Founder Carla Oates shares the story of her business and the foundations of her approach to health, wellbeing, and her signature glowing skin
Carla Oates of The Beauty Chef is a very literal example of following one’s gut instinct. In fact, it was digestive health that inspired the Australian’s line of ‘living’ beauty products that do double duty — working from both from the inside out (inner beauty powders and boosts) and outside in (skincare). Since The Beauty Chef was founded in 2009, we’ve come to hear a lot about the importance of fermented foods and probiotics, the human microbiome, and the relationship between our gut and our brain, as well as our skin. But when Oates started out, she was pioneering the idea that beauty begins in the belly, and it took a lot of research, instinct and self-belief to see her unconventional product line come to life. Here, Oates shares the story of her business and the foundations of her approach to health, wellbeing, and her signature glowing skin.
Where did you grow up? Did your early life shape what you do now?
I grew up in Rose Bay, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. When I was a child, I suffered from eczema and allergies, and saw a naturopath when I was around twelve. She changed my diet, which led to a dramatic change in my skin. So from quite early on, I had a very good understanding about how food and chemicals and gut health can affect the skin.
What led you to start The Beauty Chef?
I was working as a beauty editor about 15 years ago, during which time I grew concerned with the amount of toxic chemicals in skincare. I had always been interested in alternative and holistic health so I started researching the benefits of clean ingredients in skincare, predominantly super active plant compounds that rejuvenate the skin from the inside out. During this time I started fermenting foods and made all my own skincare from plants and organic foods. I gave them to friends and family , which created quite a demand, as the circle grew from friends to their friends. People were addicted to my fermented veggies and kefir coconut water! As I result, I started experimenting with lacto-fermenting different blends of skin-loving ingredients, and the result was my Inner Beauty Powder, now named Glow, which promotes skin radiance from the inside out.
What lies at the heart of The Beauty Chef?
Beauty begins in your belly. Health begins in your belly. Your gut is where 70% of your immune system lies, where you make nutrients anddetoxifying enzymes, metabolize hormones, and neutralize pathogens. It is key to good health and radiant beauty.
What’s your personal approach to wellness?
I truly believe that all health, including skin, begins with good digestive health. There are more and more studies showing the link between gut health, skin health and overall health.
What are your favorite things to eat?
Coconut oil, fermented foods, goats cheese, fresh veggies, sheep’s yoghurt, cultured butter, tamari almonds, bircher muesli, curries, and slow-cooked soups and stews with lots of veggies, herbs and spices with bone broth.
Do you incorporate movement or any other healing practices into your lifestyle?
I enjoy running along Bondi Beach or going to a Pilates class. I love bushwalking when on holidays, and snorkeling is one of my favorites. I always try to get eight hours of sleep. Sleep is the time when your body repairs and renews itself. When we sleep we release hormones that act as protective antioxidants in the body. Lack of sleep means less of these, as well as raised cortisol levels, which is detrimental to skin and overall health.
Your products focus on pre- and probiotics. What fascinates you about this area of health?
When I started fermenting foods, one thing that really stood out after ingesting them was the difference in people’s skin. Fermented foods are full of nutrients and natural probiotics. They improve digestion and the absorption of minerals and nutrients.
What pearls of wisdom can you share about incorporating probiotics into our diets?
Eat lots of fermented foods and, where possible, avoid processed food and unhealthy chemicals that compromise gut health. Eat low HI–low human intervention–food. Lots of whole foods, and clean protein; an abundance of plants, grass fed meats, wild fish, organic nuts and seeds.
Do you have any routines or rituals that contribute to your wellbeing?
When I get up, I drink our Glow Inner Beauty Powder with a splash of lemon juice. Throughout the day, I drink two litres of water. Water is the best, cheapest and easiest way to flush the system of toxins, bring oxygen and nutrients to skin cells, and hydrate the skin. It’s important to only drink pure, filtered water – there’s no point cleansing your body of toxins only to replace them with other nasties found in tap water. Clean water is imperative for good gut health.
What are some of your favorite ways to consume TBC products?
Bliss balls and raw bars made using Glow Inner Beauty Powder. The Glow, Blueberry and Cinnamon Smoothie is super delicious and full of nutrients that feed skin on the inside, so it glows on the outside. Whenever I make a super food smoothie to drink, I always slather some of it on my face and wear it as a mask for five minutes. That way, my skin is getting the benefits of live nutrients and enzymes in the fruits and vegetables.
How would you suggest a complete newbie incorporate your powders and boosts into their diet?
On a daily basis — mixed with water, your favorite nut or dairy milk, into muesli, yoghurt or a smoothie. We also have recipes on The Beauty Chef website.
What benefits / effects can people expect to see from using The Beauty Chef?
Each Beauty Chef Inner Beauty Powder is formulated for different skin and health benefits, but each is designed to improve gut health and digestion, and promote healthier, glowing skin from the inside out. The current state of your digestive system will determine how long it takes to see and feel results. If it’s really out of balance, you will likely notice results straight away, but it may take a few weeks for your tummy to settle as you load it with goodness. You will notice an increase in energy straight away and, depending on your gut health, you will notice skin and nail changes within a few weeks. You’ll also find that your tummy is flatter, bowel habits more regular, and you may feel more content (your neurotransmitters are made in your gut). By healing your gut, you help to take the load off your liver, too. Probiotics are helpful for cleaning out the bowel, the blood, your skin, and boosting the immune system. Over time, if you make other lifestyle changes that support good gut health, you will notice a huge difference in the way you feel, your skin, and your weight.
What have been the greatest challenges since starting your own business?
I believe family and friends should always come before business. It’s not always easy, but striving for life/work balance is top of my agenda. Starting small, there can be barriers. Over time, I have found ways to navigate around these barriers and have learnt to try and not take anything too personally. When I first started and was dealing with manufacturers, it was tough — I spent a good amount of time convincing them that one day my orders would be much bigger. Now they like taking my calls. I’ve also learnt to love math. It was daunting at first, but now I enjoy the number crunching — it’s challenging and surprisingly creative.
How would you describe the Australian lifestyle, and how does this contribute to TBC and your own wellbeing?
We are very lucky in Australia to have access to fresh, organic food. Food plays a big part in the health of Australians and is the basis of The Beauty Chef. I also love the way that Australians have adopted the wellness movement — eating well, reducing stress, moving your body, and embracing nature.
Do you believe in instinct and intuition when it comes to business?
I do! When I first started The Beauty Chef, the concepts of healing the gut, and bio-fermentation of ingredients for gut health were a little left of field. A few people said that my ideas were too radical and they wouldn’t work. But I persisted and followed my gut instinct.
How do you like to unwind at the end of a long day?
At home, I love to walk Bondi Beach, and the Bondi to Bronte walk as well as long walks around Centennial Park. Sea air is rich in negative ions that are very rejuvenating, so a walk along the beach is a favourite beauty ritual. It’s always nice to take a luxurious bath. Whether a full bath or footbath, add epsom salts to your water, as they’re rich in detoxifying sulfur and relaxing magnesium and promote detoxification.
What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs?
Follow your gut instinct and don’t be afraid to pioneer (and take care of your gut health while you’re at it!)
+ Shop The Beauty Chef here!