“I think I’m the mother of customized skin care,” says Barbara Sturm, an aesthetic medical doctor who, about 15 years ago, mixed her own blood into a skin cream and started a beauty phenomenon. The MC1 cream, made with a client’s own blood, is now the stuff of legend. “Everyone who is on it is like, ‘This is the best cream I’ve ever had.’”
The beauty industry is the last place Sturm ever expected to be. As a self-described tomboy growing up in Germany, she wanted to be a doctor, just like her mom. A sports lover, she became an orthopedist, specializing in inflammation, and helped pioneer a treatment against osteoarthritis. It involved “taking a patient’s blood, creating anti-inflammatory proteins from it, and reinjecting it into the joints.”
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Around 2001, she attended a workshop on facial fillers and soon applied her learnings from orthopedics to aesthetics. Sturm began injecting solutions of plumping hyaluronic acid and blood into clients’ faces, and got rave reviews. “Inflammation causes redness, breakouts, aging, eczema, you name it,” she says. “What we create from your blood is a protein, the strongest anti-inflammatory protein in our body.” Dealing with her own problematic skin, Sturm soon whipped up a face cream with zero preservatives, mineral oil, or fragrance. After adding her own blood to it, she found she never needed a basic facial again.
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In 2014, Sturm launched a line—fans of which include Emma Roberts, Cher, Lily Aldridge, and Olivia Culpo—including moisturizers and cleanser using hyaluronic acid and anti-inflammatory extracts. Her approach is nourishing, not stripping: “It’s a problem if you weaken your skin barrier. That’s what’s happening with all these acid peels. [Skin needs] moisturizing, nutrition, and anti-inflammatories. Everything else is just blah, blah, blah.”