We feel the world through our skin｜２
--I would like to ask Dr. Denda, once again, what you find interesting about the skin.
DendaOf all the skin functions, its barrier function is best known. The skin protects the body in various ways, such as repairing the stratum corneum by itself to prevent evaporation of moisture from the body, and generating melanin to prevent inflammation due to UV rays. However, these are not its only functions. On top of that, we have learned that the cells called “keratinocytes” that form the epidermis serve as excellent sensors, and sense and obtain various types of external information. For example, the skin can gain a sense of the strength of sounds, colors, and light.
ShibuyaEven sounds and colors!
DendaA hormone known as oxytocin, which has a relaxing effect, is secreted when we are touched, such as when we are hugged or kissed. We tend to think that this hormone is secreted from the brain, but it is in fact produced by the skin as well.
On the other hand, it has also been reported that those with poor skin conditions, such as patients of atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, are susceptible to mental illness. In short, things that touch our skin as well as the condition of our skin have a very significant impact on our mental health. However, this impact is received by the unconscious part of our brains. As we are unable to verbalize it, it has eventually become neglected; as a result, skin research has lagged behind other fields of research.
ShibuyaDr. Denda, what was it that made you realize how interesting the skin is?
DendaI first began engaging in skin research when I entered Shiseido. However, I was initially at a loss about what I should do. At the time, I looked up all the various fields of research conducted overseas, and learned about the research work of Professor Peter Elias from the University of California, San Francisco, where I would further my studies later.
He propounds the autonomy of the skin’s barrier function. When the barrier of the stratum corneum is damaged, it recovers in about 48 hours under natural circumstances. However, if we were to wrap the damaged area of the skin so that water vapor is unable to escape, the barrier would not recover. In short, wrapping the skin gives it the mistaken impression that the barrier has recovered, so the skin would no longer regenerate. However, if we were to wrap it in Gore-Tex material that allows water vapor to pass through, the skin would recognize that the barrier has not healed, and work to create a new barrier. When I read that, it felt as if an electric shock had run through my spine. It was then that I came up with the idea that skin thinks, which has led me to my work today.
ShibuyaThat is to say, we feel and perceive much of the world through our skin?
DendaAmong the five senses, such as sight, hearing, and touch, research on sight and hearing is especially advanced. This is because it tends to be easier for us to communicate in words the ability to see and hear. However, it is very difficult for us to share the sense of touch. For example, we experience different sensations and perceptions when we are touched by someone we like, as compared to someone we feel an aversion toward, don’t we? In short, as the sense of touch is too closely intertwined with our personal subjectivity and the environment, it is difficult to extract it by itself and discuss about it. There is nothing more solitary than the sense of touch.
ShibuyaI like what you say about the sense of touch being solitary. I am constantly concerned about how to present to our consumers the interesting aspects of Dr. Denda’s skin research, which has also been applied to the field of cosmetics. This is because, as we have just discussed, the sense of touch unconsciously impacts an individual’s mind and body. However, if we were to attempt to translate that impact into words and art, it would become a form of verbalized information to be perceived and considered with one’s brain. It would no longer be a sense of touch that we experience for ourselves.
DendaIt is a difficult task, isn’t it? However, we could say that the basic and important thing to do would be to make the “unconscious” function of the other party work, in order to increase the number of repeat consumers. Although they do not express it in words, consumers feel and get a sense of elements such as the impression from the use of a cosmetic product, the texture of the packaging, and its fragrance. Such elements eventually become tied in with the impression that “I like this product.” In particular, as Shiseido works with a field that is directly linked to the skin’s sensations, I think it would be interesting to explore further in that direction.
The copy used during the renewal in 2011: “Imagine Your Skin Has a Mind of Its Own” / From the clé de peau BEAUTÉ website