennis Roggenkamp adds, “We performed experiments on cultivated skin cells, targeting the cellular defense system against oxygen-based free radicals which damage the skin after UV stress. Our goal was to stimulate skin’s own production of protective free radical scavengers with a cosmetic ingredient - and with licochalcone A, we identified a superior substance.” These findings from cell culture experiments are also transferable to humans. “Studies with volunteers confirmed that licochalcone A protects human skin from UV stress by this effect,” says Dennis Roggenkamp.

Dr. Gitta Neufang Beiersdorf
Dr. Gitta Neufang.

Gitta Neufang concludes, “Licochalcone A helps the skin in two ways against UV stress: it activates the skin’s own protection and is an antioxidant itself. Therefore, Licochalcone A in combination with photostable UVA/UVB filter systems is beneficial to protect our skin from UV stress. That is why we use Licochalkon A in several products of Eucerin´s sun range.”


*Jochen Kühnl, Dennis Roggenkamp, Sandra A. Gehrke, Franz Stäb, Horst Wenck, Ludger Kolbe, Gitta Neufang. Licochalcone A activates Nrf2 in vitro and contributes to licorice extract-induced lowered cutaneous oxidative stress in vivo. Experimental Dermatology, 2015; 24 (1): 42.

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