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Dr. Sturm.

Renowned aesthetic physician who gained prominence through her commitment to youthful skin and the radiance of natural beauty

meet.

"Meet your skincare guru"

“Whatever you put on your skin has an effect on your immune system,” Dr. Barbara Sturm explains from atop a shaggy beanbag at her chalet in Gstaad. “Watch the news. These days it’s all about viruses making us sick.” She reclines and clasps her hands behind her head as if supremely comfortable— the white sheets on the bed behind her so crisp the room looks uninhabited. She wears a white, star-emblazoned sweater with a gold chain and occasionally runs a hand through her head of boyish blond hair.

Sturm, of skincare renown, considers herself an educator rather than someone who simply sells products. Our conversation is very much that, an education. It’s also effective marketing. By the time the interview wraps we’re sold on her mission; to keep skincare clean of detrimental ingredients— and we want to procure her entire line.

Dr. Barbara Sturm launched her eponymous skincare brand in 2002 out of a distrust for any product on the market. She suffered from severely dry skin that nothing could solve, and she claims to have tried absolutely everything. Her solution was to collaborate with a pharmacist to invent a cream to which she added anti-inflammatory proteins found in blood— it transformed her skin overnight.

Sturm didn’t create her cream out of thin air. She studied medicine at Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf, after which she began work in an orthopedic clinic where she collaborated with professors and scientists from Pittsburgh and Harvard Universities. Sturm witnessed the improvement of inflamed joints via the injection of platelets derived from a patient’s blood. The treatment was dubbed Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy and it was first introduced to the mainstream when the late NBA player Kobe Bryant received it on injured ankle and knee joints in 2011.

Sturm applied Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy to skincare and the vampire facial was born. She opened a medical aesthetics clinic in Dusseldorf where she injected platelets from the patient’s blood into the patient’s face, which Sturm asserts slows down the aging process. Platelets are a type of blood cell that contain bio proteins called growth factors, which play a role in cellular regeneration and healing. According to Johns Hopkins University, studies show that increased growth factors may decrease pain and accelerate healing.
The vampire facial skyrocketed to fame when Kim Kardashian Instagrammed a picture of her bloodied face mid-treatment in 2013. Sturm has since stopped performing custom treatments, but her vampire facial has taken off at medical aesthetic clinics worldwide. Sturm’s focus currently lies on her boutiques and retail line, which sells at Goop and Net-A-Porter, and recently launched on Luxury Stores at Amazon. She has spas in Palm Beach, Los Angeles, London, Dusseldorf, Dallas, and Miami.
Sturm was practically destined for a life in medicalized skincare— Her mother was a lab doctor, and her grandmother was a pharmacist. She grew up secluded in the mountains in East Germany where there wasn’t much available in nearby stores. She watched her grandmother mix creams and ointments and witnessed the creation of medicine from wild herbs. When she created her first cream, she asked her grandmother what ingredients to use.

Our skin is an entry point for every ingredient we apply to it. “Anything that you can’t use when pregnant, stay away,” Sturm warns. “It’s an easy indicator that it’s not safe, ever.” Sturm believes that our skin should be treated like an organ, because it is one— it is also our largest. “Would you harm your liver, your heart, your kidney?” She pleads, describing how the dendritic cells underneath our skin communicate with our immune system. The primary protective function is performed by the skin barrier, the outer layer, which consists of dead skin cells, a hyper-lipid film, and a microbiome. “Bacteria, viruses, funguses, and parasites all live on the skin as a biotope,” she explains. “Trendy ingredients— mineral oils, fragrances, alcohol, and glycolic retinol will take off your skin barrier and leave you with no defense system.”

  • Dr. Barbara Sturm on Semaine photographed by Nick Haddow
  • Dr. Barbara Sturm on Semaine photographed by Nick Haddow

While the aforementioned are still very much in circulation, Europe has banned upwards of 1,400 skincare ingredients while the United States has banned less than 20. Sturm won’t even use most of the ingredients that are legal in Europe, preferring to stick solely to those she considers clean, naturally derived, and effective. She is adamant about fighting the way the beauty industry promotes products that contain harmful ingredients and proffers claims it can’t back. “Sunscreen is not the healthiest ingredient,” she states. “Your dermatologist tells you to wear sunscreen every day, every night, every morning. Why aren’t we protecting our skin from pollution and blue light?” The light from our computers, she elaborates, is detrimental too. This is where products like Sturm’s Anti-Pollution Drops come in; they leave a shield on the skin to block out HEV light and pollution, which cause cystic acne, pigmentation, and inflammation.

