Creative Direction: Amy Sessions & Dan Robinson
Photographer: Greg Adamski
Production: Olivia Morris
Fashion Assistant: Sarah Joseph
Makeup & Hair: Melanie Meyer by MMG
Videographer: Mark Mathew
Cover Star: Dr. Barbara Sturm

If you’re a skincare fan, you’ve most definitely heard of the household name Dr. Barbara Sturm – and if you haven’t, well, it’s about time you found out. After launching her eponymous line in 2003, followed by a full skincare line in 2014, Dr. Sturm – or known as BB to her nearest and dearest – has become a pioneer in the beauty sphere, with her renowned anti-inflammatory philosophy approach to skincare.

While you’d assume she comes from the dermatological side of the medical field, her background is from the orthopedic field which concerns itself with conditions involving the musculoskeletal system in the body. In fact, before making waves in the beauty industry, Dr. Sturm was part of the team in Düsseldorf, Germany at the Centre for Molecular Orthopedics which developed innovative and groundbreaking anti-inflammatory treatments to tackle osteoarthritis and back pain. One such patient which benefited from this treatment was the late Kobe Bryant – one of the best NBA basketball players of all time – who underwent a procedure on his knee. Since then, it’s been coined the ‘Kobe Procedure’.

So, how exactly did she find herself entering the aesthetics field, arguably a huge 180 degrees from what she trained in? Well, being a person, as she says, “who always liked to swim against the mainstream”, she opted to utilize the anti-inflammatory aspect of orthopedics as she realized it could be adapted to the skin. “Inflammation is really the bane of the body, and at the root of much dysfunction and disease,” she explains. “As a doctor and scientist, I pursue advances in ingredient science and cutting-edge techniques and treatments.”

This led to her first “big break” into the aesthetics space in 2002 creating the acclaimed ‘Blood Facial’, also known as the ‘Vampire Facial’ – a treatment loved by celebrity A-listers including Kim Kardashian. Just a year later, in 2003, Dr. Sturm launched Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics, followed by a dedicated clinic in 2006 in her hometown of Düsseldorf. But, it was in 2014, that the Dr. Barbara Sturm name really rose to prominence with the launch of her core skincare line which is based on “innovations in ingredient science and potent natural extracts that strengthen and improve the skin, without attacking it.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

Dr. Sturm is now a true household name in her field, with a catalogue of celebrity clients including Bella Hadid, Victoria Beckham, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Moss – just to name a few. As well as this, Sturm products are now the go-to for luxury houses during fashion month and they are also some of the top sellers on Net-A-Porter globally, as well as right here in the region. Here, Emirates Woman discusses with our December cover star what it takes to build a results-driven brand backed by innovative research, how she’s harnessed the innovative treatments from orthopaedics and transferred them to the aesthetics space and what the future holds for Dr. Barbara Sturm, because it’s clear the only way is up.

Talk us through your career.

My aesthetic career was heavily inspired by the anti-inflammatory treatments I helped pioneer in the orthopaedic field. Aesthetics is a combination of art and science, and it is a fascinating challenge with immediate and very gratifying patients. I started by injecting Hyaluronic Acid and Botox which provided amazing results, but I kept thinking that it would be a great additional anti-ageing booster for the skin if we also started mixing it with the body’s own anti-inflammatory healing factors like we did in orthopaedics. The results, in the form of the ‘blood facial,’ lasted longer and the skin benefited greatly from the additional heal- ing power and anti-inflammatory proteins. I always liked to swim against the mainstream, and I see skin and overall wellness through the prism of combatting inflammation through ingredient science.

As you mentioned, you rose to prominence back in 2002 before launching your eponymous skincare brand after pioneering the ‘blood facial’ – how did this come about?

The ‘blood facial’ was a translation of the scientific research and practice I had been working on in orthopedics; I would inject the patient’s own plasma with ac- celerated growth factors and other anti-inflammatory proteins into the area of the injury to boost healing and repair injuries in athletes and ageing arthritic joints. I translated this into a facial treatment where I took a patient’s own blood, treated it over the course of a day in the laboratory to accelerate the healing factors and expression of other beneficial proteins, and then reinjected the treated plasma into the skin. It had a tremendous healing and anti-inflammatory effect. The public later termed this the “Vampire Facial.”

“I always liked to swim against the mainstream, and I skin and overall wellness through the prism of combatting inflammation through ingredient science.” 

This eventually led you to launch Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics. How have things evolved for you and your line?

I originally created my ingredient science-based, high-performance skincare line only for my patients. I was not involved in the cosmetics business at all and I knew from trying out products that were on the market that nothing would help my own skin concerns like dryness, irritation and blackheads. My mission has been to reach every patient or customer and give them education and information about ingredient science and the science of our largest organ, our skin, so they can make better choices to achieve healthy functioning glowing skin without falling into the traps of empty marketing promises. As a doctor, my instinct and philosophy is patient first, business second. I am always focused on innovation, and it’s less about my own success in the industry and more about creating treatments and products that yield results – that’s my passion.

Your brand has become the go-to for many, particularly among the celebrity crowd. Who would you say the most high-profile Dr. Barbara Sturm clients are and why do they love your brand?

