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There are certain things I expect to happen when I go to a beauty press preview. I’ll usually learn about the new product launch, what makes it special, and hopefully get to take it home with me to try for myself (my bathroom counter is heavily laden with the effects of the latter).
And then there are things that I never expect to happen during a press preview. Getting my blood drawn in the middle of a hotel room by a sprightly, Gucci-clad German doctor is one; being told that the vial of my blood will then be turned into a moisturizer for my use is another. And yet both of those things happened one unassuming day in L.A. at the Mondrian Hotel, and my skin (and psyche) will never be the same.
The magical blood cream in question is the brainchild of Dr. Barbara Sturm, a renowned German physician who specializes in the field of facial aesthetics and skincare and is credited as the pioneer of the so-called "vampire facial" (yes, the one that Kim Kardashian West forever branded into everyone’s memory via a jarring Instagram shot). Sturm flies to L.A. to tend to clients like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and other A-listers she is reluctant to name because, hello, privacy.
Keep scrolling to find out why have I been using a moisturizer made from my blood for the past month and if it's turned me into an actual vampire.
What Is Blood Cream?
First, a little background on Dr. Sturm. She started her career as an orthopedic surgeon, during which time she discovered the healing abilities of blood. During our appointment, she recounts working with a doctor who started taking patients’ blood, processing it, and creating “factors” that would then be re-injected into the joints to calm inflammation.
I imagine this is the point in her life where the light bulb went off—why not apply this same mentality to the skin? According to Sturm, skin cells and cartilage cells work in the very same way. Enter blood cream, a moisturizer that takes proteins from a patient’s blood and mixes them with hyaluronic acid. During the vampire facial, this mixture is injected into wrinkles to plump them up. For those who aren’t able to visit Sturm’s practice in Germany to get the treatment, she came up with the next best thing: a moisturizer infused with anti-inflammatory proteins derived from patients’ blood.
At this point in the conversation, I must have visibly perked up—“Blood! In a moisturizer!” my beauty editor side screamed internally in glee and sick fascination—because Sturm then proceeded to offer to create this very cream for me.
The Benefits of Blood Cream
• Clears skin
• Soothes inflammation
As for the results you can see from using this magic cream? “You don’t break out anymore, you almost never need a facial because the anti-inflammation effect is so severe,” Sturm rattles off. “Your skin just feels great. I have lots of celebrity clients who are over the moon about it—they say this cream is divine. You have to feel it; you have to try it. Use it for a couple of weeks and then try something else, and you will see the difference.”
What to Expect From a Blood Cream Treatment
The last time I had blood drawn, I was a teenager and cried out of fear in front of my 10-year-old brother, and the last time I witnessed blood in large amounts was when my college roommate stubbed her toe as we drunkenly walked home after a USC football game. In both those instances, my visceral reaction was extreme lightheadedness and the vague urge to throw up, but after Sturm asked me if I wanted to do the treatment, I ignored my thumping heart and nodded my head to Sturm in what I hoped was an eager manner. There are times in your life when you need to suck up your fears and put on your big-girl pants, and the opportunity to procure a moisturizer made from your blood is one of those times. Sturm found my jerky nodding an adequate response and went into the other room to get her syringe (!), as I tried to picture myself with the skin of a newborn to tell myself it would all be worth it.
The actual drawing of the blood was exactly what you would expect drawing a vial of blood would feel like. But it’s what Sturm does with the blood afterward that is truly fascinating and makes you want to shake your head in wonder and softly sigh, “The future, man.”
First of all, the syringe is filled with irregularly shaped, etched glass beads. The blood, when incubated, misreads the beads as a “wound” and starts to produce interleukin-1-antagonist and growth factors. Are you still following? In one day, the blood ends up forming 40 times the number of healing factors in untreated blood. (Here’s more information about how exactly growth factors can help your skin.)
“After drawing the blood, it's put through a centrifuge to separate the red blood cells and the plasma,” Sturm tells me briskly as I stare at the giant syringe filled with my own dark-red, life-giving fluid. “Then, the plasma will be put into a cream or injected into the skin.”
Blood Cream vs. Over-the-Counter Moisturizers
I picked up my voodoo serum blood cream at the Mondrian the next day and eagerly unscrewed the top of the deceptively plain white tub. What was inside was not red or resembling unicorn tears (which is what I was secretly hoping the spawn of my blood would resemble). In fact, it looked like…any old moisturizer. I took a sniff—no smell (it’s fragrance-free). The exact ingredients in Sturm’s moisturizer formula are top-secret, but she told me it’s a concoction of powerful anti-aging and active ingredients (including purslane, an ingredient found in her eponymous line’s serums), and, of course, the plasma from my own blood.
It took me a few days to build up the resolve to use this cream because every time I tried I started feeling creeped out. I was applying the byproduct of my own blood. On my face. It felt wrong, but the more I pictured myself with skin like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s, the more it started feeling right.
I used the cream at night for 30 days, as Sturm instructed, and my skin visibly improved. It was brighter. It was plumper. It felt softer and more akin to a newborn’s bottom. On nights I stayed at my boyfriend’s and used a different moisturizer, I did indeed feel the difference, just like she said. It would take a couple of days, but then I would notice that my skin was duller and immediately revert back to my blood cream.
After a micro-needling treatment last week, my face burned like I had been baking in the sun sans SPF for three days straight, and the blood cream soothed it considerably—even more so than the products the dermatologist had instructed for me to use. I’ve always believed that your money should go to your serums, which are packed with more active ingredients and can penetrate more deeply into the dermis, but this moisturizer is like the good boyfriend after a string of toxic relationships: It gives me hope for its kind again.
The Final Takeaway
This Hollywood secret can be yours for just—wait for it—$1400. I like to think of it as a byproduct of myself, though. Something created from me, that will ultimately be good for me. And aren't I worth at least $1400?! We have a quasi-symbiotic relationship now, this blood cream and I. She is me, and I am she. The fact that it costs more than my rent is arbitrary. You'll find plenty of other moisturizers that hydrate and plump your skin, but do any of them contain a part of you? No. And that, to some people (i.e. narcissists, me in 10 years when I’m rich and famous, celebrities, anyone who wants only the best for their skin, etc.) may just be worth it.
Keep scrolling to shop two products from Dr. Sturm’s namesake line (my blood not included).
This serum sold out on Violet Grey in mere hours, and it’s no surprise. The highly concentrated formula is made with long- and short-chain hyaluronic molecules that penetrate the skin deeply for intense hydration and plumping effects.
This soothing, anti-inflammatory face cream enriched with an extract from Skullcap—a plant rich in antioxidants and antibacterial properties—is gentle enough even for sensitive skin. It contains similar ingredients to my beloved blood cream, minus the blood byproducts.