The cherubic glow of Dr. Barbara Sturm, whom insisted I call her Barbara, is infectious. With a soft German accent she chats effortlessly; generously doles out warm hugs from a petite frame; and sprinkles sage advice, like “do only what you believe in” or “take one day at a time and don’t over think it” between in-depth medical terminology.

While this lighthearted and playful, former orthopedic doctor, now pioneers the world of aesthetics, it was more than a decade ago in orthopedics that she first made a name for herself as part of the team that developed the Orthokine treatment – aka the “Kobe Procedure” after patient Kobe Bryant; A therapy in which the patient’s own blood cells are used to produce proteins that reduce inflammation and stimulate healing. Taking this expertise, knowledge and a general distaste for following mainstream trends, she catapulted herself to the forefront of aesthetic practice. First by creating the “vampire facial” (made infamous by our queen of reality tv – Kim Kardashian) and then with her powerful MC1 cream which incorporates patients’ own blood.

Not surprisingly, her talents have garnered a coterie of elite Hollywood clientele willing to travel to her clinic in Dusseldorf or Munich. While you may not be able to afford a trip to Germany to sit down with Dr. Sturm or a $1,400 jar of “blood cream,” her eponymous skincare line, launched in 2014, offers us mere mortals a taste of her superior science and skincare technology.

To learn more about her skincare line, method for getting fillers to last longer, and which treatments she recommends for her clients in their late 20s early 30s, I sat down with the aesthetics pioneer at Violet Grey’s Melrose boutique. Read on for the full interview.

“I’m a very optimistic person and I’m a risk taker. If I want to do something, I just do it and I don’t think too many steps ahead.”

Early Career
“I went into medicine because I don’t like people suffering. I was always into sports, so I went to study orthopedics, but at the same time I was always interested in aesthetics. I have a twenty year old daughter and after the pregnancy I decided to have a cosmetic procedure done. I had it done and I was like, wow, I really like this aesthetic world, so I asked the doctor whom performed my procedure if I could work with him and he said, ‘Yes.’ I ended up working with a group of other orthopedics who were all into the scientific blood drawing. It was new, innovative and I loved the scientific approach.

Then a year or so later, a medical colleague of mine came and said, ‘You know, this weekend I’m going to learn how to inject lips,’ and I said, ‘What?! inject lips!?’ It was 2001 and not many people were doing it. And I said, ‘I want to learn this too!’ I got into injectables and because I hate mainstream I said, ‘No, I’m not going to do what everybody is doing. I need to do something really on the cell level. Not just filling, the filler goes away and filling again, but actually stimulating regeneration.’ And that’s why I transferred the knowledge from orthopedics into the skin and invented the vampire facial. It got so popular and viral that I had to give up orthopedics because I didn’t have time for it anymore.

dr barbara sturm

Creating A Skincare Line
I’m a very natural person. I don’t wear a lot of makeup. I’m very basic. I grew up very drawn to nature. I was trying to find a moisturizer for the longest time that would suit my skin. I was so desperate. I had to get a facial every three weeks. I had all of these black dots everywhere. My skin was dry and my facialist gave me masks and everything and I wasn’t satisfied.

After I invented the vampire facial, I said, ‘I have to come up with a super cool cream, like a gene cream.’ So I came up with a cream with a pharmacist in Germany and we mixed creams in a lab. We created this beautiful base cream and I added the blood to the base cream. I draw patients’ blood with a syringe with little glass beads in it to create an uneven surface. When the cells come into this syringe they recognize the uneven surface as a wound and start to produce healing factors. Then I incubate the blood for six hours and let the cells stay alive. After six hours I spin the blood in a centrifuge removing the red blood cells away. Afterwards I am left with a protein cocktail of 140x higher concentration of healing factors than you have normally in your blood. It’s a super healing cocktail of your own blood. I add this to the cream.  

With this cream all of a sudden my skin completely changed. I never break out. I never have black dots. This cream helped me tremendously, so I made it for all of my patients and Hollywood clients who come to Germany to see me and everyone loved it.  But then they came back and said, ‘Dr. Sturm what is the regiment? What do I use with this?’ Of course I couldn’t recommend anything because I never found anything I liked so I had to come out with a series of products that I like.

