Between the sauerkraut diet, serum ampoules, and PRP creams, G-beauty is having a real moment. For me, “Made in Germany” has always been a seal of excellence. I drive a German car, I use German kitchen appliances, my grandfather even owns a small apartment outside of Düsseldorf because, he says, “They get it.”
Of all the skincare lines that have come out of Germany in the last five years, Dr. Barbara Sturm has consistently reigned supreme. Her MC1 custom blood cream has attained cult status among the likes of Hailey Bieber and Cher. The minimalist, almost-clinical packaging of her products makes the line stand out on Instagram feeds and vanity counters.
Today, Dr. Sturm released her new line of clarifying products, and I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to try it. The packaging describes the collection as an “anti-aging line for problematic skin.” My breakouts started in my early 20s. I determined that the culprit for my adult acne was unmanaged hormones. “The incidence of adult acne, which is caused by multiple factors, is growing globally.” Dr. Barbara Sturm told me, “I developed my Dr. Barbara Sturm Clarifying Line to simultaneously address acne and anti-aging, deploying my healing and anti-inflammatory philosophy. I deploy Purslane, trace minerals and proven ingredient science collected from around the world.”
Before I started taking a natural estrogen balancer that I call my Lord and Savior (in vitamin stores, it’s just called DIM), I had regular acne on my chin and jawline. If you follow face-mapping, chin and jawline acne is usually a clear sign of a hormonal imbalance. Thanks to newly balanced hormones and a rigorous skincare routine, my complexion is now clear for the most part, with larger pores in my T-zone and an occasional breakout or cyst. My skin type is oily, but it’s habitually dehydrated given the amount I travel and my child-eating-spinach-like resistance to drinking water.
I might be burying the lead here, but I also suffer from Perioral Dermatitis. For those of you who don’t know, PD is a nasty patch of red, flaky skin and tiny raised bumps or pustules that usually form around the mouth or chin for any number of reasons, and sometimes no reason at all. I used to take a low-dose antibiotic every day, which cleared my PD completely, but I could tell that my gut wanted to kill me. I went off the antibiotic for a whole year with no recurrences, until one day during a ski trip in February, I saw that the dreaded patch was back.
I know that topical zinc is a well-regarded natural remedy for Perioral Dermatitis and breakouts in general, so I was particularly eager to see that Dr. Sturm’s new line featured zinc as an active ingredient in most of the products. The Clarifying Line is made up of a mask, a serum, a face cream, and a tinted spot treatment. To say that I’m a skincare zealot would be an understatement. I’m hyper-critical of fragrance, texture, usability and most of all, results, so trying new lines always involves a bit of cynicism.
To start, I washed my face and went right for the mask. Like many of Dr. Sturm’s products, the Clarifying Mask comes in a white jar. The protective tinfoil was pretty hard to remove by hand, so I used tweezers. I like applying masks with a clean, flat foundation brush to ensure an even-ish application and to keep the product as sanitary as possible (no hand dipping.) Unlike a lot of the products in my heavy rotation, this is a really cute-looking mask. It has kaolin in it, but doesn’t dry uncomfortably or flake at all, and there’s virtually no scent whatsoever. The directions say to wear the mask for 10 to 15 minutes and wash it off with lukewarm water. I applied it, drank my morning tea, worked on emails, meditated, and forgot it was even on. After about 45 minutes, I used a warm damp flannel to discover the mask’s milky texture during easy removal. My skin looked even, clear, and bright as a brand-new lightbulb.
Once my face was completely dry, I applied the Clarifying Serum. The packaging says to apply one pipette to the face and press it in. I like to hover serum pipettes just above my face and apply it directly to my skin to avoid any product loss in my hands. My face drank in the serum so fast, it was dry in seconds. The finish is matte and not tacky at all. After the serum soaked in and worked its magic for a few minutes, I applied the Clarifying Face Cream. Like with all potted products, I used a clean, flat foundation brush to apply it (a little goes a long way), then I gently used my hands to press the fragrance-free cream into my skin.
The tinted spot treatment comes in three shades (currently) and smells like tea tree oil. I used shade three, so there's definitely room for shade expansion. The coverage is very light, since it’s just meant to reduce redness while clearing a breakout.
After completing all of the steps, my face had the amazing blurred-like photofinishing effect that I love about zinc sunscreens, but without the chalky color. My pores looked smaller and clean as a whistle. After a full-day of wear without any makeup besides the tinted spot treatment, my skin really felt incredible—not oily, not dry; just glowy and even. My doorman even asked me if I was wearing makeup (for once).
When I got home, the unexpected bonus revealed itself: my perioral dermatitis outbreak was gone. The flaky patch of pustules and redness around my mouth had completely disappeared, even after I washed the daytime products off. I don’t mean that my PD got better, I mean it was gone. Gagged, shook, pressed—whatever you want to call it, I was all of those; and instantaneously very hooked. It’s so incredibly rare to see such quick results from a product that it almost feels like witchcraft. (In fact, POD is one of the most persistent skin conditions, as it generally requires a long period of treatment to achieve clear, bump-free results). At night, I washed, applied the serum and cream, and went to bed feeling like I had found a new holy grail product for keeping perioral dermatitis and breakouts at bay.
Gray NA, Dhana A, Stein DJ, Khumalo NP. Zinc and atopic dermatitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2019;33(6):1042-1050. doi:10.1111/jdv.15524