“It’s not just about putting a topical cream on”: Dr Barbara and Charly Sturm explain their holistic approach to anti-inflammatory skincare   

HUNGER speaks to the brains and face of Dr Barbara Sturm Skincare about viral beauty trends, sabotaging skincare ingredients and why anti-inflammation is a lifestyle 

For true skincare enthusiasts, the name ‘Dr Barbara Sturm’ may evoke the contrasting images of bloody-faced celebrities and sleek skin clinics a combination that can only mean: Vampire facial. The treatment, which Sturm invented in 2002, uses the proteins in a patient’s blood plasma to create a regenerative ingredient for the face. It’s an unusual but effective treatment for inflamed skin one which brought the German doctor to great heights in the aesthetics field and inspired her to produce a full, anti-inflammatory skincare range in 2014.

Since then, Sturm’s daughter, Charly, has become the face of Dr Barbara Sturm Skincare. And, though the 26-year-old now lives in New York City (while her mother splits her time between Dusseldorf and LA with her nine-year-old daughter, Pepper), she’s become as integral to the brand as her mother and a skincare guru in her own right. Here, we chat with the glowy-faced duo to debunk viral skincare trends, discover the dos and don’ts for healthy skin, and learn why topicals alone aren’t enough for a calm complexion.

HUNGER: Dr Sturm, what prompted you to transition from orthopaedics into aesthetics?

Dr Barbara Sturm: Combating inflammation has been the central target of my entire medical career. I studied sports medicine and worked in anti-inflammatory molecular orthopaedics, before shifting into anti-inflammatory aesthetics. I started injecting hyaluronic acid and Botox back in the early 2000s and translated the science from orthopaedics into the skin to create the first patient blood plasma facial in 2002. And that same year, I invented my first doctor-issued blood plasma-based cream, called MC1, and prescribed it to my patients. My patients actually asked me to create an entire skincare regimen and so my anti-inflammatory line, Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics, was born. 

 H: What skincare concerns did you have of your own that prompted you to create a skincare range?

BS: Back then, I was in my twenties and dealing with skin concerns such as dryness, irritation and blackheads, and I really struggled to find a solution. I tried a lot of products on the market and nothing made a positive difference to my skin. So that, and the demand from my patients for a comprehensive skincare line, inspired me to start thinking about creating my own, anti-inflammatory skincare collection.  

H: How important has Charly been in helping you cultivate your brand?

BS: Charly works with me and is growing in the business. It’s really a great pleasure for me to see her evolve from up close. And she knows me so well, so it’s easy for us to communicate. Plus, as we serve the next generation (hers), her perspectives and insights are invaluable. And I trust her great taste and instincts. 

 H: What steps do you believe should be included in a good, all-encompassing skincare routine?

BS: The basics of a healthy skincare regimen include a cleanser, an exfoliator twice a week (like my Facial Scrub Cream or Enzyme Cleanser) to gently slough off dead skin and impurities, and a serum that’s packed with potent, active ingredients and replenishes moisture reservoirs (such as my Hyaluronic Serum). Plus, a great moisturiser I would recommend my Face Cream. A simple yet effective routine like this covers all the skin’s fundamental needs. 

 H: Charly, why are eye patches such an important step of a beauty regimen?

Charly Sturm: Our Everything Eye Patches are the perfect antidote for puffy, dark and tired eyes, and work instantly to reduce the appearance of dark circles, fine lines and wrinkles. They’re an absolute must in my daily routine for fresher eyes but they’re also perfect for a morning pick-me-up, quick confidence boost, or a glow-up before a night out.  

 H: How do your Everything Eye Patches actually work?

BS: The patches are made with a powerful hydrogel concentrate that targets every eye concern but specifically, they’re enriched with avocado polyphenols, which have an amazing effect on dark circles, de-puff under-eye bags and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They also contain triple hyaluronic acid — this is great for intensive hydration and has an immediate plumping effect as well as skin-identical ceramides and vegan collagen, which help strengthen skin elasticity for smoother, supple skin.  

H: Dr Sturm, as a mother, you must be concerned about the children we’ve all seen online recently whose skin is suffering from the premature use of active ingredients. What’s the right age to start using products such as retinol?

BS: It’s very concerning. I have a daughter, Pepper, who’s nine years old, and just a year ago she was asking for fluffy toys and games, and this year she wants skincare. I have daily conversations with her and the parents of her friends about the aggressive ingredients in some of these ‘trending’ products and the effects they can have on young children’s skin. 

That said, I advise everyone against aggressive acids like retinol and harsh skincare ingredients because they destroy, rather than repair, the skin matrix and promote inflammation, which weakens your skin and makes it vulnerable. And they absolutely should not be used by children. The goal with skincare is to soothe and reduce inflammation, not cause it, and skincare should never cause any discomfort. 

H: What other ingredients should be avoided in your opinion?

BS: Fragrance, mineral oils, retinol, Retin A and glycolic acid all cause inflammation, which is the biggest problem for our skin as it causes hyperpigmentation, ageing, breakouts and acne. Skincare should be uncomplicated and effectively combat, rather than contribute to, inflammation. It should also hydrate and nourish the skin without any aggressive ingredients. 

 H: Charly, which products do you recommend to people in their twenties and thirties to prevent wrinkles?

CS: I honestly love our Super Anti-Aging Collection. It includes a cleanser, face cream, face serum, eye cream and a night cream. The whole line is enriched with antioxidants like purslane, skullcap and glutathione, as well as ceramides and hyaluronic acid that nourish the skin and replenish moisture. It’s a great option for preventative anti-aging care, but also if you just want to smooth and plump fine lines, and just look fresher and more radiant overall.  

 H: What do you guys make of the LED face mask craze? Do they really work?

BS: I swear by red light therapy! It has a huge range of clinically-documented skin and wellness benefits — it diminishes age spots, fine lines and wrinkles, and stimulates collagen and elastin production. And for the body, it can help with joint pain and inflammation. It can also promote healthy sleep, enhanced mood and mental clarity. We actually offer it at our London Spa & Boutique.

H: Everyone is eating raw garlic at the moment in the hope it will clear their acne. What’s your take on this?

CS: I honestly can’t say as it’s something I’ve never tried! But I do know garlic is hugely anti-inflammatory and has amazing health benefits, so it’s something I include in my diet often.  

 H: How important is diet when it comes to looking after your skin? Are there other foods you recommend for reducing inflammation?

BS: It’s very important. My whole skincare philosophy has always been based on a very holistic approach to reducing inflammation and achieving wellness. It’s not just about putting a topical cream on — it’s about adopting a simple, anti-inflammatory lifestyle. For me, this means making sure I get enough sleep, take daily exercise, avoid stress, protect against urban and digital pollution and enjoy a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods like avocados, salmon, olive oil, nuts, berries and green tea. I also love sports and try to fit in time for meditation, yoga and breathing exercises every day.  

 H: So, to finish, what are your holy grail skincare products?

BS: I love all my products and created all of them for a reason, so it’s really difficult to choose a favourite but if I had to, it would be my Super Anti-Aging Face Cream. Its ingredients are based on science and it took years to develop. It’s like a one-stop-shop for when I’m on the go, and provides hydration, protection and anti-aging properties. 

CS: Our Everything Eye Patches have become a holy grail product for me. They’re a saviour in my skincare routine for those days when I look or feel tired and need an instant refresh. And their development has been a passion project of mine for the last few years, so they hold a special meaning for me. 

  • WriterScarlett Coughlan