The first products I created was a serum, a cleanser, a scrub, two creams and hyaluronic acid ampoules. Since I’m doing all of this work injecting hyaluronic acid, I always wanted to have hyaluronic acid for after the treatments which is why I worked on this right away. I have super technology for the hyaluronic ampoules that contain short-chain and long-chain molecules. The short-chain go into deeper layers right away, restore hyaluronic acid and collagen there, and the long-chain sit on the surface and plump and moisturize the surface. The hyaluronic acid ampoules have long lasting effects and immediate effects.

dr barbara sturmThe cleanser has aloe vera and ingredients which soothe the skin and don’t dry it out; it’s beautiful. The scrub is gentle and very light. Nothing dries out the skin. They’re all soothing and healing.

With the creams I tried to copy my MC1 blood cream and of course I couldn’t put blood in the creams, so I had to come up with a really cool working ingredient. I found a telomerase activator from an herb called Purslane. You have little ends on the chromosomes called, Telomeres, and with each cell division they get shorter and shorter until the cells die or mutate. This contributes to aging. You need to keep those ends long and there is an enzyme called telomerase that is in all of my products that lengthens the end caps and extends the life of the cell. Purslane is super rich in antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, beta carotene, and is a telomerase activator. It’s a total youth enzyme.

It’s a pure line. All of my products there is nothing aggressive or toxic for the skin: It’s free of parabens, fragrances, mineral oils and all toxic stuff, and we don’t do any testing on animals. 

An Artist
My clients come to see me in Germany, but I do touchups with clients when I’m in LA. They come to Germany to see me because there I can do everything and I have a big clinic, but I am working on opening up something here in LA.

In Europe there are over fifty kinds of hyaluronic acid fillers, but in the US there are only eight. In my drawer I buy from four different companies – European, mainly from Switzerland and Germany. I have so many different qualities of materials to work with. I have specific ones which I only fill in under the eyes. Sometimes what you see with patients here in the states with filler under their eyes is that they will get puffy because the fillers suck water towards them because they don’t have the fillers here that aren’t hydrophilic.

dr barbara sturmI am an artist because it’s not only learning the skill, but you need to have the eye for where to put the fillers. Ten years ago we used to inject filler into the laugh lines, but now I never ever do this. I lift out the face instead of filling it in. But at the time when I would inject laugh lines, I had a few patients where I did a test: I injected one side with only the filler and the other side with filler and their own plasma. First of all right away the result was way better, but the second thing is that the side with filler and plasma never had to be re-injected while the side with just filler had to be done again over time. This was very interesting. I did it with a couple of patients and saw a very good regenerative effect.

With my young patients now who want to prevent, I give them my whole skincare line and the MC1 blood cream. I also recommend micro-needling and noninvasive things like microdermabrasion. I start slow with mesotherapy and skin boosters (superficial injections with the patient’s blood) to keep the skin in a matrix. The skin cells are naturally in a matrix. When you age your skin becomes less elastic and the skin cells become uneven and misconfigured, so what I do with these injections is I place them in a parallel way in the matrix; this way your skin becomes firm and elastic again.

Optimism & Determination
I’m a very optimistic person and I’m a risk taker. If I want to do something, I just do it and I don’t think too many steps ahead. Otherwise if I would do that, I probably never would have done anything because everything is a big risk. I don’t see things as a challenge because you just go one step after the other and then you succeed and it’s onto the next. It’s a really cool journey and I don’t see it as a challenge. I think what is a challenge now is to not become sick or worn out and keep the fun in life. I’m super happy but I feel my energy levels getting low because I don’t have a big machinery behind me. We are a couple of girls in the office; A small little team.

I think I was born like this, but I also think my mom woke this up in me a lot. When I was young growing up I had to do every activity after school. I was there, there, there – tennis, ski, ballet, choir. I did everything. I was always a very go-getting person, but my mom she was a leader and very successful and very powerful. She was a biochemist and a doctor. She took me to the hospital  when I was little and I decided I wanted to be a doctor at four years old. She passed away four years ago and I miss her so much. She was always so proud of me. When she found an article about me she was always so happy. I miss her and wish she could see everything I’m doing. She would be so proud. She was an amazing women.”

-by Amy Chang
Photographed by author

For more:

Thinking about getting lip fillers? Read this first, “This New Lip Filler Is More Natural And Induces Less Swelling.” 

Or check out our interview with Credo Beauty’s VP of Merchandising, Annie Jackson, for why Credo Beauty may be the next Sephora…


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