Why Celebrity Esthetician Barbara Sturm Wants You To Stop Using Retinol


You may recognise her name from the minimalistic white packaging sitting on the shelves of MECCA. But Dr Barbara Sturm is more than just the brand of a luxe anti-ageing skin care label. She’s also the celebrity esthetician behind the well-known flawless faces of Cher, Angela Bassett and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. 

In addition to her loyal celebrity following, she’s the mastermind behind the infamous “vampire facial”, a process that involves using a patient’s own blood to stimulate the skin’s healing process. 

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But don’t let this fool you, body fluids and boundary-pushing anti-ageing developments aside, Barbara plays it pretty safe. So safe in fact, there’s still one ultra-popular, off-the-shelf ingredient the sought-after facialist won’t mess with, and if you’re like us, it’s probably sitting in your bathroom cabinet. 

Image credit: @drbarbarasturm

Retinol. The topical derivative of vitamin A heads the list of most dermatologists’ and facialists’ must-have lists. And why wouldn’t it? The potent ingredient is scientifically proven to boost cell renewal andpromote anti-ageing through an increase in collagen production, plus effectively fight acne-causing bacteria. However, the cell-renewing powerhouse totally undermines Barbara’s entire philosophy on caring for our skin. Speaking to Refinery29, she explained, “I’m all about making your cells super healthy, super strong. Keep the cells from dying. Keep the cells performing. Keep the quality of cells super high.” 

And the exact reason retinol doesn’t complement this approach? “Harsh acids loosen the bonds between healthy and dead skin cells, so essentially they strip healthy layers of skin as well,” she cautioned, speaking to Byrdie. “Skin is an organ, and removing too much impairs your barrier function, and can lead to increased sun damage and hyper-pigmentation, which is ironic because most people use acids to try and remove it.” 

So while her practices seem like something cooked up in a mad science lab, her philosophies are far from unconventional: “My whole background is anti-inflammation, and retinol and retinoids cause inflammation.” Believing that being gentle on our skin is just as effective as deliberately inducing a ‘recovery response’ Barbara noted, “I don’t believe in attacking the skin and forcing healing and repairing every time, and I don’t think retinol should be in skin care products you can buy in stores. My approach is respecting the skin as our largest organ with so many necessary functions, including our immune system, and staying away from aggressive ingredients.” 

Still not convinced? We suggest you take one look at the fountain of youth that is 75-year-old Cher. 

Main image credit: Getty

What are your thoughts on retinol? Do you use one in your skin care routine?

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Comments 69

  1. Oh dear to use retinol products or not, it’s the same every time a new so called breakthrough skin treatment becomes the bees knees, some one in the business will nock it. I find it so confusing do I or don’t I use it??

  2. Geez! How are we ever supposed to know what to do? So much conflicting information! Meanwhile Sturm packages her products in boxes then wraps them in plastic. I wish they would change that. I refuse to buy her products for this reason…

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