Dr. Barbara Sturm is a German aesthetics doctor widely renowned for her anti-inflammatory philosophy and her non-surgical anti-aging skin treatments. She opened her own medical clinic in Düsseldorf, and continuing to innovate and revolutionize the field, Dr. Sturm became one of the most sought-after beauty doctors in the world.
In the past you were an orthopedic doctor, today you are a skincare expert. At what point in your career did you decide to change the direction of work?
The unifying thread that runs across my entire medical career is combatting inflammation. I began my medical practice in anti-aging orthopedics, with a focus on anti-inflammatory treatments: I co-created the Kobe Procedure (named after one of my patients at the time and his treatment, the late Kobe Bryant) which uses the body’s own proteins and healing factors to stop the inflammatory process and even help heal the joint tissue. I later translated some of this science and approaches into skin and my aesthetics practice. Inflammation is the root cause of much of the body and skin’s dysfunction and disease, and inflammatory influences are everywhere – everything we ingest or touch, including the air and the water, contains inflammatory triggers. We need to reduce the inflammatory influences both externally and internally - it is not just about putting a topical cream on; there is a holistic approach to reducing inflammation and achieving wellness, which includes adopting a simple, anti-inflammatory lifestyle. Diet is an essential element of that lifestyle, and it will change your skin and overall health.
Tell us about the history and features of your cosmetics brand?
Nearly 20 years ago, I invented a plasma-based injectable approach, created using the body’s own proteins, and followed that up with a prescription skin cream for my patients. My aesthetics patients started to ask me to prescribe creams for them to use in between treatments. I couldn’t find anything on the market that was fully hydrating whilst also being suitable for sensitive skin and that respected the skin’s vital barrier function, so I created an entire skincare regimen that aimed to reduce inflammation, reactivate the cell’s functions and lock in the body’s natural moisture reserves by protecting the skin’s barrier function. The original line-up developed quickly into very tailored solutions for specific skin concerns such as redness, acne and pigmentation, as well as for all skin tones with the introduction of the DARKER SKIN TONES Line and the BRIGHTENING Line. I think we are leaving the era of one size fits all, marketing-driven skincare and entering a period of more tailored, science and results-driven skincare. Darker skin tones for example, have some specific dermatological needs around inflammation that require a specific formulation. Skin is complex and interesting. It needs to be healthy, functioning, but also look good and my goal is to help each individual customer have the best and healthiest skin possible.
What role did social networks play in the development of your brand?
My business would not have been possible without social media; it has levelled the playing field between innovative small start-ups and the goliaths in the skincare industry.
Your cosmetics are very popular among celebrities. What is the secret of your effective products?
Of course, I am proud so many people whose face is part of their profession speak publicly about my approach and skincare. There is enthusiasm for my work and my creations (not just from celebrities) and that is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
There isn’t a secret to effective skincare – my goal is to soothe and reduce inflammation, not cause it. Skincare should never cause any discomfort or negative reaction. That and years of research and ingredient science is behind the efficacy of each of my products.
In your opinion, how has the skincare industry changed with the Influencers' appearance?
I can’t speak of what other brands are doing but for me personally, I don’t create products depending on influencers or what looks maybe currently ‘trending’ – I believe in scientific advances and creating advanced science skincare that targets my patients’ specific skincare concerns. I believe that the customer is becoming more and more discerning and is actively seeking skincare solutions from authoritative sources and created by experts.
Will influencers replace models in the future?
I think there is room for both. Influencers can have a broad fanbase and create a more relatable bond with their followers so for this I enjoy partnering with influencers to drive my education agenda – I invite celebrities and influencers to join my Skin School initiative, a free-to-attend platform I created to educate Gen-Z and Millennials on the anti-inflammatory lifestyle and good skincare habits. However, I owe a lot to the fashion industry – some of my earliest clients and supporters were models, designers and fashion journalists who came regularly for treatments at my fashion week pop-up spas and to my first clinic in Dusseldorf.
What role do Influencers play in your business?
Influencers are an important way to communicate and grow your audience base. Recently, I have been focused on highlighting expert influencers that are able to give my consumer additional, complimentary information on my anti-inflammatory philosophy and other medical experts that are focused on wellness and general health. These include the leading functional medicine expert Dr. Will Cole, the sleep scientist Matthew Walker, Dr. Beilsa Vranich, who focuses on proper breath work and Dr. Frank Lipman, the New York Times best-selling author.
You've launched #SkinSchool, an online educational series with skincare tips. Can you tell us more about your school?
Skin School is a series of live digital classes specifically focused on the needs of teen and young adult skin but has recently broadened its audience to those wanting to understand the menopause and anti-aging advice. During each session I advise on common concerns such as blemishes and breakouts: I explain what is happening in the skin and offer ingredient and lifestyle education on how to solve the problem at the root cause and help achieve healthy skin. From external and internal influences that can impair and destroy skin barrier function, to how young adults can turn hormonal and acne-prone skin into a clear and radiant complexion, I touch on many topics and finish with an interactive Q and A. For each session I typically invite a well-known celebrity or influencer (such as Hailey Bieber, Tiwa Savage, Ashley Graham, Miss Fame, Emma Roberts, Chrissy Rutherford and Danielle Prescod) or a relevant expert (for my Menopause Skin School special I invited the broadcaster and author, Mariella Frostrup and Dr. Hugo Verhoeven, who is the Medical Director at The Private Centre for Endocrinology.
What kind of advertising do you prefer for the promotion and development of your brand?
I am not a fan of the standard beauty industry practices that use a heavy investment in paid media to drive a marketing-focused message. For years, my brand growth was based on organic channels. However, I have found it an exciting challenge recently to find ways to broaden the brand message: last year we partnered with The Royal Ballet and principal ballerina, Marcelino Sambé to create a short modern dance film that expresses the brand’s molecular approach to science and anti-inflammatory lifestyle in a fresh, unexpected way. We utilized the film as a brand campaign and it had such an overwhelmingly positive response from our existing customer base but also new clients that we hadn’t spoken to before.