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One of the most iconic — and gory — social media pictures of reality TV star Kim Kardashian West is one of her covered in her own blood.

People were understandably grossed out, but the facial procedure she was undergoing — called the Vampire Facial, also known as the plasma-rich protein (PRP) facial — wasn’t some fad meant to grab eyeballs. It’s steeped in science and was created by German doctor Barbara Sturm, who also helped out basketball player Kobe Bryant with his ailing joints using the same concept the facial is based on. In a chat with Gulf News tabloid! on a recent trip to Dubai to open MOE Fashion Live at Mall of the Emirates, Sturm explains her much talked about facial and her views on natural beauty.

Dr Barbara Sturm Image Credit: Supplied

How did you come up with the vampire facial?

My background is in orthopaedics and I have pioneered a treatment where you take proteins from yourself... like you take the patient’s blood and you process it in a certain way and you take entered anti-inflammatory proteins and you re-inject the plasma into the joints, and you basically stop the ongoing process of osteoarthritis... of aging of the joints. And what I did is I translated the knowledge from orthopaedics into the skin and basically in 2002 was the first time to ever inject blood into the skin.

What made you change careers from orthopaedics to skincare?

That’s a good question. I am a very artsy person. I just was very intrigued when there was injecting of Botox and hyaluronic acid [year ago]... at the time there was nobody doing that and I think I wanted to learn it. And then when I learned that I was like OK we need to do something effectively on a cellular level and not just injecting hyaluronic acid. I combined the powers of the proteins, the growth factors and the anti-inflammatory proteins together with the hyaluronic acid and it had a much better effect on the skin and a longer lasting effect.

Who would you recommend the vampire facial for? Can it be done at any age?

I wouldn’t start too early with all these injectables. It’s good for prevention but it’s the first step to be doing something. But I wouldn’t say start too early. It’s suitable for all skin types.

Are there any trendy facials on the market that you are not a fan of?

I’m not such a big fan of all these machines to tell you the truth. I think it’s important to stimulate your tissue. So I think there are really amazing lifting massages and tools for lifting massages. I think micro needling in a very mild way is a good idea to do once a month maybe together with our hyaluronic serum, which is amazing to hydrate and stimulate your skin cells. I think there are machines like micro current that can help stimulate skin cells or light therapy, which help with skin conditions... So as long as they are very benign and healing and nice to your skin. I wouldn’t go for lasers or acid peels. I would be very cautious because that’s something which destroys your skin’s barrier function.

What are some of the basic things that people can do to improve their skin?

Hydration is super important. Our hyaluronic serum has short-chain and long-chain molecules. The long-chain sits on the surface and the short-chain go in the deeper layers. And you basically hydrate and feed yourself from above and underneath, which is important as only hydrated skin cells can take on active ingredients. Then what’s super important is anti-inflammation. Our products are super anti-inflammatory, and take out inflammation and heal your skin this way.

Some products in your line are focused on pollution. What is your view on skincare lines that are focused on pollution? Is it the future of beauty?

Lots of products say that they are against pollution but it’s not really effective. So you have to really study the ingredients. So our ingredients basically create a shield on your skin to keep pollutants out. I think there are lots of products out there which basically only have some antioxidants, which are already called anti-pollution skincare. So I think you have to keep in mind that there needs to be a scientific background for it and that it’s really also working.

You brought up a scientific background. There is a trend now for natural beauty or so-called non-toxic beauty. What is your view on the natural beauty movement versus the scientific, synthetic debate?

I mean if you put grass in the cream nothing will ever happen. You know if you want to use grass it needs to be distilled or fermented or it needs to be processed in a certain way. It’s still non-toxic you know, but organic doesn’t mean anything... It doesn’t have efficacy. You know you need it to have something which actually also has an effect and it needs to be non-toxic. You shouldn’t add toxins to your skin because then it creates inflammation and therefore aging and hyper pigmentation... all kinds of skin stresses and skin issues. So yes I think it should have the powers of nature but it needs to be in a way where we also see an effect on our skin.