After La Mer, La Prairie, and other nicely smelling and heavily user-experience focused brands, there is a new type of luxury skincare in town: the one created by doctors. But the question remains: are they more effective? Scientific? Justified in being more expensive?… and are they made by doctors at all?
The brand Dr. Barbara Sturm has been popping up on a lot of celebrities’ skincare routines. This has more to do with packages being sent out to them than actual popularity – which is nothing new, La Mer has done that over the years, time and time again. The reason why I never paid too much attention to Dr. Barbara Sturm was because the prices are so high I didn’t think there was anything in the formula that could possibly justify it. But a lot of goody bags and beauty advent calendars later, I came to acquire quite a few items from the line and decided to test them and write a review. Here we are.
While researching a bit about the brand, I came to fid out that Barbara Sturm isn’t actually a dermatologist. She is an orthopedic doctor. Yep. Nothing skin related. Funny, huh? The branding certainly makes uses of the “Dr.” title. Although, the fact that she’s a doctor, regardless of the type, makes me a bit more confident in her abilities to understand and stay true to scientifically backed studies, and not cave in to buzz words and absurd fearmongering that’s dominating the current skincare industry. In all of the products I’ve tested there are no fragrant (and therefore, irritant) ingredients. Off to a good start.
But don’t let the “Dr.” fool you, this is still a luxury skincare brand. And by that I mean, the marketing is what makes the price, not the science. The science might be there, it’s just not that expensive.
Enzyme Cleanser (75g – 60€)
This is the first time I’ve used a powder cleanser. Mine is a mini size of 20 grams. You’re supposed to add a bit of water and work it up to a gentle foam. Then, cleanse and rinse. Efficacy wise, it’s nice, I do feel like it cleanses the clean without being overly stripping, but I don’t see the point in having it in powder form. It adds nothing but time to the process, and it’s hard to mix the powder with water evenly – I’m always left with a few clumps in my palm that just feel wasteful.
Also, the cleanser has a pretty basic ingredients list. The only really good ingredient I recognise is Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C) which is a skin brightening antioxidant. And what about the enzyme? It’s called subtilisin, and enzymes in general are nice exfoliants that tend to be more gentle and conditioning to the skin than other chemical exfoliants – looks interesting, but honestly not something to get overly excited about.
Barbara Sturm Enzyme Cleanser Ingredients: Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, Talc, Cellulose, Maltodextrin, Water (Aqua), Xanthan Gum, Ascorbic Acid, Subtilisin, Lipase.
Face Cream (20ml – 60€)
The Face Cream has a fluid, not too watery consistency that is easy to spread and does not feel heavy at all. I really enjoy using it, and although there is no fragrance in it is has a soft, soothing scent. It does a nice job with hydration and I do feel like it makes my skin softer. Works well under makeup, too.
When it comes to ingredients, there are some good ones here but it’s a pretty average formulation. Glycerin and shea butter are the main moisturising elements, and although effective, they are not expensive or rare in moisturisers. There are some antioxidants too: Lactobacillus/Portulaca Oleracea Ferment Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate aka vitamin E, and two forms of vitamin C, although this is the last ingredient on the list, so there is a very small amount of it in this cream. A very run-of-the-mill formulation that does not warrant the price.
Barbara Sturm Face Cream Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Octyldodecanol, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Glycerin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Decyl Oleate, Zea Mays (Corn) Germ Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Hydrogenated Vegetable Glycerides, Lactobacillus/Portulaca Oleracea Ferment Extract, Sorbitol, Propanediol, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Cocoglycerides, Dimethicone, Tocopheryl Acetate, Phenoxyethanol, Hydrogenated Palm Glycerides, Panthenol, Squalane, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Potassium Sorbate, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Baicalin, Pantolactone, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid.
Face Cream Rich (20ml – 65€)
This is definitely thicker than the regular Face Cream. Very hydrating, but you do feel it on – I’m comfortable with it on my combination skin, but someone who is very oily might find this too heavy and occlusive. I use it after chemical exfoliation or a drying mask, and it’s just what my skin wants. Like with the Face Cream, I do feel this cream makes my skin softer.
Formula wise, the standout ingredients are all equal to the face cream, with the addition of a natural moisturising factor ingredients (Urea) and more antioxidants: Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil and Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, which are all emollients as well. This feels like a more worth it formula to me, even though it might not suit everybody.
Barbara Sturm Face Cream Rich Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Octyldodecanol, Urea, Glycerin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Decyl Oleate, Zea Mays (corn) Germ Oil, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Hydrogenated Vegetable Glycerides, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Lactobacillus/Portulaca Oleracea Ferment Extract, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Sorbitol, Propanediol, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Dimethicone, Phytosterols, Panthenol, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Baicalin, Phenoxyethanol, Hydrogenated Palm Glycerides, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Potassium Sorbate, Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Pantolactone, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid.
