I Tried a Celebrity-Approved Treatment at Barbara Sturm's LA Spa

After trying a facial treatment, I understand why Gwyneth Paltrow, Hailey Bieber, and other celebs flock to Sturm.

Photo: Getty Images / Barbara Sturm

On a quiet weekend in late 2019, I got a facial for the first time in forever. It was so relaxing and left my skin so glowy and happy that I told the esthetician that I'd be back ASAP. Little did I know that in a matter of a few months, no one on the planet would know when it might be safe to once again lie with your face fully exposed in a crowded indoor space. Thankfully, with COVID safety protocols in place, spa treatments are back, which is welcome news for anyone looking to offer their pandemic-stressed skin some TLC. And I was recently lucky enough to get exactly that at Barbara Sturm's new LA-based spa and boutique.

Who Is Barbara Sturm?

Sturm, a Dusseldorf, Germany-based orthopedic surgeon and skin specialist, is best known for her MC1 cream, or "blood cream," created with proteins derived from a patient's own blood. But it's Sturm's overall ethos — described as "innovation without the use of toxic, harmful or aggressive ingredients" — that's beloved by celeb clients Gwyneth Paltrow, Hailey Beiber, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and others.

In 2014, Sturm launched the Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics line, which aims to offer powerful hydrating and regenerating effects through uncomplicated, streamlined products. Now, anyone who visits one of her spas — in LA, Dusseldorf, London, Miami, Dallas, or New York — can experience a range of treatments, such as the Signature #SturmGlow Facial, designed to deliver hydration, boost skin barrier function, soothe signs of irritation, and improve the overall skin health and skin matrix, and the Darker Skin Tones Facial, which is specially tailored to the essential needs and characteristics of darker skin tones.

What Treatments at Sturm's Boutique and Spa Are Like

Upon entering Sturm's LA space, which has three super-modern, clean white treatment rooms, two express facial rooms, two infrared saunas, and a retail area with Sturm's products, I felt like I was in a futuristic spaceship dedicated to luxury skin care.

You might book a particular service, but when you ultimately show up and settle into your treatment room, an experienced esthetician analyzes your skin under a bright light in order to decide what you need, customizing the protocol to suit your skin at that moment. After booking a Super Anti-Aging Facial — described as "replenishing moisture reservoirs resulting in a smoother and more youthful complexion, while promoting the skin's natural barrier function and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles" — I learned that what I actually needed to do was calm down my inflamed, stressed, and occasionally itchy complexion. My esthetician opted to provide a custom facial rather than the Super Anti-Aging Facial or another pre-set option.

The esthetician introduced my stressed skin to two products. The first was Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Acid Serum (Buy It, $300, drsturm.com), which contains high molecular weight hyaluronic acid to provide hydration to the surface layers of the skin and lower-weight molecules to penetrate deeper into skin. It left my skin firmer, refreshed, and radiant.

My skin also responded well to the Dr. Barbara Sturm Calming Serum (Buy It, $250, drsturm.com), which contains cardiospermum, aka heartseed, which has been used to treat eczema thanks to anti-inflammatory properties, and sunflower extract and purslane, which boast antioxidant benefits.

I was also treated to a 10-minute revitalizing scalp massage with Dr. Barbara Sturm Scalp Serum (Buy It, $100, drsturm.com), which is meant to provide intense hydration and boost overall scalp health. Ingredients include caffeine, which may help stimulate hair follicles and increase growth, and papaya extract which gently exfoliates. Plus, research suggests that scalp massage in general has a positive effect on stress hormones, blood pressure, and heart rate and promotes increased hair thickness.

For the grand finale, I was ushered to a separate room with a wooden bench and a red light panel. The Light Therapy treatment delivers red and near infrared light to the skin for about 15 minutes in order to fight wrinkles, fine lines, sun spots, and discoloration. "Red light therapy is a fantastic treatment not only for your skin," writes Sturm writes on her site. "The restorative power of safe, natural light LEDs also has a therapeutic effect on your body and mind."

It's true. The whole experience from start to finish left me feeling dreamy and renewed. I missed tending to my skin in such a concentrated way and the treatment proved truly educational as well. Since my visit to Dr. Sturm's spa, I'm a believer in the idea that when it comes to skin care, less is more. These days, all I need is a gentle cleanser, a soothing serum, rest, and stress relief measures — and OK, sure, the occasional luxury, celebrity-approved facial.

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