Holistic-minded practitioners often say that beauty starts within. Physician Barbara Sturm, the founder of Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics, really believes this. Not only does she apply the star ingredient in her botanical-derived skin-care range to her complexion, she also drinks it. The plant she’s obsessed with? Purslane, an antioxidant-rich herb that grows freely in Dr. Sturm’s native Germany, activates the enzyme telomerase, which helps stave off and even reverse some parts of the aging process. “I’m telling you,” she says, her blue eyes flickering, “you have to have this every day. It’s super yummy.”
With her supernaturally glowing complexion and athletic energy level, Dr. Sturm makes a convincing case for eating bushels of whatever she’s putting in her grocery cart. When it comes to purslane, her favourite recipe is to mix a handful of the greens with pineapple juice and ice, and liquefy them in a blender. For those without a Vitamix, a more potent dose can be found in her topical products, which combine ample amounts of the superhero ingredient with everything from plumping hyaluronic acid to firming peptides into high-performance creams, serums, and other elixirs. “It’s unbelievable,” she says of tapping into the restorative benefits of the mighty plant. “It’s like a power herb.”
Growing up in the countryside near Eisenach in central Germany, Dr. Sturm spent a lot of time with her hands in the dirt. “Up until I was 12 years old, I was pretty much collecting herbs in the forest and climbing trees,” she says, laughing. By 18, she had enrolled in medical school, where she specialized in orthopedics. To complete her training, Dr. Sturm spent a winter semester in Sölden, Austria, analyzing professional skiers to see how the body heals from injuries and physical stress. She realized that avoiding inflammation is an integral part of keeping the joints healthy and staying in peak condition, off-piste and beyond. She also noticed the impact that inflammation had on skin—particularly how it could weaken collagen, accelerate the formation of wrinkles, and make the complexion appear dull. “I was inspired to find a solution,” she explains.
Dr. Sturm transferred the scientific findings in molecular orthopedics to the skin and dermatology, and after six years of research, she and a team of scientists hit upon a breakthrough treatment: a procedure that involves drawing a patient’s blood in a patented syringe to stimulate a wound-healing response, then spinning it in a centrifuge to produce a “cocktail that’s full of anti-inflammatory proteins and healing agents,” she says. This elixir can be injected into the body (to, say, remedy an achy knee) or, as Dr. Sturm later learned, the face for a youth-enhancing result.
To maintain the benefits, and for patients who couldn’t fly to her clinics in Düsseldorf or Munich for regular visits, Dr. Sturm started spiking creams with this therapeutic cocktail, which she would ship to her international clientele. But she didn’t stop there. “Patients would ask me, ‘What’s your regime? What else do you recommend?’ ” she says, which prompted her to create her eponymous skin-care line, powered by her interest in botany and her beloved purslane.
With her supernaturally glowing complexion and athletic energy level, Dr. Sturm makes a convincing case for eating bushels of whatever she’s putting in her grocery cart.
The Dr. Barbara Sturm line was launched in 2014, and it includes everything from a Super Anti-Aging Serum with skin-regenerative antioxidants to an Eye Cream with de-puffing sugar beet and yeast. It was quickly picked up by Net-a-Porter and landed in the hands of influential makeup artists such as Pati Dubroff and Jillian Dempsey, who passed it along to their celebrity clients. Angela Bassett was so impressed that she contacted Dr. Sturm in 2014 and asked if they could work together on a capsule collection for women of colour. “I see a lot of clients in my clinic, and there’s actually no line that serves the needs of [people with] darker skin tones,” says Dr. Sturm. “Due to the higher number of melanocytes, their skin is more prone to inflammation, as well as increased oil production and pigmentation.” With that in mind, Dr. Sturm and Bassett created five items targeted at these concerns, including a face cream with magnolia and African whitewood bark to reduce sebum, clear out pores, and fade dark spots, and a dual-action cleanser that removes impurities and softens dry skin.
Up next, Dr. Sturm is teaming up with Austria-born makeup artist (and friend) Monika Blunder to launch an anti-aging primer, slated to debut this spring. “A lot of makeup artists tell me they use my Hyaluronic Ampoules as a base before makeup, but now they’ll have another option,” she says, noting that the formula is free of silicones, which can clog pores. “It also has a nice pearly effect, a little shimmer. And it will really take care of your skin.”
When not in the lab or at one of her clinics, Dr. Sturm complements her holistic approach to beauty and self-care with strength-training workouts, skiing (“I think Aspen, Colorado, is the best in the world,” she contends), and regular shots of purslane, of course. But if the herb isn’t in season or at the farmers’ market? Fear not—Dr. Sturm has a solution: “I’m actually working on supplements next.”
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