It's not everyday you get the same facial Rosie Huntington-Whiteley gets before the Oscars, but a few weeks ago, that was exactly what happened to me (albeit I wasn't heading to the red carpet, but rather back to the office). It was with the legendary Dr. Barbara Sturm, and her lead facialist who were visiting from Germany, and I can confirm that I did have the skin of a newborn when it was all over. For those who aren't familiar with Dr. Sturm, firstly, shame on you (I kid, I kid), but in all seriousness, she is one of Hollywood's most sought-after skin therapists with a stellar range of take-home products to match.
First and foremost, Sturm was a doctor of orthopaedics who played part in the development of the Kobe Procedure (as in Kobe Bryant who suffered a basketball-related knee injury) where a patient’s own blood cells were used to produce proteins to jump-start the internal healing process. Following this, Sturm turned her attention to skincare and thus the invention of her famed MC1 cream, where a patients' blood was used to create bespoke skincare, and then there was the vampire facial (we all saw that image Kimmy K posted on IG—you know, the one where she was covered in blood). Thankfully for us here in Australia, you can now buy Dr. Sturm's product line at Mecca, so while a facial with the skin wizard herself isn't always possible (unless of course you're Rosie), you can still get that signature Sturm glow from home. Following my treatment, I asked Sturm a barrage of skincare questions, and she most definitely had some sage advice (including a surprising blemish hack).
Keep scrolling for the full Q&A.
Your skincare products started as prescription-only. What made you create your line that’s now available to the masses?
I basically did it because my patients were requesting it. I was giving them in-salon treatments, and they were asking what they could use at home. All I was using on myself was the MC1 cream and water, but my clients wanted more. It was never a business idea, it just happened organically. I’m now so busy, but I know it was the right thing to do. People tell me they love my products because they’re different, and it makes it all worth it.
What skincare routine do you follow yourself?
I never cleanse in the morning because I don’t want to over-power my skin, I just take a shower and splash it with warm water. Then all I use is a serum, and my moisturiser ($236). I like the Hyaluronic Serum ($423), and the Super Anti-Ageing Serum ($473)—I’ll use one in the morning, and one in the evening. If I’m in London or New York, I’ll add in the Anti-Pollution Drops ($168). And sometimes, if I have time, I’ll use my Face Mask ($220). To finish, I always use my Glow Drops ($167).
What about exfoliation? What are your thoughts on it?
Okay, so there are three forms of exfoliation. One is mechanical, which can be gentle and effective given the formula. The second is an enzyme-based cleaner (and we actually have on coming to Mecca stores soon), which will loosen the conjunctions between dead cells. And the third form is an acid peel. I don’t like acid peels because they loosen the conjunctions between healthy cells as well as the dead ones.
So you don’t use any acid exfoliants or retinols in any of your skincare products?
Harsh acids loosen the bonds between healthy and dead skin cells, so essentially, they strip healthy layers of skin as well. Not only does this thin your skin, but it hinders the skin's ability to function properly, because the cells are being stripped away before they are fully formed and able to do their job. Skin is an organ, and removing too much impairs your barrier function, and can lead to increased sun damage and hyper-pigmentation, which is ironic because most people use acids to try and remove it. Basically, too much acid will lead to high levels of inflammation in the skin.
Would you advise against retinol-based products for all skin types?
I mean, if you want to use them for a while before you switch your skin back into healing mode, you can. I would just suggest you try them in winter.
Are there any beauty treatments you love to indulge in?
Well, a trick is that when I use the Dr. Sturm Face Mask ($212), I really rub it off instead of rinsing with water. It flushes toxins, boosts circulation, exfoliates, and gives you a glow.
What are some common skincare mistakes you see?
I find so many people are sucked in if something is labelled as natural. Some organic ingredients are actually really aggressive on the skin. For example I would never use essential oils on my skin because they are so inflammatory. Also, mineral oils. They’re terrible for skin, and are actually found in so many luxury brands. They clog pores and suck moisture out of the skin.
What’s the best way to deal with an angry blemish?
If you suffer from acne, your approach would have to be drastically different, but if you just have one angry pimple before an event, I’d put toothpaste on it, and leave it to dry out overnight. Never touch or pick, especially with dirty hands, and don’t use drying pimple treatments all over, as this will impair your barrier function, and cause the skin to become inflamed.
Do you follow a specific diet for skin health?
Not necessarily, but my stomach is quite weak for some reason. I’m very sensitive to too much coffee. There’s actually a Harvard study—it came out a while ago—and it explains the difference between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods. Basically, we want to get all the inflammation out of the system, and so much of it is caused by diet, stress, lack of sleep, and pollution. I try to focus on anti-inflammatory foods, so I eat a lot of tomatoes, olive oil, green leaves, vegetables, orange, cherries, and fish like mackerel and salmon. I snack on almonds too. Basically, my diet is Mediterranean.
You also do injectables. When do you think is the right time to start?
I think as a doctor, I have quite a big responsibility with all the younger girls that are now interested. When I started 17 years ago, it was only older women who would come into my clinic. Personally, I started at 30, but that’s because I try all treatments on myself. I wouldn’t recommend others start at 30, because you don’t know genetically how strong your muscles will be over time. Botox and other injectables can weaken your muscles, so it’s best to wait as long as you can. Without it, my brows are so low now because my muscles can no longer support themselves.
Do you ever say no to clients when it comes to Botox or other injectables?
I do. Often clients come in so informed, and they think they know exactly where they want it, and I have to advise against it. I’m not in it for the money, and my clients trust me. I do so many famous faces and nobody knows because my work is so natural. So I’m very careful about what I will and won’t do, no matter what the client asks for. You really can mess up a face with Botox and fillers injected incorrectly. It’s actually a skill that’s so, so hard to teach.
Ridker PM, Silvertown JD. Inflammation, C-reactive protein, and atherothrombosis. J Periodontol. 2008;79(8 Suppl):1544-51. doi:10.1902/jop.2008.080249