Pepper, Sturm’s eight-year-old daughter pops in to announce that she’s going ice skating. Ice evokes the cool, taut look of Sturm’s enviable skin— it’s clear and glassy, as might be expected from the creator of a skincare empire. “Kids who are eight are obsessed with skincare and makeup, obsessed,” Sturm states emphatically after Pepper exits. “When I was eight, I was climbing trees. The first eyeliner I used was when I was twenty-three. I mean, that’s totally bananas, but eight?”

To be fair, we’d probably be obsessed with skincare too if we’d had a skincare guru as a mother— Sturm’s Instagram page has over half a million followers and counting. Still, Sturm surmises her daughter’s obsession is due to the influence of her peers and videos she’s seen on YouTube. “She thinks it’s cool to wear makeup and put sparkles on her hair. In the makeup or skincare department of a store, she just grabs what she thinks looks good and that’s exactly how you run into the highest likelihood of destroying your skin.” Sturm has a hard time stopping her daughter from making the wrong skincare choices but ultimately succeeds, “I’m like a maniac about it,” she boasts. “But if parents don’t know these things, kids will end up with bad acne, rosacea, and eczema.”

Sturm started Skin School during Covid to combat this. Her children and stepchildren were stuck at home so she thought she’d teach them how to treat their skin, covering everything from dos and don’ts to how to clean their makeup brushes. This developed into teaching two or three online classes every week during lockdown. Pepper’s friends now come to Sturm for products. Sturm has been focused on kids for years. She launched a skincare line for infants and children in 2018. Her complete line for adults launched in 2014 and contains treatments for every age group, gender, skin color, and skin issue. The clinical white packaging doesn’t skew masculine or feminine but pharmaceutical, yet the price points are lofty— her Cleanser retails for $75 and her Hyaluronic Serum retails for $300.

Perhaps high price points mean less in the context of anti-aging than they do elsewhere. Society’s perpetual quest for eternal youth means many are willing to shell out the big bucks. The United States alone spent upwards of $18 million on skincare in 2021. Japan came in at a close second at $17.5 million followed by China at just over $14 million. Germany, France, and the United Kingdom spent the most money on skincare in Europe. Asia Pacific is the dominant overall region with a 38% share of the global skincare market.

The future of skincare looks even brighter. The global skincare market was valued at $146.29 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach a value of $207.22 billion by 2028. This growth is attributed to amplified awareness of skin health, an increasingly aging population, and the ever-expanding amount of time spent staring at our own faces on screens from Zoom meetings to social media.

… for the full article, become a subscriber.

By Jocelyn Jeffery for Semaine.
Photography by Nick Haddow.

store.

"No Rash Decisions"

Have a browse of your next skincare purchase, and for a wellness routine that starts from within.

The Gwen Legging,

Ayda Activewear

£91.00

Skin Tea Molecular Herbal Infusion,

Dr. Barbara Sturm

£50.00

Semaine Issue 3 - Dr Sturm,

Semaine

£5.99

Red Light Treatment,

Qure

£250.00

Laundry Detergent,

Dr Barbara Sturm

£40.00

Face Mask,

Dr Barbara Sturm

£95.00

Barnes Computer Glasses,

Caddis Eye Appliances

£75.00

Bathrobe,

Greige

£112.00

travel.

A spiritual journey around the world.

Location image

“I go to Gstaad in Switzerland every year and Le Grand Bellevue is like my home away from home. The people are amazing and every time I go back, they make my family and I feel so welcome.”

Le Grand Bellevue,

Untergstaadstrasse 17 3780 Gstaad,

Switzerland

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“It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen with such a diverse range of wildlife and a feeling of calm and peacefulness. I have had some amazing experiences there.”

Harbour Island,

Bahamas,

North America

Location image

“The Königsallee is a famous, traditional German main street with a lot of history and it has the best boutiques for shopping. It’s also where I opened my first Spa & Boutique.”

