Saving Face

Words by Harriet Hirschler

02 November 2020


Dr. Barbara Sturm has achieved cult status around the world thanks to her anti-inflammatory approach to skincare – she shares the science behind the serums with us.

Harriet Hirschler: Hi Barbara. What inspired you to become a doctor?

Barbara Sturm: My grandma was a pharmacist and my mother was a chemist. I learned a lot about herbal medicine and ingredient science from them when I was growing up. My grandma used to mix everything and make medicine for us when we needed it.

How did your skincare brand come about?

Combating inflammation has been central to my entire medical career. It’s the trigger for most of the dysfunction and disease in our bodies, and also in our skin. I began a medical practice in anti-inflammatory-focused orthopaedic medicine and then translated some of this innovative clinical research from joints into skin in 2002. I initially invented a bespoke medical cream and a new injectable, both derived from a patient’s own blood plasma.

When my patients asked me to recommend a post-medical treatment skincare regime, I surveyed the market and found I couldn’t find anything – it was all aggressive ingredients and marketing fluff. So I originally set out to create a patients-only skincare regime built around anti-inflammatory ingredient science. It took me several years, but the result was my Dr. Barbara Sturm range, a high performance skincare regimen I formulated out of advanced ingredient science.

Can you tell us a bit about some of the ingredients you use?

Advanced ingredient science is what I build my skincare solutions around – potent, key ingredients that have been widely clinically studied for their properties and efficacy.

One such ingredient is the natural extract purslane or portulaca oleracea. It’s been clinically studied for the last decade for its remarkable anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, nutritive, wound healing and telomerase activating properties. It’s truly a superfood and a herbal medicine – and is a great example of the wisdom of nature.

I also created my own proprietary formulation of hyaluronic acid. Clinical studies have shown that hyaluronic acid protects your skin barrier function, which is the skin’s armour against pathogens, sun and pollution exposure, and protects the body’s largest inlet to disease and dysfunction. My hyaluronic serum is such a fundamental product that I sometimes refer to it as the ‘white T-shirt’ of my skincare regime. It consists of a high concentration of blended low- and high-molecular weight hyaluronic acid that deeply hydrates your skin both superficially and at deeper skin layers. This in turn strengthens the skin’s natural barrier function. It also serves as a penetrating agent to carry anti-aging and other active ingredients into deeper skin layers. The right hyaluronic acid will give instant results to any skin type.

A few other health boosting, anti-aging ingredients with hydrating, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and soothing properties that I love include glutathione, skullcap and beta-carotene. And in oral supplements, some great ingredients include adaptogens – a group of herbs drawn from Chinese and Indian medicine that help the body and skin deal with physical and chemical stressors.

What was the decision behind making your products unisex?

I create products that hydrate, soothe irritation, nourish and create healthy skin layers and skin function. That is a unisex approach. For example, my super anti-aging serum and calming serum are great for men’s aftershave and irritated skin, and my men’s kit contains my facial scrub and enzyme cleanser.

What are some of the common skincare mistakes you see in the beauty industry?

Being promiscuous with skincare. When you zig-zag between products and brands, self-curating as most people do, the ingredients may work at cross purposes. And second, quick-fix anti-aging approaches, like acid peels and harsh lasers that create inflammation and harm rather than heal your skin. The goal with skincare is to soothe and reduce inflammation, not cause it, and skincare should never cause any discomfort.

How important is it to have a skincare routine?

At Dr. Barbara Sturm we create products that work in synergy with each other in an ingredient-science based, effective regime. Having a cohesive skincare routine formulated with clinically studied ingredients can only enhance your skincare experience. They’ll target the same issues, work in tandem, and won’t overpower your skin but minimise inflammation to keep skin young and functioning as a beautiful, protective layer.

What can we do to maintain good skin?

We are bombarded every day with inflammatory influences, from harsh skincare ingredients, to UVA and UVB rays, car emissions, HEV rays, and stress, smoking, drinking and sugar. If we learn what the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory influences are, we can adjust our lifestyle accordingly. It will have both an immediate and long-term effect on skin aging and your overall health.

Adequate sleep, getting daily exercise, avoiding excess alcohol, sugar, fried and processed foods, and flour while eating anti-inflammatory foods like avocados, salmon, olive oil, tomatoes, nuts, dark berries and green tea are my constants for daily self-care.

Inflammation is the body’s response to irritation and injury and must be recognised as a primary trigger for acne, premature aging, redness, enlarged pores, and other disease and dysfunction including psoriasis, rosacea and perioral dermatitis. Once you understand this, you’re ready to take the simple steps to reduce inflammatory influences in your life.

What are you working on now?

I’m launching my beautiful new LA boutique and spa later this month. I spent the last year designing and creating it around the needs of my patients, and here I will also be premiering new inventions and scientific breakthroughs exclusively in the boutique.

I’ve also just launched my nano silver mask, a silver, nano-technology face mask that is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and highly breathable to prevent ‘maskne’ [acne caused by wearing a mask] and protect your overall health. And a ‘maskne’ set, which contains not only the mask but products that protect and soothe your skin when you’re wearing one.

I have some interesting new inventions coming out – new delivery methods for potent ingredients and new compounds, increasingly tailored products, and advanced procedures. We have lots of exciting things in store. I always reveal my inventions first on and via my newsletter – you can sign up online.

For further info on Dr. Sturm, please contact your lifestyle manager.

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