The woman who popularized the Vampire Facial and MC1 blood cream lays out the keys to glowing skin.

By Renee Cherry
September 12, 2019
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images

Dr. Barbara Sturm has quite the lineup of celebrity fans. Kourtney and Kim Kardashian, Emily Ratajkowski, and Hailey Bieber all love her products, and Bella Hadid credited the skin-care expert with "changing [her] skin forever." So yeah, Dr. Sturm has considerable clout. (More on that: The Splurge-Worthy Skin-Care Line Celebrities Won't Shut Up About)

She wasn't always a big name in the beauty world, though. Dr. Sturm started as an orthopedic surgeon, and helped develop what's nicknamed the "Kobe Bryant procedure," which uses a patient's own blood cells to reduce inflammation and speed healing. She pivoted to aesthetics, opened a skin clinic in Germany, and popularized the Vampire Facial, a skin treatment that, like the Kobe Bryant procedure, utilizes a person's own blood to fight inflammation. She eventually launched her own skin-care line, Dr. Sturm Molecular Cosmetics, which you've no doubt seen all over Instagram.

The main objective behind Dr. Sturm's products, and her approach to skin-care in general, is avoiding inflammation. ("Does it hurt? Does it tingle? Is it red? Yes, that's a sign of inflammation," she says.) And so despite their popularity, Dr. Sturm doesn't recommend retinoids or laser treatments, which are known to cause irritation. The same goes for acid peels, which she says break down conjunctions between healthy skin cells: "You destroy your healthy functions of the skin and you make skin extra vulnerable," she explained at her master class at Sephora's recent Sephoria event. In fact, she calls these aggressive, rather than healing, approaches to skin-care the biggest mistake you can make. (Related: What's Causing All That Skin Redness?)

Intrigued? Us too. We picked Dr. Sturm's brain post-event to hear more of her top skin-care tips.

Besides aggressive treatments, what's another common skin-care mistake that people are making?

"Mixing and matching different product regimens with different ingredients, which irritate the skin and can cause perioral dermatitis and other dysfunction. [That's also why it's important] to look at the ingredients and to make sure they are beneficial rather than harmful to the skin before using a product. The quality of the skin is strongly dependent on its regeneration process, which starts at 11 PM"—meaning it's crucial to have a nighttime skin-care routine."

What's next in skin-care?

"Paying more attention to the effects of pollution on our skin and protecting from that, as well as the sun. Pollution is a big environmental problem we all have to face. I think products that protect us against the negative effects of heavy metal toxins and other air pollutants that we are surrounded by on a daily basis (if you live in a big city, or close by a big city or industrial complex) are an important and growing threat to both skin health and premature aging. The public needs to know how important it is to protect against pollution, just as they have been taught to use SPF if they spend time in direct sunlight." (Related: Skin-Care Products That Protect Against Pollution)

You've treated some high-profile clients. What in-office treatments are most popular?

"The most commonly requested treatment is Botox. Botox helps relax facial structures and I use it, for example, to minimize overdeveloped bite muscles and to lift drooping eye-brow areas. Vampire Facials are still being performed at my clinic in Düsseldorf." (Related: Why I Got Botox In My Twenties)

What is your philosophy on injectables?

"As a doctor, I want to take care of the skin on all levels to achieve a holistic result—healthy, beautiful skin that makes my patients happy. So, in the deeper layers of skin, I work with large, volumizing levels of hyaluronic filler to reshape the face and give back structure that is lost (gravity and aging both contribute to this loss). I treat the more superficial layers of the skin with less volumizing fillers for a deeply moisturizing effect. And I treat the most superficial layers with a combination of micro-needling and my Hyaluronic Serum, (Buy It, $300, to refill the skin's moisture reservoirs and revitalize the complexion. On top of that, I use a combination of microdermabrasion, my serums, and other products to stimulate fresh-looking, clean, nourished, glowing skin. (Related: Microneedling Gave Me the Glowiest Skin of My Life)

"If you're going to a doctor you trust, they should be able to tell you whether or not you need fillers to address your skin issues. I can tell right away if a client just needs a better skin-care regime or if they need injections."

What are some of the products you use every day?

"I normally use my cleanser (Buy It, $70, to wash my skin morning and evening, my Hyaluronic Serum after that, and my MC1 Cream. [MC1 Cream is a bespoke skin cream that Dr. Sturm makes using a customer's own blood.]


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