I’m back with a new skincare review! One of my goals before I turned 30 was to get my skincare routine in check. I’m happy to report that I feel very confident with how I look after my skin, and have a set of hero products that are hard to be challenged. But, every now and again, I’ll get curious. And this time round, it was Dr. Barbara Sturm who piqued my curiosity. Could their performance-based skincare hold a luxury product better than one in my beauty cabinet? Let’s find out…
Who Is Dr. Barbara Sturm?
Dr. Barbara Sturm is a German aesthetics doctor, known for her anti-inflammatory philosophy and non-surgical anti-aging skin treatments. You may know her as the inventor of the ‘Vampire Facial’, and to this day, she works in their clinics with private beauty patients. It’s also the name given to her eponymous skincare brand, of which this review will be focusing on.
The Dr. Barbara Sturm skincare brand launched in 2014. It holds four very clear values:
As I will only use cruelty-free cosmetics, these values really stuck out to me. A beauty brand that’s science-based and cruelty-free? I’m in. Especially when they refuse to sell their product anywhere that requires animal testing (although that is now changing). I’m even happy to overlook that they are often called ‘clean beauty‘, which I usually feel is a misleading term.
The complete Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics line is formulated in a way to suit everyone, providing a range of universal base products, and additional specialised products to create personalised regimens. The brand’s philosophy is to achieve “maximum results with a minimum number of products”. Its ‘Sturmglow’ products are designed to suit every skin type, starting with the Cleanser, Hyaluronic Serum, Face Cream, and Skin Supplements. From there, additional creams, serums, more are formulated for specific skin aims and concerns, and are designed to be layered together.
Is Dr. Barbara Sturm Sustainable?
For a luxury skincare brand, I would expect some level of sustainability across their products’ supply chain and packaging. From sourcing organic ingredients, to being made in factories that use renewable energy, there’s a lot of ways that beauty brands can easily invest in more sustainable systems.
Dr. Barbara Sturm states that their ethos “includes a sense of permanent responsibility to our planet and the welfare of all living beings.” They do indeed work with manufacturers that have “committed to CO2-neutral processes” but they aren’t clear on how much of this is green electricity, and how much is offsetting.
However, from there, their best claim seems to be that they use ‘recyclable paper from sustainable forestry’ for product leaflets and boxes. To me, that’s just not good enough. They say they’re still phasing out velvet bags, cellophane wrappers, and plastic packaging, but when I received my products, I found they were predominantly packaged in all of the above.
Boxes were cellophane wrapped. Minis had plastic booklets stuck to them. And the cotton bag that was home to the Discovery Kit is plastic-lined, which is very convenient, but goes against their claims. I was actually quite surprised when I received their Discovery Kit, and found that much of the packaging looked like glass, but was in fact plastic. At the £100+ price point, I would have expected better.
Glass is not only more beautiful, but it’s infinitely recyclable, and it isn’t derived from fossil fuels.
And when it comes to ingredients, Dr. Barbara Sturm only really highlights that it continues to use palm oil, but ensures it is responsibly sourced with RSPO certification. I do question this – aren’t there higher quality alternatives to palm oil, RSPO certified or not?
What about organic ingredients? Biodynamic farming? Regenerative agriculture? What about waterless beauty? There’s a lot to be missed.
The Discovery Kit & My Honest Thoughts…
To get to know the Sturm skincare range, I opted to try out their Discovery Kit (gifted). I felt that this offered the best introduction to the brand, and to see if I could start carving out a skincare routine featuring these products. Included in the Dr. Barbara Sturm Discovery Kit are:
- Cleanser 50ml
- Facial Scrub 20ml
- Hyaluronic Serum 5ml
- Face Cream 20ml
- Eye Cream 5ml
- Anti-Aging Body Cream 50ml
- Face Mask 20ml
For a skincare brand whose founder specialises in anti-inflammatory solutions, I did wonder why the Discovery Kit doesn’t contain any nutrition-based products, such as their supplements or teas. I’d love to see this added, if the kit is reformulated in the future.
