A Day in the Life of Dr. Barbara Sturm, Facialist to the Stars

She’s treated Gwyneth Paltrow, Angela Bassett and at least one Hadid. How Dr. Barbara Sturm, 47, has grown her skincare business 300 percent over the last two years—entirely on word of mouth

Dr. Barbara Sturm, founder and CEO of Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics, in New York City FaceTiming with her 4-year-old daughter, Pepper.

By Laura Neilson and Photography by Caroline Tompkins

Dr. Barbara Sturm, the founder and CEO of her eponymous skin-care brand, has an itinerary that would make any frequent flier dizzy. She often visits five different countries in a month. It’s all in support of Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics, which she launched in 2003. In 2006, she opened a clinic near her home in Düsseldorf, Germany. Thanks in part to a fan base that includes Bella Hadid, Angela Bassett and Gwyneth Paltrow, and the buzz surrounding what’s known as her Vampire Facial (a treatment that involves injecting the client’s own blood proteins back into the skin), sales have increased 300 percent over each of the past two years—without any advertising. “I think product gets transported best through word of mouth,” says Sturm, 47.

Born in Bad Salzungen, East Germany, Sturm fled the country’s communist regime at a young age with her family. “We had to leave everything behind,” she says. She studied medicine at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, eventually becoming an orthopedic doctor. A career in skin care never crossed her mind until she was developing treatments for arthritis and joint aging: “I learned that inflammation basically triggers aging. As soon as you stop inflammation, you stop the aging process. I translated that into skin care,” she says. This has become her company’s core claim.

The privately owned brand now offers 40-plus products. Last year Sturm launched a baby skin-care line, featuring a $65 face cream. Sturm’s own family—a Brady Bunch mix she shares with her second husband, lawyer Adam Waldman (who’s also her company’s executive chairman)—includes five children, ranging in age from 4 to 23 years old.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Today she is in New York to visit her new flagship location, a retail store complete with two treatment rooms for facials, which opens this month in NoHo. Sturm says she has her eye on London and Los Angeles next. But despite her frenetic schedule, she takes a relaxed approach. “I don’t like to plan ahead. I like the floating of life,” she says, as she prepares to jet off to treat clients at a spa in the Austrian Alps.


8:19 A.M.

Sturm gets her makeup done at the Crosby Street Hotel before an event-filled morning.

9:34 A.M.

A breakfast and roundtable discussion about Sturm’s line of Darker Skin Tones products with editors, models and influencers.

11:47 A.M.

Speaking with Nancy Lan, marketing and communications director of Space NK, at the SoHo location.

12:30 P.M.

A business lunch at Loring Place with Net-a-Porter’s PR director for the Americas, Beth Newman.

3:01 P.M.

She stops by her brand’s first flagship location site in NoHo.

4:35 P.M.

After a quick change, Sturm catches up on texts and social media before an early dinner date with friends.


300 days

Time Sturm spent traveling last year, mostly for work.

1 gallon

Amount of whole milk Sturm recommends pouring into one’s bath as a remedy for dry skin.

10 sets

Number of china dinner services Sturm has collected during her travels.

4 years

Time Sturm spent developing her brand’s lip balm (a process that involved 35 different formulations).


Retail price of Sturm’s Hyaluronic Serum, one of her brand’s best-selling products.

168,000+ followers

Number of Instagram followers for Sturm’s skin-care brand. (Sturm’s personal account has 27,500+ followers.)

1,200 square feet

Size of the newly opened New York City–based flagship location.


Year Space NK began carrying Sturm’s product line, which has since become the retailer’s best-selling skin-care brand.

2 facials

Treatments Sturm receives from other professionals each year.

SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal

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