Skincare has traditionally fallen into four categories: combination; dry; normal; and oily. But one skincare specialist – former orthopaedic surgeon turned cosmetic doctor Barbara Sturm – is looking to radicalise the industry by bringing out a line specifically for darker skins.
She has been working on it for two years with friend and American Horror Story actor Angela Bassett: “I did the studies and research, but Angela tested it on herself and her friends and fed back to me on the efficacy. She was very vocal about how much darker skins needed their own range and why this hadn’t been done sooner, as were many of my darker-skinned clients.”
Sturm is probably best known (apart from dating George Hamilton) for pioneering the celebrity-favourite “vampire facial”, though hers is the much less gruesome Scaddle Lift. (I know, I’ve had it. At no point was blood smeared all over my face like a bad B-movie extra.) Her “blood” or MC1 cream, which costs an eye-wincing £950, is also infamous – it utilises your own blood plasma to facilitate superior healing in the skin, and she boasts a celebrity clientele from Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Jada Pinkett Smith to John Cusack.
This is the first time a luxury brand has focused on skincare for people of colour, a market that Sturm points out is often ignored by the mainstream beauty industry. “Men have separate skincare ranges because their skin needs are different. The eastern Asian market has its own skincare lines, too. There’s makeup and haircare aimed at people of colour, so why isn’t there skincare too?” she asks.
Does darker skin really need its own skincare though? Sturm is adamant it does. “I found a lot of evidence suggesting that the increased amount of melanocytes responsible for creating skin pigment in darker skins were directly linked to skin inflammation. That’s part of the reason why darker skins can have trouble with hyperpigmentation or scarring as the result of a spot or abrasion,” she adds. “That’s not to say darker skins are always inflamed, but if there is an irritation, the inflammation levels are much higher than in skin that is light olive or darker.”
Critics might argue that it’s a gimmick to sell products in a lucrative market. The global skincare industry was worth $115 billion (£87bn) last year, and is set to increase by more than 10% when this year’s figures come in.
With the influx of weird and wonderful South Korean skincare trends including placenta creams and snail slime masks in the west, is this just another way of packaging “brightening” creams? “Absolutely not. This a daily scientific regime to keep inflammation levels low. The key ingredient is magnolia bark, which is anti-bacterial to reduce acne flare-ups and it is also highly anti-inflammatory to help minimise post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. There’s also purslane plant extract, which is again anti-inflammatory, but also contains an activator that helps to keep the ends of the chromosomes longer, keeping skin cells alive for longer, which helps with general anti-ageing too.”
Above all, Sturm says she doesn’t have to prove herself or refute critics: “I’m a scientist – everything I do has research and studies behind it. I invented the vampire facial because as an orthopaedic surgeon I could see the way that blood plasma had regenerative effects on the body and I knew that could be translated to skin, cosmetically. And I saw the same potential for working with darker skins. I’m just passionate about using skincare to support people.”
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