We spoke to skincare expert, inventor the of Vampire Facial and Bella Hadid's go-to facialist Dr Barbara Sturm about fad trends and the beauty of science
While you may not know her name you’ll have definitely admired Dr. Barbara Sturm’s work. Bella Hadid’s Insta-perfect youthful glow? That’s Sturm. That image of Kim Kardashian covered in her own blood? Sturm, too albeit indirectly. She invented the now viral Vampire Facial - a plasma-infused treatment designed to correct myriad signs of ageing - after her years in orthopaedics. Back in Dusseldorf, she played an integral part in the development of the Kobe Procedure, named after basketball player Kobe Bryant, where a patient’s blood cells are used to produce proteins and thus galvanise the healing process. In 2003, she used this same principle to create her now famous MC1 cream where a patient’s blood is drawn and spun into a bespoke cream. She originally created the cream for herself, as a means of addressing her own skin problems, but it soon caught on. Which brings us right back to Kim’s Vampire Facial. But of course it’s not all blood and gore; in 2014 she created her cult Molecular Cosmetics range, which is where Bella comes in. She’s a big fan of the line, in fact, a lot of celebrities are. So far the line ranges from the Hyaluronic Serum to Sun Drops SPF 50 to Calming Serum to Anti-Pollution Drops - all aimed at tightening, brightening, hydrating rejuvenating, and reducing puffiness and redness within target areas. Although mainly working out of her clinic in Dusseldorf, we caught up with the skincare expert in London to talk fad trends and the beauty of science.
Have you always been into beauty?
Dr Barbara Sturm: No. Growing up I was a tomboy and not interested in beauty at all. I wore eyeliner for the first time aged 25. But I always wanted to have nice skin. It's funny because you know, I came to this industry by chance, because I wanted to fix my own skin. But now I am in this jungle and I've become this pioneer and an entrepreneur.
Your approach to beauty is steeped in science, can you tell us a bit about your background?
Dr Barbara Sturm: Growing up I studied medicine and sports. I’ve always been hooked on science and started out in orthopaedics, where I was working alongside scientists at Harvard. At that time I realised everyone I wanted to do should be based on science. If you think of skin, it’s the biggest organ you have, why wouldn’t you approach it with science?
When did you become interested in skin?
Dr Barbara Sturm: I always had problems with my skin. It was dry all the time and I had little blackheads, which were so annoying. I tried every cream on the market, every mask, and I saw a facialist every three weeks. All I wanted was a cream that worked, so I decided to make one. My grandmother was a pharmacist and told me what I needed to put in the cream. I worked with another pharmacist, focusing on adding proteins from the blood. And I've been using this cream to heal my skin ever since.
You pioneered the concept of using one’s own DNA in order to heal one’s skin, why is this so effective?
Dr Barbara Sturm: I think everything you design that is customised to your own body's needs is always going to work better than a mainstream mass product.
How did you go from making your own cream to selling products on a massive scale?
Dr Barbara Sturm: I started working with a few patients. Using blood to create their own customised creams. But then they wanted to bring cream to their friends. They would also ask me about which cleansers to use, what my regime was, and I could never recommend anything because, 15 years ago, I thought a cream was it. As time went on I decided to make other products. I wanted to make a serum with active ingredients, a water solution to put underneath your moisturiser, because it transports all the active ingredients through the skin layers, and then a moisturiser. But of course, there are people who have specific problems with their eyes, like puffiness and fine lines, or hollowness so we created an eye cream, then I had a serum created to reduce puffiness and redness. Patients would ask for things and I would create products. Then I came up with the glow drops and you know, it's like, now I'm really obsessed with creating like new products, which are not necessarily on the market.
What makes you different from other skincare experts out there?
Dr Barbara Sturm: I think when I started I was basically the first one to give people the natural look, because I never was anything but natural. I wouldn't make big lips, I would only make lips that fit to your face, and I wouldn't change your face but I would make your face younger. And I think this is something which the Hollywood people admired because they only want to say they drink lots of water. So I have a very strong Hollywood clientele, they were the ones who admired it first, besides my German long term patients, and now I think everybody is following this approach. When you see me on Instagram I never have make-up on, you can see my skin and if you think my skin looks shitty don't buy my products, if you think my skin looks okay then go for it. I don't want to pretend I’m something I'm not.
What’s the biggest misconception about skincare today?
Dr Barbara Sturm: I'd really like to educate the public about being nice to your skin. Stop all the aggression, stop destroying your skin with acid peels, lasers and really aggressive treatments and ingredients. It messes up your skin, breaks its barrier functions which means things penetrate it much more easily. Instead, you should make your cells strong, healthy. Use products that are anti-inflammatory, super healing, super hydrating. Don't go after all those quick fix acids and those like empty promises.
Why do you think lasers and peels have become such a trend?
Dr Barbara Sturm: People like to jump on things that promise an anti-ageing effect, or flawless skin. It’s all marketing. Acid peels have become a standard industry approach, even brands who don't even believe in it. This is something that I'm like so against.
Where is skincare heading?
Dr Barbara Sturm: I think I'm pretty much leading the innovative of skincare. I don’t believe in all these machines and gadgets you can take home. I think it’s going to be ingredients which are really powerful on a cellular level. I'm working with scientists who are leading in this field and I'm excited about it. I'm also teaming up with a new very genius, you will see when we come out with it. It's very simple but you have to make it at home, it's an ingredient you have to make yourself at home because it's unstable and it's very interesting, but I feel like the most effective methods are mostly the simple ones. I would like to take over the skincare world but in a very moderate and healthy way and not by overloading the market. We come up with solutions for different skin types and I think that's differentiating us from others.
What are the skincare dos and don’ts?
Dr Barbara Sturm: Dos and don'ts, I mean I think it all comes down to taking inflammation out of your body because it all ties together – get enough sleep, try to stay away from, you know, all the bad stuff, drugs, cigarettes. It's good to not have stress, try to not live in pollution, be careful with the sunlight. Eat food that’s anti-inflammatory. We have an anti-inflammatory supplement in the range. I wanted my science for every cell not just for my skin cells. I'm obsessed with science and I just wanted to do them. And as I said it's a lifestyle, it's more lifestyle than just skincare. In terms of don’ts, no acids, no lasers, read ingredients and don't go for harsh ingredients, try to stay away from fragranced skincare.
What do you think of as beauty?
Dr Barbara Sturm: I always think that beauty is a combination of what you see from the outside but also what you radiate. You can see the most beautiful woman and think ‘oh my god she’s scary.’ I think it's always a combination. For me, everybody's beautiful that’s why you never hear me talking about wrinkles – it's nothing to do with beauty. That's why I like when we transform the skin of a person to this beautiful glow-y healthy hydrated, you know, radiant skin which I think is the key to being beautiful – if your skin looks great it doesn't matter if you've got like wrinkles or whatever.