Skincare Pioneer: Dr. Barbara Sturm

by Anja Tyson

dr. barbara sturm

Angela Bassett and Dr. Barbara Sturm, image courtesy of Angela Bassett


Since delivering my impassioned argument in favor of investing in luxury skincare last fall, I’ve been on a bit of a tear. Over the winter – one of the coldest and driest I can remember – I have waded into about a half dozen different designer skincare lines, searching with determination for the perfect conqueror of my inflamed winter complexion.


Molecular Cosmetics by Dr. Barbara Sturm

I came across Molecular Cosmetics the same way I imagine most everyone else did – in a late night internet research deep dive that followed my completely organic reencounter of Kim Kardashian West’s infamous 2013 vampire selfie. This was the same year that it was revealed that Kobe Bryant was traveling regularly to Germany to treat his degenerative knee issues with a new orthopaedic procedure using his own scientifically enhanced blood. And the orthopaedist on the team of doctors responsible for pioneering this method into skincare was – you guessed it – Dr. Barbara Sturm.


Meet Dr. Barbara Sturm

Sturm represents the vanguard of the new wave of skincare. Of late, the main tenet of modern beauty has been non-toxicity, and Sturm’s line stays true to that ideal – but do not let this lead you down the garden path of popular ‘natural’ beauty. Her line, Molecular Cosmetics, is non-toxic, but the products are chemically engineered to address the inflammation that causes your skin to age.

With an international client roster and a busy globe-trotting practice, it is a wonder how Dr. Sturm found time to engineer an even more specialized line of skincare within her original offering – developed in collaboration with her client, Angela Bassett, it specifically addresses the needs of skin of color. So infrequently does any one brand take the time to cater specially to the needs of darker skin tones that the offering feels landmark, and, elated, I jumped directly into my first Molecular Cosmetics product, the Foam Cleanser.
Skincare is a slippery slope, and as such I have now incorporated two more of her products into my daily routine. The line overall is light, comfortable, and luxurious, and leaves your skin feeling exceptionally clean without the abrasion or penetration that can accompany more aggressive regimes. In a word, my skin feels more… awake.

Dr. Sturm kindly shared a bit about her line with us at ATPB, including the issues she aims to address with the Skin of Color line within Molecular Cosmetics. Read up, and enjoy!


All The Pretty Birds: Please tell us why your line is called Molecular Cosmetics.
Dr. Barbara Sturm: Back when I first started thinking about creating my own skincare line, I was not involved in the cosmetic business at all. I just knew from trying out products that were on the market that nothing would help my skin with problems like dryness and irritation. Whilst working with scientists, I started researching and talking to my colleagues about how such a line would have to work. From my work as an orthopaedic surgeon I already knew that one of the main reasons for aging was the inflammatory process and quickly discovered a sort of ‘vicious cycle’ the skin enters when stressed by environmental factors, wrong skincare or other negative influences: irritation which causes itching, scratching and a disturbed skin barrier function leading to the penetration of irritants which in return cause irritation again and so on. To break this cycle, it is important to use non-irritating, non-aggressive and non-toxic ingredients, as well as active substances that support and heal your skin. The result is deeply moisturized, glowing skin that will not be victim to the influence of environmental stressors and be able to maintain a healthy and youthful look.


ATPB: Before starting your own skincare lab, you worked in Orthopaedics. Can you tell us a little about how your work in orthopaedics influenced your vision of skincare?
BS: While I worked as an orthopaedic surgeon, one of my patients’ main problem was arthritis, an inflammatory process in the joint which leads to pain, stiffness, redness, warmth, swelling and a decreased range of motion. The team I was part of helped pioneer a new treatment which is now known as the ‘Kobe Bryant Procedure’ and uses the patient’s body’s own proteins and healing factors to stop the inflammatory process and even help heal the joint tissue. Said tissue is mostly cartilage – which is from the same tissue family as skin cells. 

At the same time, I started working in the field of aesthetics, which had always been an interest of mine. The normal injections with hyaluronic fillers provided great results, but I kept thinking that it would be a great additional anti-aging booster for the skin if we also started mixing it with the body’s own healing factors, like we did in the orthopaedic field. I was right – the results lasted longer, and the skin benefited greatly from the additional healing power and anti-inflammatory proteins.
Back then my patients asked me about skincare recommendations and what they should use to make sure their skin was well-taken care of. As I hadn’t created my line yet but was working with an incredibly strong anti-aging ingredient that worked on skin, I decided to mix it in a very clean, pure basic cream. The results were great and the cream, which is called MC1 cream, quickly became a hype item, especially among my clients in Hollywood. As it was only available to my patients that came to see me in my clinic in Duesseldorf, the idea of my own skincare line was born and the rest is history.