Königsallee,

Dusseldorf,

Germany

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“Whenever I’m in Paris I go to the Marché aux Puces, which is the largest antiques and second-hand market in the world. It’s so inspirational and full of soul – it’s an amazing way to spend a day in the city.”

Marché aux Puces,

110 Rue des Rosiers 93400 Paris,

France

Location image

“As a child, I would often visit Wartburg with my parents. Every year, they would hold a Christmas market with donkey rides and music - it’s a very beautiful place and a big memory from my childhood.”

Wartburg,

Auf d. Wartburg 1 99817 Eisenach,

Germany

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“I have had so many amazing times here with my friends. LA has become a spiritual second home to me and my whole family love the city so much.”

Miami Beach,

Los Angeles,

United States

read.

"Literature to make you think"

Books grounded in scientific expertise.

Book image

Freedom From The Known,

J. Krishnamurti

12.99

“I always have this close and like to pick it up and start reading anywhere - it helps me feel grounded.”

Book image

The Telomere Effect,

Elizabeth Blackburn & Elissa Epel

10.99

"I’ve always been interested in science – my skincare is built upon anti-inflammatory ingredient science - and the writer of this book won a Nobel Prize for her ground-breaking scientific research."

Book image

Sapiens,

Yuval Noah Harari

12.99

“The best books are the ones where you can just open any page and feel inspired. This is that book.”

Book image

Life Span,

David Sinclair

14

“I always like to pick up and read new things and this has a super interesting outtake on why we age and how to live longer and healthier.”

Book image

The DNA Field and the Law of Resonance,

Pierre Franckh

10

“This combines the dynamics of positive thinking with scientific theory – it’s a book I always recommend to friends.”

stream.

"A Certain State of Mind"

The classics, modern and cult.

Stream image

“I’ve been watching this recently because my daughter Charly recommended it – it’s very entertaining.”

The White Lotus,

HBO
Stream image

“I love this because it helps me to calm and destress at any time of the day. I like to take the time to meditate - it puts me in a good mental state.”

Dr. Deepak Chopra Meditations,

Spotify
Stream image

“I grew up with classical music and it instantly takes me to a stable, balanced place.”

Classical Music,

Spotify
Stream image

“I commissioned functional music innovators to compose soothing sounds for our Spas to reduce the listener’s heart rate and cortisol levels, which in turn, lowers inflammation in the body and calms the mind.”

Sturm Sounds,

Spotify

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ask.

"I find it hard saying no. I’m a workaholic"

Get to know Tastemaker Dr. Barbara Sturm like you never have before.

What does the word “taste” mean to you?
Dr. Barbara Sturm:
Taste is doing things in style and class whilst respecting others.

Do you have a life motto that you live by?
Dr. Barbara Sturm:
My mantra is to put one foot in front of the other, keep moving and don’t look right or left. Focus on your own goals and don’t live too much in the past or the future – try and live in the moment.

What was the last thing that made you laugh?
Dr. Barbara Sturm:
Pepper, my 8-year-old, is always saying hilarious, smart and funny things. She makes me laugh every day.

What are your favourite qualities in a human being?
Dr. Barbara Sturm:
Loyalty, honesty, authenticity, kindness, respectfulness and a lot of fun.

Who is your hero?
Dr. Barbara Sturm:
My mother, who passed away ten years ago, still inspires me in every way, every day.

What is your biggest flaw?
Dr. Barbara Sturm:
I find it hard saying no. I’m a workaholic.

What is your best quality?
Dr. Barbara Sturm:
I’m super optimistic and I think everything is possible and that anyone can achieve anything with tenacity, work ethic and belief.

What would your last meal on earth be?
Dr. Barbara Sturm:
Tarte tatin.

What does success mean to you?
Dr. Barbara Sturm:
Doing something you love, fulfilling your dreams and having that feeling that you never have one day of work because you love what you are doing.

If you had the power to change anything you wanted in the world, what would you change?
Dr. Barbara Sturm:
I would put more women in charge of running countries, corporations and universities – female leadership would bring the world substantial benefits in terms of development, governance and peace.

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