In the fall of 1880, pharmacist Paul C. Beiersdorf hailing from the Mark of Brandenburg, settled down in Hamburg at the age of 44. In the years prior, he was the Technical Director of a galvanizing plant in Moscow, then co-owner of an apparatus manufacturing company in Berlin, afterwards an owner of a pharmacy in Bärwalde and later in Silesian Grünberg. With the purchase of the pharmacy near the St. Michael’s church in Hamburg, he fulfilled his dream of being independent in a large city. The area around the harbor was already densely populated and Beiersdorf hoped for a profitable business. With his knowledge of physics and abilities, he quickly built a laboratory and offered his services to doctors.
Working in close cooperation with Prof. Paul Gerson Unna, a leading dermatologist of the time, he developed a process to manufacture medical plasters, and registered his first patent for it.
The date of the patent specification – March 28, 1882 – is considered to be the foundation date of the company. Beiersdorf sold the pharmacy a year later, and moved the laboratory to Altona, which is now part of the city of Hamburg.
The pharmacist Dr. Oscar Troplowitz acquired the laboratory from Paul C. Beiersdorf in 1890 and quickly expanded it into a leading branded goods company. In 1892, he built a new factory in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel, the site of the company's headquarters to this day. The facility manufactured consumer goods brands such as Labello and NIVEA as well as plasters and pharmaceutical products. Troplowitz was a true entrepreneur: he was both customer- and market-oriented and thought in international terms from the outset. At the same time, he took care to ensure the further development of his products on a sound scientific footing.
He continued Paul C. Beiersdorf's cooperation with Prof. Paul Gerson Unna and recruited the chemist Dr. Isaac Lifschütz at Unna's recommendation. Lifschütz was the inventor of the emulsifier Eucerit, the basic ingredient and key to the unique properties of NIVEA Creme.
The still relatively young company's international success began in 1893, with a contract with the US trading company Lehn & Fink. In 1906, Troplowitz's brother-in-law, Dr. Otto Hanns Mankiewicz, became a partner in the Company. Mankiewicz primarily focused on trademark issues at the Company. He was a founder member of the "Verband der Fabrikanten von Markenartikeln" – now the "Markenverband" (German Brands Association) – of which Beiersdorf has been a member since 1905.
Troplowitz and Mankiewicz's most significant achievement at that time was to create the brands that are so famous today, such as Labello (1909) and NIVEA (1911). Driven by innovation, they created branded goods of consistently reliable quality and real benefit to a broad range of consumers. Troplowitz was convinced that this would be a successful concept for the future. He saw great opportunities for cosmetic care products in particular. This work laid the foundations for the Company's strategic orientation today.
Following the deaths of Dr. Oscar Troplowitz and Dr. Mankiewicz in 1918, the company first of all became a private limited liability company and then on June 1, 1922, a public limited company. This was the start of its steady development into an international enterprise and at the same time of its establishment and expansion as a leading manufacturer of branded products.