Foam Cleanser for Skin of Color


ATPB: Can you tell us a bit about your philosophy for the use of chemicals versus natural ingredients? For instance, your Cleanser is free of parabens, sulfates, mineral oil and fragrance.
BS: Contrary to the current online trend when it comes to ingredients, ‘natural’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘better’ or ‘good’. Ingredients should be of the highest possible quality in order to have the intended effect on our cells. This means that the producer of any product needs to have the expertise to be able to tell case-by-case which ingredients to use and how they should be used. With some active substances, for example urea which is an active ingredient of the cleanser, it is important to have them produced in a high-tech laboratory to ensure safety and effectiveness. Some natural ingredients of the cleanser would be Purslane, which comes from a very pure, high-quality source.

Anti-Pollution Drops

ATPB: Your less-is-more approach is pretty unique in the current beauty landscape – we are used to having in-depth multi-product processes marketed to us by most brands! How are you able to make such an impact with so few products?
BS: One of the reasons the products work so well is that they don’t contain any aggressive, irritating or toxic ingredients. My skincare regime is based on three principles: fundamentally anti-inflammatory, deeply hydrating and nourishing and to be packed with the right combination anti-aging properties including telomerase activation, without overwhelming the skin. My products are mostly vegan, natural yet cutting edge and highly effective. They can be adapted to what the skin needs individually and are therefore the perfect mix-and-match-system for everyone. They give people exactly what they want and need and are easy to use and understand, showing results after only a few days of using them.


Hyaluronic Serum for Skin of Color

ATPB: What do you use on your own skin?
BS: On a daily basis I use my Foaming Cleanser, followed by Hyaluronic Serum for a moisture boost, before applying my MC1 cream. After a long flight I try to always use my Face Mask – if you leave it on for about 20 minutes and then gently peel it off, it leaves your skin with an amazing glow. I add multiple products of my range to change the routine, depending what I need at that moment. For example, Anti-Pollution drops when I am in polluted cities, Sun Drops when I am on the beach and Calming Serum as after care. 


ATPB: How did your collaboration with Ms. Bassett come about?
BS: We met through a mutual friend and she was so amazed by how the products of my original line affected her skin that we decided to do something together for darker skin tones to address the specific needs of these skin types.


ATPB: What are the needs of skin of color that are met by this special range? How does the collaboration address those needs?
BS: Skin of color (Fitzpartrick skin types V-VI) has a great barrier function and is comparatively more elastic than skin types I-IV. It however battles a heightened susceptibility to inflammation, which often leads to the consequence of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can be caused by acne or other irritating triggers, e.g. the wrong skincare. The smallest incision can not only cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, but also keloidal or hypertrophic scarring. 

The products of the Darker Skin Tones Line focus on providing a solution to exactly these skin related problems. The products contain ingredients with strong anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-acne powers that are also able to help balancing the skin, even out the skin tone and provide active substances with powerful anti-aging properties. The result is a much more even, healthy and glowing skin tone.


Face Cream for Skin of Color


ATPB: When developing formulas for these products, where do you find your inspiration?
BS: From my whole career which started in orthopedics and also from my background growing up surrounded by nature, in a forest. I learned so much from both my grandparents, who were both pharmacists, and my mother, who was a chemist. A lot of research and cutting-edge science forms the foundation of the products.


ATPB: Your clients aside from Ms. Bassett – Cher, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Kate Moss – are well-known for their glowing, ageless skin. Can you leave us with some lifestyle guidance (beyond using STURM, of course) to help achieve their same glow?
BS: I think a healthy diet plays a big role in the way your skin looks and how you age: you are what you eat. Your skin needs certain nourishing ingredients to maintain a healthy, balanced and glowing tint. The more we support it with those vital substances, the more our body can work on maintaining a great skin-matrix, rejuvenate itself during the night, regenerate and rebuild collagen fibers. Of course, a healthy lifestyle that includes enough sleep and exercise supports our body by releasing ‘good’ hormones that make us feel good and happy and have a big influence on our skin as well.  


Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Molecular Cosmetics can be purchased online at Molecular Cosmetics, as well as select beauty retailers across the world.


This post was originally published in March 2018.


Related All The Pretty Birds Beauty Posts:

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6 Under-the-Radar Skincare Brands to Try

My Beauty Routine: April Gargiulo, Vintner’s Daughter

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