We purchased Dr. Barbara Sturm's Hyaluronic Serum so our writer could put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.
In the beauty world, it's not even hyperbolic to say that Dr. Barbara Sturm is pretty legendary. One of Hollywood's most in-demand skin therapists, she launched her eponymous line of take-home products back in 2003—which, since then, have become staples for celebs and beauty editors alike. This hyaluronic acid serum, which is packed with ingredients that help the skin stay healthy and hydrated, is one of her most popular offerings.
The catch? It's super expensive, at $300 for a 1-ounce bottle. To find out if it's really worth the price, I tried it out myself (and compared to more affordable HA serums). Read on for my thoughts.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum
Best For: All skin types
Star Rating: 3.7/5
Uses: Hydration, anti-aging
Active ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, purslane
Byrdie Clean?: Yes
About the Brand: Dr. Barbara Sturm is the skincare line from the highly acclaimed aesthetics doctor of the same name.
About My Skin: Happier when it’s hydrated
I have acne-prone, combination skin. While I have a full routine of cleanser, vitamin C, Biologique Recherche P50, Differin, and moisturizer, I felt like I was lacking a really good, healing, hydrating product. I’ve found my breakouts to be less frequent and less severe when my skin is moisturized correctly, so I’m always looking for lightweight hydrating products like this one. Typically, products with hyaluronic acid are thought to be great for plumping skin and smoothing out fine lines. I don’t have a major problem with wrinkles, but I want to prevent them as long as possible.
I tested out the Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum nearly every morning and night for two weeks to see what kind of difference it would make on my skin.
Ingredient Quality: The best you can get
Unlike some hyaluronic acid products, this one has both low- and high-weighted hyaluronic molecules. What does this mean? Low-weight molecules are better able to penetrate the skin, providing deep hydration, while high-weight molecules stay on the surface to plump and moisturize. Basically, you've got the best of both worlds.
The serum also includes purslane, a plant extract full of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which has anti-aging properties and reduces inflammation. (FYI: When you see lactobacillus/portulaca oleracea ferment extract in the ingredients list, that is the purslane.)
This formula is clean by Byrdie's standards, as well as free of parabens, mineral oils, and other additives that can be damaging or harmful. It’s also vegan and cruelty-free.
The Science: Understanding hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid products are tricky—if not formulated correctly (or used in conjunction with the proper products), they won't be as effective. I found that this serum, in particular, was most effective when I followed it with a moisturizer immediately.
There’s a lot to know about hyaluronic acid, but you can find everything you need to know about the ingredient in Byrdie’s complete guide.
The Feel: Like water
The serum is slightly thicker than water, and it disappears nearly as quickly on the skin. For me, one dropper of product was enough to cover my full face and down my neck. Also, because it’s so lightweight, I could move on to the next step of my skincare routine shortly after applying it. (Barbara Strum recommends waiting 30 seconds and then applying moisturizer.)
The Results: Slow but steady
Initially, the serum doesn’t seem to do much by way of moisturizing. There was no immediate a-ha! as the product absorbed into my skin. Instead, this serum plays the long game.
I brought the serum down to my neck to see what it could do for neck wrinkles, and after a week I swear I noticed a difference in the depth. As for its moisturizing properties, I actually didn’t notice a big difference in the plumpness or hydration of my skin—while it never became dry or flaky, it wasn’t overtly softer, either. Because of the price, I was expecting bigger changes than I experienced.
On a positive note, I didn’t experience any irritation or breakouts while using the serum.
The Value: $300 for an ounce
A skincare product would have to perform near-miraculous tasks—clear all my breakouts, shrink my pores, and leave with me an eternal glow—for me to feel comfortable dropping $300 on it. And while this is packed with solid ingredients that actually do improve my skin, it’s hard to justify the price, especially with so many similar (and less expensive) products out there.
One positive is that the serum is easy to spread across the skin and less than a dropper's worth is needed each time, so it should last a few months depending on how often you use it. I suggest trying out a sample, and if you really love it, go ahead and treat yourself.
Similar Products: More affordable options
SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier Serum: I also tried out the hyaluronic serum from SkinCeuticals. Because this serum contains a mix of ingredients meant to hydrate skin, I actually found that it did a better job at moisturizing. It had a more immediate effect compared to Dr. Barbara Strum’s serum. Plus, priced at $102, it's only a third as expensive.
The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid: This serum contains a few of the same ingredients as Barbara Sturm—like lactobacillus/portulaca oleracea ferment extract—but is priced at less than $8. The clear serum is just slightly thicker and it also needs to be followed with another moisturizer to be effective. For that price, though, I vote it's worth a try.
Our Verdict: Good, if you want to treat yourself
This is one expensive serum—maybe too expensive, in my opinion. After testing a few hyaluronic acid serums, I think that more affordable products work just as well (and perhaps even better), at least immediately after application. Dr. Barbara Sturm's Hyaluronic Serum may work better in the long term, but personally, I'm not willing to spend a lifetime buying $300 serums to find out.
Pavicic T, Gauglitz GG, Lersch P, et al. Efficacy of cream-based novel formulations of hyaluronic acid of different molecular weights in anti-wrinkle treatment. J Drugs Dermatol. 2011;10(9):990-1000.
Rahimi VB, Ajam F, Rakhshandeh H, Askari VR. A pharmacological review on Portulaca oleracea L.: focusing on anti-inflammatory, anti- oxidant, immuno-modulatory and antitumor activities. J Pharmacopuncture. 2019;22(1):7-15. doi:10.3831/KPI.2019.22.001
Harvard Health Publishing. The hype on hyaluronic acid. Updated January 23, 2020.