Over the course of the last six weeks, I’ve been trying out these products with varying results:
Cleanser. For starters, the cleanser feels a little too drying on my sensitive skin, despite its claim to be suitable for all skin types. It’s light, coming out as a foam that quickly washes off impurities on my skin. However, it leaves my face feeling a little itchy and dry.
Facial Scrub. I don’t tend to use physical exfoliants much anymore, but I will say that this one is a level up from Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant. The grains are gentler on the skin, but I’m still left with my skin feeling taught and polished.
Face Cream. On the other hand, the facial cream was one product I began instinctively reaching for over my usual moisturisers. It’s light and hydrating at the same time. As someone with very thirsty skin, I think the rich version of this facial cream would be my perfect moisturiser. It sits somewhere between Bioeffect’s EGF Power Cream and Argentum Apothecary’s La Potion Infinie, which makes sense considering the price points.
Eye Cream. For the eye cream, I’m honestly indifferent. My favourite eye cream is from Dr. Hauschka, and it retails for less than a quarter of the price, or £256 per 100ml, while Dr. Barbara Sturm’s eye cream is an eye-watering £767 per 100ml. (I need eye cream after that…)
Hyaluronic Serum. For the hyaluronic serum, this felt like more of a sample than a mini. The bottle is tiny! Saying that, it is the only product in the Kit that came in glass. And the serum itself is gorgeous. I love serums, and anything with hyaluronic acid is an instant hit for me. This serum is hydrating, and sinks in easily, leaving skin soft without any stickiness. Pair it with the face cream, and I’m having a good skin day.
Anti-Aging Body Cream. The body cream is quick drying, and feels high quality, leaving my skin soft without any greasiness. How it’s anti-aging, I’m not quite sure. I don’t think my skin visibly looks firmer, but I am newly 30 so age may be a factor.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Sun Drops Review
Alongside the Discovery Kit, I also tried out Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Sun Drops SPF 50 (gifted). These have been raved about by everyone, from Rosie Hungtington-Whitely to Emily Ratajkowski. I like to wear SPF year-round, and it makes up a core part of my morning skincare regimen. I have to say: the Sun Drops are markedly better than any other sunscreen I have tried up to this point.
Unlike previous natural sunscreens I’ve tried, Sun Drops is light, almost like a serum. It spreads across my skin well, sinking in without any white cast. It’s definitely a skincare girl’s sunscreen, and one that I’ll enjoy in my skincare routine until it runs out. For beach days, I’ll still be reaching for my Palm & Pine sunscreen* simply for the sheer amount I need to apply and reapply, but I have to say that this one does perform, and perform really well.
So, Is Dr. Barbara Sturm Worth The Spend?
As a high-end, luxury skincare brand, I expected a little more from Dr. B. At times, Dr. Barbara Sturm leans a little too heavily into the scientific skincare space, which is at the core of the brand, but do feel is a little played up at times. For example, why are their spas are called ‘clinics’? I do think there is a line between cosmetics and medicine, and that needs to be more carefully drawn.
When looking at the brand as skincare for everyone, the price-point is a real turn off. The Ordinary seems to embody the same mission, and has many more specialist products for a much lower price point. Their products even come in glass!
Out of all the Dr. Barbara Sturm products I tried, I have to wholeheartedly recommend the Facial Cream and Sun Drops. These two products do stand out above similarly priced alternatives, and are above and beyond mid-range options.
However, overall, I would say that Argentum Apothecary or Bioeffect have better quality products.
Finally: I feel that anti-ageing beauty products have had their time. Ageing is natural, and I believe this needs to be reframed with more acceptance for time’s effects on our bodies and beauty. There is nothing wrong with seeking out younger-looking skin, but anti-ageing just feels inherently negative. Anti-aging has aged out.