I think it’s a couple of things. Firstly, my products work, and you will see results. Second, I’m a medical doctor and when treating my patients, I’m connecting with them on a personal level and often, they become my friends. I like to get to know and connect with people and it’s through this that I’ve been able to spread the word and share my passion with everybody out there, not just celebrities.

What does this region mean to you in terms of your brand and beauty?

I have been coming to the Middle East since 2003 and feel very connected to my client base, whom I have such strong relationships with. And my collection is very suited to help combat the specific environmental stressors that can affect the skin if you live in the region, including sun, humidity and pollution.

If you had to choose one hero product from your skincare line, what would it be?

I love all my products and I created all of them for a reason so it’s very difficult to choose a favourite but if I had to I would say my Hyaluronic Serum and Face Cream are absolute must-haves. I call serums the “power tools” of skincare because of their ability to penetrate deep and fast into the skin to address concerns with active ingredients. A modern, innovative skincare routine always includes a serum as well as a face cream – it should never replace it both are absolutely necessary.

In your opinion, what contributes the most to ageing – and how do we best combat it?

One of the biggest culprits of ageing is inflammation. Inflammation comes from our diet, stress, lack of sleep, pollution, sun… all of those stressors and it can also come from your own skincare routine. To get inflammation under control we can adapt to an anti-inflammatory lifestyle by taking time to de-stress, sleeping eight hours, eating an anti-inflammatory diet and adapting our skincare routines so that they’re anti-inflammatory. This means excluding harsh ingredients like Retin-A, glycolic acid peels and laser treatments because they cause inflammation – but they also disrupt your skin barrier and your microbiome. This makes your skin vulnerable and unprotected, allowing aggressors such as sun and pollution to penetrate your skin even easier and cause problems like premature ageing and pigmentation. Another factor is hydration. Hydration is the key to anti- ageing. Dry or dehydrated skin is never an option.

But what’s also important when we look at anti-ageing, is to help our systems repair and heal the damage caused by free radicals and other stressors. This is why I created the Exoso-Metic Collection, because exosomes and growth factors help to repair your skin and your system constantly, upgrading your skin with high-performance ingredient science as well as telomerase activators like Purslane. Combining our skincare with our supplements will get you the ultimate, inside-out and top-to-bottom anti-ageing result.

With the Dr. Barbara Sturm brand, you’ve managed to foray into the fashion world and now have a huge presence during Fashion Month. How did this come about?

I have had a presence at Fashion Weeks for the past few years, we were one of the first skincare brands to do so. I initially began in 2015 with pop-up spas offering facials for models, designers, stylists or anyone in need of some self-care during their busy Fashion Week schedules. And then two years ago the brand began to have a regular backstage presence at the shows, as we had such a great demand from the makeup artists and manicurists for good quality, healthy skincare. The models’ skin really suffers during this hectic period as they are constantly travelling, taking part in mul- tiple shows per day and having makeup applied and removed. It’s long and exhausting and they need their skin to be glowing, fresh and healthy. For makeup artists, it’s critical because the better the skin, the better the makeup. Unlike a photo shoot, a fashion show is a live experience and you can’t edit your work if you’re not happy with the results. It’s essential that the skin looks perfect.

You’re, of course, known for being a major player in the beauty industry, but what are some things that people may not know about you?

My dad and brother are architects and I’m super interested in interior design – we all love art. I grew up with lots ofcars–so I know a lot about cars and my mum was an amazing chef; we would cook the most delicious dinners and make menus. My mom was a chemist, and my grandmother was a pharmacist, and they would always mix creams for us as children – we would often go into the forest during my childhood and pick medicinal herbs and roots. It’s interesting to look at different facets of life and be inquisitive about multiple things.

We’re sure there’s been some major milestones and hurdles you’ve had to overcome throughout your career. What stands out to you?

When I launched on NET-A-PORTER more than ten years ago it was such a huge milestone for me and a window to all other retailers, who started asking me one by one to join them. On the other hand, when I had just created my Darker Skin Tones line in 2014, which works to reduce hyperpigmentation, even skin tone and soothe irritation in melanin-rich skin, I was discouraged by the initial reluctance of some of the major retailers in picking it up. We had put so much effort and research into creating something truly extraordinary but we didn’t give up. Finally, it came to the point where I insisted that if retailers wanted to carry my main Molecular Cosmetics Skincare line, they’d have to carry the Darker Skin Tones line as well, and they did. I’m a doctor, so I am in the service business. Serving patients starts with listening to the patient.

What does scaling in the Middle East look like for you?

Trust me, I’m working on it! My number one priority for my clients wherever I am is to be able to educate them on making the best decisions for their skin – I am always looking at further opportunities in which I can share my anti-inflammatory philosophy and help each person I meet have the best and healthiest skin possible. It’s one of the driving principles of my work and inventions.

On a global scale, what is next for you and Dr. Barbara Sturm cosmetics…?

I have so many exciting things coming up. I just launched a new Spa & Boutique on Madison Ave. in New York and I have another opening on Mercer Street before the end of the year. I am looking forward to having a new spa location where I can see clients and customers in person. I’m also launching an immersive and interactive virtual shopping experience in the New Year (more on that soon) and I have some new product innovations launching in 2023 – there are plenty more in-store.

December’s – The Winter Escape Issue – Download Now

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Images: Supplied