Well-BeingRevealing the deepest secrets of the skin

Our skin is a key element of what makes us human, and it plays many roles. However, there are many mysteries regarding this approximately 2mm-thin layer of tissue and its functions. The latest research facility of Shiseido Co., Ltd., the Shiseido Global Innovation Center, employs Nikon's microscopes to reveal the hidden secrets of our skin.

Realizing a better world with beauty innovation

The origin of makeup is believed to lie at least 40,000 - 50,000 years ago, and maybe even as long as 200,000 years ago, and it was utilized for rituals. In ancient Egypt, around 3000 B.C., cosmetics were created from various minerals, plants and insects. Makeup customs continued through to the Middle Ages and into modern times; and today, men and women of all ages are familiar with the use of makeup in their daily lives.
Our interviewees this time are from Shiseido, whose corporate mission is "BEAUTY INNOVATIONS FOR A BETTER WORLD". The company explains this as conveying the message: "In an ever-changing global environment, we must keep our fingers on the pulse to perceive and respond to people's profound need for betterment. We strive to create a better world through beauty innovations. A world where people live in good health and happiness, and beauty is limitless, loving and alive." In this way, it seeks to help realize this website's concept of "Well-Being" for everyone.

  • Minatomirai line:
    Next to exits No.1 and 2 at Shintakashima Station on the Minatomirai line.
  • JR/Shieichikatetsu
    10-minute walk from the JR/Shieichikatetsu Yokohama Station.

Shiseido Global Innovation Center (S/PARK)
Shiseido's latest research lab was established at Minatomirai, Yokohama in April 2019. The first and second floors are open to the public as a free-admission interactive beauty complex.

We visited the company's cutting-edge research facility, the Shiseido Global Innovation Center (S/PARK*). The center was established as an "urban open lab" in Yokohama Minato Mirai in 2019.

Shiseido Global Innovation Center
The first and second floors are open to the public as a free-admission interactive beauty complex.
Spacious first-floor lobby featuring a giant
wall-mounted LED display with a width of 19.3m.
S/PARK Beauty Bar counter (first floor)
S/PARK Museum Arial (second floor)

The mission of the lab is to innovate in the makeup and beauty fields, while going beyond beauty to help contribute to physical and mental health as well as well-being of people. As a result, the work performed there could well usher in a new phase in the history of makeup.

  • *The name S/PARK encompasses two meanings: "Shiseido Park" where people can come and gather, and "a research lab that sparks continuous innovation."

Skin Morphology Research Exploring the skin's mechanisms and cosmetics' effects

Sumiko Denda and Yuki Umino from the Advanced Research Center explained some details of their research. Their research theme focuses on elucidating the effects of cosmetics on the skin and the mechanisms of their influence, even deep within the skin.
Ms. Denda is studying the movement of nerves that extend just below the stratum corneum of the skin. The skin is about 2mm in thickness, and includes many diverse structures that sense skin irritation and stress. Along with substances secreted from epidermal keratinocytes and immune cells, various nerve effects become apparent. By bringing these mechanisms to light, she is able to work effectively on basic research to develop cosmetics that can be safely used by people who have sensitive skin.
Mr. Umino is advancing research to discover effects on the skin caused by materials employed in cosmetics, with an emphasis on those that enhance the barrier function of the skin's stratum corneum and the mechanism behind it.
There are water-containing stratum corneum cells in the outermost stratum corneum, and the interstices are filled with intercellular lipids. This prevents water in the body from evaporating and at the same time stops substances from entering the body. Mr. Umino cultures the skin cells three-dimensionally and carefully observes the stratum corneum that possesses this barrier function.

Sumiko Denda, Ph.D. (left) and Yuki Umino (right)
from the Advanced Research Center,
Shiseido Global Innovation Center
Structure of the skin.
The Sensitive Skin Mechanism Causing Rough Skin (decreases the barrier function)
Stratum Corneum Generating Cycle
Stratum Corneum Barrier Function and Its Recovery

Ms. Denda and Mr. Umino are collaborating on a series of research projects. From basics all the way through to application, their work focuses closely on skin tissues, with the aim of creating cosmetics that anybody can comfortably use. They have enthusiastically taken up the challenge to deliver "BEAUTY INNOVATIONS FOR A BETTER WORLD".

Using a multiphoton confocal microscope for deeper study of the skin

Ms. Denda's research takes human skin as its observation subject. She observes the nerves within the skin and various cells in the plane and cross-sectional directions. Meanwhile, Mr. Umino cultures human skin cells, artificially organizes them and observes the layers from the stratum corneum to the epidermis. Both areas of study cover about 0.2mm from the skin's surface and cannot be observed with a normal microscope. However, it is essential to observe the deeper parts of the skin accurately in order to further understand the skin nerve reaction mechanism and how cosmetic materials may affect the skin and the epidermis.
This is where the multiphoton confocal microscope comes in. It can photograph the deep part of the skin clearly by utilizing near-infrared rays. Moreover, since it is possible to observe the tissue in a live state and obtain 3D image data, it is possible to gain real-time information such as the reaction to skin stimulus, the process of cosmetic permeation into the skin and how long the material remains inside after penetration.

Microscope laboratory where the multiphoton confocal microscope is located.
Nikon's multiphoton confocal microscope system A1R MP+
Observation starts after positioning a specimen.
Through display of three-dimensional images on the monitor, fine details can be observed.

Image of deep skin taken by the multiphoton confocal microscope (nerve fibers in green).

Photo courtesy: CREST • Shiseido Advanced Research Center

Microscopic images of deep, cultured skin achieved with the multiphoton confocal microscope.
(After applying colorless stimulant substances to the skin surfaces, green water-soluble substances are applied to check the degree of penetration.)

• Left: from stratum corneum to basal layer
• Right: from stratum granulosum to basal layer
• Up: from stratum corneum to basal layer
• Down: from stratum granulosum to basal layer

(Stimulants have reached the stratum granulosum where it was originally thought they should not be able to penetrate.)

Photo courtesy: CREST • Shiseido Advanced Research Center

The introduction of the multiphoton confocal microscope was led by Professor Masaharu Nagayama of Hokkaido University, while the research concept of understanding skin function from both the physiological and mathematical science aspects was determined by CREST, part of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). The decisive factors in selecting Nikon's multiphoton confocal microscope were its ease of customization for research and the various kinds of technical support that Nikon provided, such as optimum shooting methods.

To conclude, we asked Ms. Denda and Mr. Umino about their "dream cosmetics".
"I would like to develop products that allow people who have not been able to use cosmetics due to sensitive skin or atopic dermatitis to enjoy makeup without hesitation," explained Ms. Denda, "I would be so happy if my research could help such people."
Mr. Umino took a broader view, remarking that, "Just like taking nutrition from our diet, if custom-made products can improve the health of the skin and the physical constitution, as well as the mental well-being for each person, we will have created a whole new kind of value for cosmetics."

Whatever the future holds, it's very clear that, for Shiseido, beauty innovation that enriches people and society starts from a deeper knowledge of the skin. So Nikon's microscopes are playing an important part too, contributing to this research that supports people's well-being and lifestyles through a wide range of skincare products including cosmetics.