Science Nature Beauty

Urbanization: skin’s challenge of the modern age

Urbanization is a global phenomenon. Around 57% of the world’s population lives in cities, and the trend is rising. Life in cities is attractive. There are more jobs, more cultural offerings, more restaurants and bars, more shopping opportunities, in short – everything most young people expect from life.

But life in the city can also be more stressful than life in rural areas. Urban lifestyles are often hectic, from the morning rush hour to the city’s brightness and noise affecting sleep quality. Cities are a physical stress to us too. Our respiratory system is under continuous strain and our skin as well, obviously. Pollution is on top of our minds when we think about cities but it is just the tip of the iceberg, though.  Working and living indoors, in heated or air-conditioned rooms, has also a big impact on skin. A lack of exposure to the sun and the dry environment we live in, compromise the quality of the skin significantly. Skin dries out, becomes more sensitive and can show more wrinkles. Immune competence and barrier function are impaired, and the skin microbiome is more fragile because it is not as diverse as in people who live in rural regions. The stress hormones we produce when we are under psychological strain (who isn’t?) significantly aggravate the situation.

Psychological stress is an important factor. It is a common trigger for skin irritation, which can be exacerbated by other unfavorable factors in cities. Skin redness, tension and itching also reduce well-being, which, in turn, further increases psychological stress, initiating a vicious cycle. Quick and effective help is needed here.

The quest for balance

Most people living in cities are pretty aware of their stress level and how stress negatively affects their health and well-being.  They are on a constant quest for more balance in their lives and actively trying to do something about it. Not just for their body, but also for their mind. The body-mind connection is real. As a result, the wellness industry is booming.

The cosmetic industry plays an inherent part in the wellness industry. The use of cosmetic products makes people feel better. Just the ritual of applying a skincare product has already a positive impact on people. If this product gives the person what he or she needs for optimum care of skin, all the better. It’s more than that, though. Cosmetic products need to deliver, especially in the urbanized environment, with all that stress, physical as well as mental. This merits a closer look at some of the moist important features in this context: skin in the urbanized environment, “exposome” and “training”.


Survival of the fittest

Our skin is an organ. Without our skin, we cannot survive. Of all our organs it is the largest and arguably biologically most complex, most dynamic and, for how we look and are perceived by others, most important. If we look in the mirror, we just see its surface, but it is, literally, incredible what is happening underneath that thin sheet of dead skin cells. Our live skin cells are constantly adapting and dealing with things which brings them out of their biological balance. Survival of the fittest on a micro-scale. ‘Fittest’ means smartest and most adaptive, not strongest. The strong, but dumb will not survive, especially not in the city.

The “exposome” in the urban environment is everywhere and, biologically speaking, it seems to be “everything”. “Exposome” is a marketing-friendly word, possibly, but scientifically “exposome” means “the totality of exposures to which an individual is subjected from conception to death. It includes both external and internal factors as well as the human body’s response to these factors” (Jean Krutmann et al, In the city, external stresses are everywhere and, thanks to our hectic lifestyle and high demands, psychological stress is part of the exposome in the city as well. The way our skin reacts to these stresses is an inherent part of the science of the exposome as well.


Training is everything

In the city, biologically speaking, our skin is extremely busy. There is no room for error. All the cells in our skin need to perform on Champions League level. Can they, all of them? No, they can’t. Many cells start lagging behind, not fully able to do their ‘day-to-day job’ (producing healthy skin) and, in parallel, deal with all the stress properly.  The exposome is getting ‘too much’ for them. They are not coping and cannot deliver on Champions League level.

Is there a purpose behind the Champions League-analogy? There is. Champions League players are not just the best and most talented, they are also the best trained. Training makes them fit, perform well in all circumstances. Training is all about becoming better at performing your job. Take it step-by-step, though. Running a marathon without training doesn’t make you healthier, i.e. ‘fitter’. Your performance won’t be good either. Same goes for skin. Consequent daily use of a suitable skincare product can help train your skin cells in becoming fitter. Applying a product once or twice does not bring results.


We’re getting there

The exposome is everything: our skin as a whole, all the cells which make up our skin, the outside and inside influences on the skin and how our skin cells react to and deal with these influences. A skincare product always has to be effective and is expected to provide a solution to a skin problem. Simultaneously, the modern urban consumer hopes to improve mental well-being and ideally would like to do also something good for the environment. That’s what it is about – the consumer ultimately buys skincare products to care for skin and to feel better. This is a difficult task for skincare products, natural, highly effective and goal-oriented ingredients are needed.

We at CLR put a large focus on developing active ingredients fitting this profile – active ingredients, that are natural, highly effective and relevant for the consumer. Our active ingredients help skin cells to help themselves and provide them with the ‘training’ they need to cope with the challenges of modern urban lifestyles.



Harald van der Hoeven

Director Product Design & Development