The Doctor Is In NYC: Barbara Sturm Makes A Temporary-To-Permanent Play For Manhattan

Dr. Barbara Sturm won’t be kept away from the Big Apple.

The orthopedist and skincare entrepreneur, whose Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics skincare line has a rabid global fan base of celebrities, supermodels and many mere mortals, has opened up a pop-up spa on Wooster Street in Manhattan while she builds a permanent New York City location.

The pop-up offers one service, The Instant Glow Facial, out of a single treatment room. The 50-minute treatment, including cleansing, exfoliation, steaming, customized massage, mask and a careful layering of products that’s made the Barbara Sturm method a favorite of Kim Kardashian, the Hadid sisters, Chiara Ferragni and Mandy Moore, will set clients back $295. The treatment known popularly as the Vampire Facial, although not called that by Sturm, in which clients’ blood is drawn and injected back into their skin, isn’t on the menu. Yet.

Sturm has been operating spa pop-ups since the beginning of the year. She decided to do them after consumer requests poured in online for access to her facial treatment. Sturm says, “[I was] only giving it to special people like editors, influencers and celebrities. I thought, ‘I want it for everybody.’ So, we decided to do a tiny space here in New York to offer the possibility to have a facial, and we are overwhelmed with the response.”

Sturm’s been relatively quiet about the Manhattan pop-up. There was a mention of it in an Instagram post last month, but the official outreach stopped there. Still, Sturm is fielding hundreds of emails a day for appointments.

The organic enthusiasm is customary for Sturm. She’s established her reputation and cult following without elaborate advertising campaigns. “There is no marketing plan,” she says. “I go with the flow. I think nowadays you have to be super flexible and [not] follow a strong strategy because it can change from today to tomorrow. So, I try to really follow the wishes of the customer and the market, and I think that’s very unusual and very unorthodox. And because I own my business 100%, I can do whatever I want.”

Glitterati sing Sturm’s praises regularly, but she insists it’s not due to sponsorships. “We’re not pushy,” says Sturm. “I don’t force anyone to get our stuff. Just the opposite, because I don’t want anybody to feel tricked into something they maybe end up not liking. We don’t pay anyone to post about it. Everybody [who] wants to post is welcome to post, and we don’t even ask them. It’s because they love it, and they want to support us…To grow takes a little longer, but it’s honest.”

Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics’ growth may be slow compared to some  brands, but Sturm’s lifestyle is anything but. On top of her New York temporary-to-permament spa endeavor, she sees patients at her Dusseldorf, Germany aesthetic clinic and continues to expand her luxury product assortment. Sturm recently introduced a range with actress Angela Bassett featuring two face creams, a hyaluronic serum, a foam cleanser and enzyme cleanser for darker skin tones.

“I did so much research,” says Sturm about the range targeting inflammation that women with darker skin tones experience. “[There’s] definitely more inflammation because of the appearance of more melanocytes.” Discussing the product range, she adds, “It’s antibacterial, and it’s for evening out the skin tone because of hyperpigmentation issues. Everybody, once they start it, is obsessed with it.”

Fighting inflammation has been a career-long effort for Sturm. Decades of scientific research led her to the conclusion that inflammation is the cause of a myriad of ailments, from aging to cancer, and she believes harsh skincare ingredients cause unnecessary inflammation. She says, “Why would we inflame our skin and transport harsh ingredients through our skin and our whole organism? The number of cancer patients is rising. I don’t see [that] it helps if you throw crazy stuff on your skin.”

One inflammation-inducing skincare product consumers shouldn’t hold their breath for is a Sturm peel. “I hate acid peels,” she declares. “It causes inflammation [and] destroys skin barrier function. It just makes your skin super vulnerable and unhealthy.”

There are skincare ingredients Sturm refuses to formulate with, too. “I don’t like mineral oil, fragrances, acids or too much vitamin C,” she says. “Vitamin C should always be under 5%.” There remain plenty of ingredients Sturm will formulate with, and she’s constantly in the lab tinkering with them to create active products. She says, “Everything is designed to make your cells stronger, make you cells stay alive longer, make your cells work the best they can.”

Sturm’s focus on formulation has meant less time in the treatment room, a shift she welcomes. “I’m seeing less and less patients,” she acknowledges. “I had to really cut down on that. I’ve been doing this for so many years, it’s time for a little change.”