Barbara Sturm on skin care, vulva sculpture and her new London summit


When it comes to successful skincare brands of the last decade, few have enjoyed such a rise as Dr. Barbara Sturm’s label of the same name. Spearheading the trend from the doctor-founded beauty brand (alongside the likes of Augustinus Bader and Dennis Gross), Sturm’s line started as a whisper among Hollywood celebrities in the 2000s and now, thanks to word of mouth and a a strong digital strategy, its white bottles are found in the bathrooms of the most demanding, including Hailey Bieber, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Victoria Beckham, Angela Bassett and Bella Hadid.

A sports medicine physician, Sturm has a holistic, anti-inflammatory approach to skin health. “Inflammation is a necessary immune response from our bodies,” she says via a video call from her chalet in the Swiss mountain resort of Gstaad, “but if it gets too high we start to get autoimmune diseases, chronic diseases and we age… we need to keep it under control.”

To do so, she advocates a mostly plant-based diet, regular exercise, avoiding the midday sun, reducing stress as much as possible, and aiming for the holy grail of eight hours of sleep. Sound puritanical? Perhaps. But Dr. Sturm, who exercises daily and is in bed most nights by 10pm, is the best advertisement for this regimen. A 50-year-old mother of two daughters (Charly, 26, and Pepper, eight) with a busy international travel schedule, she has the kind of glowing skin typically reserved for teenagers. She has been on botox since she was in her 30s, but the look of her is very natural.

Barbara Sturm

“I think injectables have a place,” says Sturm, who now thinks he started too young. “It’s about how you do it: looking beautiful and refreshed.” He believes a slightly pointed face can have mental health benefits, “because if your face doesn’t look the way you feel, it can cause a lot of depression and it’s so easy to fix! Suddenly, you can feel what your face looks like!

She’s less keen on acid exfoliators and retinols, such a popular part of most brands’ offerings. “I think in big cities people are so busy that there is often an urgency to make quick fixes… The problem is that you can easily cause damage by destroying skin barrier function and your microbiome, causing inflammation, dryness and all kinds of sensitivities,” says Sturm. “I can always tell when someone has used retinol.”

Barbara Sturm

Dr Sturm is hosting her first in-person Wellbeing Summit at The Stables, Covent Garden, tomorrow and Saturday. He’s set to be similar to Goop in its breadth, minus the £1,000 bills. “I love what Gwyneth does with Goop, but this is actually a different approach. I am a doctor, I come from a scientific background”. While Sturm’s products don’t come cheap – his hyaluronic acid serum is £250 for 100ml and his Glow Drops are £115 – there will be plenty on offer on the ground floor of the event that won’t cost a penny, from Scan of the 3D facial and 15 minute express facials, arcade games with miniature prizes. A series of nine ticketed masterclasses, workshops and panel discussions will take place on the first floor, with tickets costing from £20 to £80, redeemable on product.

Where Gwyneth has her jade eggs, Sturm has a vaginal clay sculpture workshop in partnership with The Lady Garden Foundation. After a talk on gynecological health, London-based artist Poppy Sheppard will help attendees sculpt their own artistic interpretations of an illustration of the vulva from colored clay. The idea came after Sturm launched an intimate care range in April 2021 and found that many women are unaware of their own anatomy. “Women aren’t taught about their bodies… Many didn’t really know the difference between a vagina and a vulva, what it looks like,” Sturm says. “I think it’s quite interesting to talk about what we can do better if we understand our bodies better?”

Barbara Sturm

For Newby Hands, Global Beauty Director at Net-a-Porter, it’s this down-to-earth approach that makes Sturm so attractive and successful: “Barbara has always been very connected to women and what they want in their skincare and this woman-woman approach is so powerful,” she says. “Ultimately, her brand is about great products that deliver, look great and are a joy to use, created by a passionate founder who truly embodies her brand.”

Sturm’s anti-inflammatory approach to skin is rooted in his medical career in orthopedics, where he helped create the “Kobe procedure” (as in Kobe Bryant) in which a patient’s blood cells are injected back into the joints to reduce inflammation and slow down the aging process. Translating this into the field of aesthetics, Sturm developed his MC1 cream (a moisturizer incorporating a patient’s blood plasma) in 2002 and opened a medical clinic in Düsseldorf in 2006. Soon, his clientele began to ask for a complete skincare regimen, and in 2014, she launched her bloodless Molecular Cosmetics skincare line, focused on healing and hydration.

Since then she has opened spas in eight locations (including one on London’s Mount Street, her second clinic to offer injectables), added supplements, teas and hair care products to her range and collaborated with fashion brands such as Aquazzura and Perfect Moment. Valued by the FT at approximately $150 million, the company has seen revenue grow 10-fold over the past four years. But while some beauty brands have been acquired by giant conglomerates, Sturm has remained independent.

“With its appetite for innovation, commitment to clinical research, and belief in the power of word of mouth, Sturm’s remarkable evolution from whispered secret to global skincare dominance has been stealthy and very safe,” she says. Rose Beer, beauty director of ES Magazine.

So what will happen to the leather supreme, I ask? “More spas, more peaks, more skin care… all of this takes a lot of work!” he says laughing. In reality, though, it’s clear that this brilliant German is driven to help us look and feel our best. “People can make their own choices,” he says, “but if they have more knowledge, they can make better ones.”

Dr. Barbara Sturm Haus: Anti-Inflammatory Workshop, The Stables WC2H 9LH, January 27-28,

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