Beauty Boss: Dr. Barbara Sturm on How She Unlocked the Secret to Anti-Aging
She started her career as a surgeon, and quickly developed a fascination for anti-inflammatory science. Now, she has one of the most sought-after skincare lines in the world, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Rosie Huntington-Whitely and Elsa Hosk as some of her devoted clientale. Below. Dr. Barbara Sturm shares her story on the creation of her practice and her ground-breaking anti-aging philosophy.
How did you fall into the beauty space?
I never thought I would end up with a skincare line, to be honest. I grew up as a tomboy and spent a lot of time out in nature - I was not a beauty junkie at all. I began my career as an orthopedic surgeon and helped pioneer a treatment for joint aging. This got me into the field of anti-inflammatory science and I started developing my very own, cutting-edge treatments.
I became fascinated by aesthetic medicine – returning the facial structure lost to age and gravity by reshaping the face with hyaluronic acid fillers and Botox. I didn't like the approach or results of most mainstream treatments. After working with professors from Harvard and University of Pittsburg, I sought to change the world of injectables. I translated the knowledge from orthopedics to skin. At the same time, I had problems with my own skin, but couldn't find products on the market that would help me. Additionally, I couldn't recommend any products to my patients, who would frequently ask me to recommend a skin care regimen, so I decided to create my own line.
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How did you come up with the concept for your line?
From my scientific work I knew that inflammation was responsible for most skin conditions - from aging to wrinkles, enlarged pores, eczema, acne, uneven pigmentation, etc. That's why one of the three pillars of my skin care line is anti-inflammation. Following the advice of one of my academic collaborators in 2002, I re-discovered Purslane, a potent natural anti-aging herb that provides many clinical benefits, including as a telomerase activator. Telomerase is called the ‘fountain of youth enzyme' and stimulation of telomerase production has been shown in a Harvard study to not only stop the aging process but to reverse it. Hydration is another important factor in skin health and appearance - the level of moisture in our skin diminishes with time, which can easily be supplemented through specific skincare ingredients including short and long chain hyaluronic acid. So these are the three pillars of my skin care philosophy: anti-inflammation, telomerase activation, and hydration.
How have you changed the landscape when it comes to beauty?
I believe in my own philosophy of approaching anti-aging in a healing way and taking care of the cells, saving them from naturally programmed cell death and pampering/nourishing them to be strong and vital. The way I changed the ‘landscape' is that I am a doctor that takes care of the skin on a molecular level, using the most advanced ingredient science and focusing on the anti-inflammatory approach. I think both my skincare line and the personalized cream are products that have changed the industry and that we have pioneered personalized skincare.
What's the best compliment you ever received?
The truth is, any patient or skin care user who tells me "you fixed my skin!" is the highest compliment for me. This is what motivates and inspires my work.
What's your skincare routine?
My skin care regimen is entirely Dr. Barbara Sturm products. My daily routine is using the Cleanser morning and evening before applying my Hyaluronic Serum and then the MC1 cream containing my own proteins. When needed, I replace the Hyaluronic Serum with my Calming Serum – for example when I go skiing, as the Calming Serum is a bit richer and protects my skin against the cold. I use the Mask four times a week and the Scrub twice, and the Super Anti-Aging Serum during travels. I usually don't wear make-up, so I really love my new Glow Drops after applying the MC1 for a natural glow during the day. The Glow Drops are also just tremendously healthy for your skin. Finally, I wear my Sun Drops in sunny situations on the beach or slopes.
Does beauty start from within? Do you follow this in your diet and how?
Yes! I have always believed in and followed a healthy diet – I don't eat meat and I rarely eat fish or dairy. I love food, but I look for best quality and specific nutrition. I integrate the anti-inflammation approach into my diet, which means to especially avoid sugar. I only drink water and also make sure to include telomerase activating food every day. Fresh Purslane can be hard to find, so I created my own supplements to make sure it is possible for everyone to take the right amount of telomerase activating and skin rejuvenating ingredients every day. Purslane is packed with healthy skin nutrients. I am also working on new beauty food. Besides a healthy diet, it is also important (and difficult) to lead a healthy lifestyle with enough sleep, exercise, and relaxation of mind. Saunas also have major health benefits, and I take them as often as possible.
What's one mistake most women make when it comes to skincare or makeup that they could easily fix?
Many women are overdosing on too many different products without paying attention to the ingredients inside the products or the way those ingredients work together. This is what leads to skin conditions like break-outs, perioral dermatitis or enlarged pores, which are inflammatory processes.
What one product do you never leave home without?
Since I almost never wear make-up and prefer to go without, I can only say that I never leave without my new Glow Drops or the Hyaluronic Serum. My skin is my makeup.
There's been a worldwide obsession with your blood cream, what makes it so special?
The blood cream is designed to remove inflammation from your skin by deploying the patient's own healing proteins. This approach ensures that pores are refined; redness is reduced and skin health is improved with a tremendous anti-aging effect. People are really obsessed with it.
What's next for the brand?
The Glow Drops just launched and we will release a couple of products in the coming months, for example, the Anti-Pollution Drops and a whole new line for kids. There is a lot of exciting things to come. I will stay busy in the lab!