Glow Drops (10ml – 45€)
The Glow Drops feel more like a very liquid-y moisturiser than an actual serum. There were times that I applied it and forgot to put a cream on top. I did not feel like my skin needed it though: it feels replenished and moisturised with just this. I know (not just felt like) my skin got softer using this, because even my husband commented on it. It might be a dry skin girl’s best friend. It also gave off a bit of glow to the skin -it was particularly noticeable on top of the cheekbones.
Formula wise, Glow Drops is more interesting than the moisturisers. Sweet almond oil, panthenol and hyaluronic acid are what makes sure your skin get’s hydrated, soft and smooth. Biosaccharide Gum-1 is also a nice soothing ingredient, and there are several extracts present that serve an antioxidant function. The “Glow” part comes from mica, a purely superficial ingredient that’s used in makeup and brings no benefit to the skin, but it’s harmless and adds a bit of glow when applied. Just know the glow you are seeing with this is temporary and washes off.
Barbara Sturm Glow Drops Ingredients: Water (Aqua),Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Glycerin, Lactobacillus/Portulaca Oleracea Ferment Extract, Butylene Glycol, Glyceryl Stearate, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Polygonum Bistorta Root Extract, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Rosa Canina Fruit Extract, Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Carbomer, Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Mica, Hexylene Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Pantolactone, Caprylyl Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Ascorbyl Pamitate, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Dimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, Alumina, Tin Oxide, Iron Oxides (Ci 77491),Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891).
Clarifying Mask (20ml – 55€)
Last but not least, the clay mask. Even though alcohol is the third ingredient on this list, the is the most hydrating clay mask I’ve ever used. And a clay mask is usually never moisturising – maybe not “skin stripping”, but certainly not moisturising. It feels like a thick moisturiser coming out of the tube, and it applies like one. You’re meant to leave it on for around 15 minutes then rinse it off, and for that time this never fully dries, which is not a bad thing – skin feels slightly tighter with the passage of time, but never uncomfortable. The most amazing thing is that after removing the mask, my skin isn’t screaming out for a moisturiser. It actually feels like I just applied one. Truly impressive.
I have a bit of trouble telling if this is good for acne or oily skin because currently, I have neither. But since the main ingredient is clay I have no reason to believe it it’s not a good oil absorbent.
Looking at the ingredients list, it’s the best product out of all that I’ve tried. Kaolin (clay) and zinc PCA are there to combat acne. Multiple different seed oils are there so serve as emollients and antioxidants at the same time (jojoba, sunflower, rapeseed, etc). There are a few soothing ingredients (allantoin, panthenol, etc) and vitamin E and C, great antioxidants to have. It’s really nice to see a clay mask that’s gentle, comfortable, and packed full with good ingredients that take care of the skin while you are using it, and doesn’t just stick to oil and serum absorption.
Barbara Sturm Clarifying Mask Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Kaolin, Alcohol Denat., Cetearyl Alcohol, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Lactobacillus/Portulaca Oleracea Ferment Extract, Octyldodecanol, Brassica Campestris (Rapeseed) Sterols, Cetearyl Glucoside, Panthenol, Zinc PCA, Allantoin, Lens Esculenta (Lentil) Seed Extract, Echium Plantagineum Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil Unsaponifiables, Sodium Hyaluronate, Polygonum Bistorta Root Extract, Leuconostoc/ Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Cardiospermum Halicacabum Flower/Leaf/Vine Extract, Tocopherol, Xanthan Gum, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Sodium Cetearyl Sulfate, Alcohol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Caprylic/ Capric Triglyceride, Disodium Edta, Hexylene Glycol, Arginine, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Pantolactone, Caprylyl Glycol, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891).
For the face creams, the full size comes in a tub, and the travel/mini sizes I have come in a squirt tube. For the sake of ingredient stabilisation, I would recommend getting the squirt tube – specially because a lot (if not all) of the antioxidants in those creams are air and light sensitive, so a squirt tube will help preserve them.
There are a couple of products here that have alcohol but I haven’t mentioned them specifically because it is very low on the ingredients list and there are a lot of moisturising and emollient components in the formulas to compensate for any drying effect that small amount of alcohol may cause.
Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised. Some formulas are pretty basic but at least none of them are actually bad and they don’t include irritant ingredients for the sake of trend or user experience, which is what I expected from a line formulated but someone who knows their stuff – like doctors. I still think the price is unnecessarily expensive for what you are paying for, but that’s what luxury is 9 times out of 10. The whole line seems to be geared to treat dry or dehydrated skin, while at the same time not alienating oily or combination skin types. My skin has been enjoying using this products, because I did feel a difference in softness. Would I recommend it? Well… If you have money to spare and really want to, sure, it’ won’t hurt your skin. But otherwise, no – there are cheaper products out there that are great at doing the same thing. I don’t even think you get a proper luxury experience with Dr. Barbara Sturm, the high price makes it feel more luxurious than the actual packaging, for example.
The only product I think might be worth the price is the Clarifying Mask, specifically if you have dry skin and acne at the same time and you can’t find anything that works with both those conditions. I myself am making a mental note of this, in case I ever go through that and need it.