Dr Barbara Sturm on sleep, serums, and your quarantine face

Dr Barbara Sturm began her career as an anti-inflammatory orthopedist, so approaches skincare holistically with an inside out approach. “Inflammation is a joint and skin-killer,” she says. “Adoption of the anti-inflammatory lifestyle, which includes your skincare regimen, is essential. If you love your skin, it will look great, protect you and love you back.”

We all might have ‘Quarantine face’

According to Sturm, this period of self-isolation might have a negative impact on the skin — isolation skin, or as she puts it, ‘quarantine face’. “It’s dry, red, irritated and break-out prone,” she says, thanks to an increase in stress and cortisol, which Sturm describes as a “skin-killing cortisol”. Plus, an increase in screen time — all of which Sturm is experiencing, too.

“Personally, I am working harder than ever because there is a tremendous demand for skin and health information, and I am spending 16 hours or more a day doing educational Live videos on Instagram, creating other educational materials, running my business and taking care of my family,” says Sturm. “I am however taking care of my skin, and trying to exercise every day.”

How Sturm is taking care of her skin now

Her regular skincare routine has always been under two minutes and it’s no different now. “I would say, I am more disciplined about a few things. I use my Face Mask every day now and dry brushing daily. I like to peel rather than wash my Face Mask off, which makes it work double duty as an exfoliant, facial massage and circulatory stimulant. I use my Anti-Pollution Drops to protect against blue screens and keep it next to me to re-apply frequently. And, broad spectrum sun protection is an important part of that.”

She is also trying to make sure she gets adequate sleep and maintains a healthy diet. “I avoid excess alcohol, sugar, flour fried and processed foods, and eat anti-inflammatory foods like avocados, salmon, olive oil, tomatoes, nuts, dark berries and green tea. I am asked every question you can imagine all day long, and I talk about it a lot; but still I think there is a general lack of knowledge about the impact inflammation has on our skin.”

“I also love to take milk baths with my daughter. I dissolve a cup of anti-oxidative dark honey into hot water and add that along with a gallon of milk to my bath. The skin benefits are tremendous.”

How Sturm’s private clients (many of them are household names) are taking care of their skin

For her private clients (many of them are household names), “unless they take the right precautions and are disciplined in their skincare routines and sun protection, they are experiencing quarantine face,” she says. “My advice to them is not complicated and it’s not difficult. I cannot overstate how much inflammatory influences have escalated during this period. My advice to them is not complicated, and it is not difficult — adopt as much of the anti-inflammatory lifestyle as possible, and protect against the inflammatory influences bombarding your skin.”

Sturm’s sleep tips

Sturm reminds that sleep is the time for the body to regenerate. “Hormone levels and other changes that occur while we sleep make this the critical period for cellular rejuvenation and related processes,” she says. “Getting a good night’s sleep is much simpler than people make it.” Her tips? “I don’t drink much, and I don’t eat big heavy meals close to bedtime. I get into bed early, often with my five year old. I keep the room dark and noise-free. And I do not look at a digital device, which triggers the fight or flight hormone cortisol that keeps you awake, close to bedtime or in the night.”

We should be asking a lot from our serums

New to the Dr Barbara Sturm line is the Night Serum and the Lifting Serum. “The Night Serum [I-043426] was a big idea – creating a serum that would promote the essential night time rejuvenation the skin naturally undertakes,” she explains, recommending it to be used on clean skin right before bedtime. “It’s a super high performance skin booster. After one use, you will notice the difference the next morning.” Her product development methodology is based on ingredient science, which she believes is next in the forefront of skincare innovation.

“The Night Serum has cotton thistle extract to counteract dryness and stressed skin. The anti-oxidative and other properties of senna alata extract aids the skin’s own protection against UV-induced damage, while a compound deployed in Chinese medicine, poria cocos, works to balance the neuropeptides responsible for irritation and provides astringent, toning and calming properties. Beta-glucan calms the skin and reduces redness while antioxidant and anti-aging powerhouse purslane provides both oxidation and irritation protection. And all of this was anchored by my high concentration, balanced molecular weight hyaluronic acid.”

The Hyaluronic Serum is the “white T-shirt” of her range, as she puts it. “It was one of the first one I created, the most essential products that should be part of your skin care regimen every day. Clinical studies have shown that hyaluronic acid protects your skin barrier function, which is the skin’s armour against pathogens, sun and pollution exposure, and protects the body’s largest inlet to disease and dysfunction. Hyaluronic acid is an example of the healing approach to the skin.” Her new serums out this month — the Night Serum and the Lighting Serum, are the high performance products. “The Lifting Serum is like magic, providing this skin-healthy lift. It’s a visual tightener,” she says. “It’s specific to your needs.You can use it in the morning before going into public, and top it up during the day. You can use it right before going out at night.”

And if you’re new to serums?

“Serums are absolutely fundamental,” advises Sturm, who orders her skincare starting with cleanser, serums, moisturiser, then SPF if it’s daytime and the Anti-Pollution Drops. “Apply serums onto cleansed skin immediately after drying (to avoid trans-epidermal water loss). Lipid based moisturisers, which put a seal on the skin, must come after serums for serums to penetrate properly and do their job.”


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