Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Overnight Serum

A 7-Day Skin Serum Treatment for $150: Worth It or Not?


March 22, 2020 Style By
Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

In my tried-and-tested opinion, serum is one of the best things you can add to your skincare regimen. A serum seeps deep into your skin and, depending on its abilities, can boost hydration and moisture retention, correct dark spots, firm skin, clear pores, prevent breakouts, brighten complexion and more. You apply it to freshly cleansed skin, before adding a more dense moisturizer over top. (Whereas the serum is more proactive or corrective, the moisturizer is nourishing and defensive: It hydrates the outermost layer of skin, and also acts as a shield against environmental toxins—and UV damage, if it contains SPF. Moisturizer is the more necessary step, if we’re talking basic skincare essentials.)

Adding serum to your regimen is an upgrade, even if it’s a low-cost, safely formulated hyaluronic acid serum that is designed to retain moisture in your skin. And in some cases, more calculated and highly concentrated serums can be a luxurious upgrade: I was able to get my mitts on Dr. Barbara Sturm’s overnight serum ampoules, a 7-night pack of 2-ml serum vials (again, applied after cleansing or showering, and before a nighttime moisturizer). They are the same formula that Dr. Sturm uses in her 30 ml night serum. When you crunch the numbers, that means you’re using about half of the volume of her traditional $310 night serum in a one-week period, hence the $150 sticker of the ampoules. The 30-ml bottle, when used more sparingly, should last you a month or more, assuming you apply just 3-4 drops per night.

The ampoules are intended to provide users with a high-volume, fast-acting boost to the skin. Here are the ingredients each ampoule contains, plus its benefits: cotton thistle extract, to calm stressed skin; senna alata extra, an antioxidant that also reverses UV damage; poria cocos mushroom extract, to tone oil production and balance skin’s pH levels; beta-glucan reduces redness; purslane reverses and prevents signs of aging; molecularly balanced hyaluronic acid to significantly boost and preserve moisture levels in the skin (holding up to 1,000 times its own weight in water).

So, after my test run—what was my verdict? It was timed well, to a post-Brazilian carnival party onslaught, and an overseas flight. My skin was tired, dry, breaking out. Did I see a boost in my complexion, plus increased firmness, and brightness? Yes, definitely. But, I did note some pros and cons to the ampoules. Here are my thoughts:

Why You Should

It’s an effective, quick fix to tired skin. All those ingredients, plus the 2-ml volume of each ampoule, yields serious skin-brightening and firming results, especially since they sync with your body’s circadian rhythm to replenish and rejuvenate cells while you sleep. It’s the perfect recipe for a well-rested, age-reversing, bender-neutralizing result. Call it a complexion treatment, or a topical IV for your complexion.

The name is trusted. Dr. Sturm is held in very high regard in the industry. She takes a scientific approach to her production — and a precisely German one at that — selecting ingredients and formulas that work hard, fast and effectively. There’s a noticeable difference between, say, her $300 hyaluronic serum and the $10 one you can buy on Amazon. Hers is lab-tested, a “low- and high-balanced” formula that seeps into skin while also nourishing cells at the surface. There’s essentially 0 percent risk of anything going awry. If what you want is fast and lasting results, look to Dr. Barbara Sturm. (Though any future benders, dehydration and lack of sleep will quickly undo the results. Much of this is on you to maintain with smart daily habits.)

You don’t need to do them all in one week. While I took a weeklong “recovery” approach to the ampoules, you can keep them for single-night “brightness emergencies,” or a lavish Sunday night — perhaps after a bath and face mask. At roughly $21 per ampoule, this is a luxurious product, and each one is single-use. Heck, there’s enough in each ampoule that you and a partner could get a high-powered dose during an at-home spa night.

Why You Shouldn’t

The cost. There’s no way around it: $150 for 7 vials is a steep price. Chances are, though, if you’ve read this far, you’re someone who would consider it. So, this may not be a negative after all. (Besides, they do work wonders.) But, there are many excellent serums out that that cost half or a quarter of the price.

It’s a lot of serum for a single use. Because each ampoule is single-use, you need to empty the high-value, 2-ml vial each time you snap one open. That’s enough serum for your face, your neck, your ears, maybe a little extra for your hands — typically you only need a few drops to cover the entire face. But, that’s why these ampoules work well as a quick booster — the volume is their selling point. However, at that price, it does feel like some of it goes to waste, and that’s tragic because it’s such a terrific product.

Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Night Serum employs the same formula. Both these ampoules and a 30-ml night serum were released in tandem this month, and they contain the same formula. The difference, however, is that the night serum can be deployed on an as-needed basis (and is still easy to tote while traveling). Thus, you can get approximately 30-60 nights of use from the nighttime serum as opposed to 7 from the ampoules. If you’re playing a long game (as you should be anyway), rather than seeking a fast fix, then the serum is a better buy. The cost measures out to be nearly the same, when you consider the volume (14 ml in the ampoules for $150 versus 30 ml in the serum for $310). Plus, with the serum, you can always up the dosage if you want to.

The Verdict

These ampoules work. Your skin feels firmer, both instantly and in the days that follow. It looks more radiant, nourished and healthy. But, I do think that you can enjoy the same powerhouse benefits with half the dosage, or even a quarter of the dosage. Regardless, you can decide for yourself if you instead buy Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Night Serum, which uses an identical formula. Yes, it’s more than double the cost, but it goes anywhere from 5-9 times further than the ampoules if you use a few drops each night. If that’s still steep and you want to give the formula a try, you can always use the Mini Night Serum, which gives you 10 ml in a smaller eye-drop bottle, for $115. It should last you 2-4 weeks.

The Best Serums to Brighten and Refresh Dull, Tired Skin

Serum brightens your skin complexion, and can preserve moisture levels in ways that moisturizers never could (funny, given its name). Here are seven of our favorite serums; apply them to clean, dried skin before moisturizers, SPFs, retinols, or night creams. Read the Story

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Adam Hurly

More by Adam Hurly | Follow on Contact via Email
Sign Up for the
Daily Dispatch
Useful product reviews, work-from-home tips
and expert advice packed into one handy, daily email.

By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy and to receive email correspondence from us.