The world of wellness is becoming more overwhelming by the day â even choosing the right supplement can cause more stress than it cures. But with a careful blend of love, passion and science, wellness pioneer Carla Oates is taking away the guesswork.
Rewind to 10 years ago, and the idea of âinner beautyâ was nothing more than a platitude. Fast-forward to today, and you donât have to search far or wide to find a plethora of products, each one touted as being the secret to restoring youthfulness from the inside. Whether itâs long luscious locks, healthy nails or glowing skin, you name it and thereâll be a supplement on the shelf at the supermarket promising it. In fact, the supplement market is so saturated itâs easy to feel like youâre doing the whole wellness or beauty thing wrong if youâre not gulping back a handful of pills or tonics each morning.
Miles ahead of the trend, itâs been more than a decade since Sydneysider Carla Oates, aka The Beauty Chef, launched her successful supplement line. Given the success of the brand, Oates is now able to have a bit of chuckle at its beginnings. For although the likes of Aussie Vogue gave her a bit of love back in the day, she recalls the mostly bewildered looks she used to get when she mentioned the words âinner beautyâ and âgut healthâ in the same sentence. âThere was some media attention from magazines that thought it was a unique little idea,â she says, âbut most people thought it was so strange. âWhat do you mean an inner-beauty product? What do you mean gut bacteria?ââ
Today, The Beauty Chef is going from strength to strength, with Oatesâs supplement line stocked all around the world, including at 400 Sephora stores across the US alone. âItâs taken a while but I love the fact that the inner-beauty concept is now so mainstream,â she says. âPeople understand the importance of gut health and skin health, and of the link between nutrition and wellbeing. Wellness has become almost inextricable from beauty, and being part of that paradigm shift has been extremely rewarding.â
Oatesâs own inner-beauty journey started at home, when she couldnât find a cure for her daughterâs skin allergies. Deciding to take matters into her own hands, she looked into the connection between skin health and the gut. âThatâs where it all began, with my own health and my familyâs health,â she recalls. âI started fermenting foods and eating a lot of probiotic and prebiotic foods.â Oates says her new diet made such a big difference to her skin that friends and family kept asking her what she was doing differently. âFrom there, Glow was born.â
Itâs not just Oates who has caught onto the fact that our diet and the health of our gut microbiome could play a huge role in skin wellbeing â science has, too. Thereâs also an ever-growing body of research that says an altered gut microbiome may contribute to the development of various autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, even in organs distant from the gut, such as the skin.
When I speak with her, Oates has just released the latest iteration of her cult product, Glow Inner Beauty Powder. âGlow started off with certified- organic ingredients that were bio-fermented,â she says. The revamped Glow Inner Beauty Essential follows the same formula, but includes additional âsuperchargedâ nutrients. âIâm a perfectionist when it comes to formulating,â Oates explains. âSo Iâm always looking at how we can enhance our products and make them better.â
After five years of working with a team of microbiologists and scientists, Oates has just finished building The Beauty Chefâs very own state-of-the-art dedicated fermentation plant. âFermentation is an art, but also a science,â she says, adding that getting the art and science just right involves a lot of time and research. She knows her complex and complicated formulas are sometimes the bane of her teamâs lives. âBut I also know theyâre really proud of the product,â she laughs. âWeâve worked on how we can optimise fermentation by feeding our bacteria in specific ways, we have more probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics in our formula than ever before, and Iâm thrilled that itâs through an organic fermentation process.â
While taking a holistic approach to beauty and wellbeing has never been more mainstream, itâs arguably never been more overwhelming, either. âThereâs so much greenwashing, so much clutter,â agrees Oates. Thereâs also never been so much pressure on us to tick all the boxes â the morning meditation, the yoga, the organic whole-food diet, the clean beauty routine. âEvery day thereâs a new ingredient you should be using, a new tool for your skin, a new kind of exercise you should be doing,â says Oates.
Even deciding on which supplement to take can be a confusing business, which is why Oates says figuring out what your primary concern is and what adjustments can be integrated into your lifestyle is a good place to start. âAnd if you donât know what you need, maybe itâs about writing it down, reading up about different supplements and whatâs in them,â she advises. Oates believes being aware of whatâs going into the supplements youâre taking is incredibly important. âSome hair and skin supplements might be loaded with iron, but if youâre not iron deficient, too much iron isnât good for you. Itâs about figuring out what you need as an individual and doing your research on the ingredients.â
While Oates embraces a plant-to-fermentation- plant philosophy where possible, not all supplements on the market take the same approach. Once youâve deciphered the ingredients and nutrients you need, Oates recommends doing research on the companies too. âWhere are their ingredients from? Are they transparent about where they source their ingredients and how their products are made?â
With dozens of locally sourced ingredients in Glowâs formulations alone, itâs not hard to see how keeping up with the wellbeing world, which is supposed to alleviate stress, can, ironically, become a source of anxiety. But it doesnât have to be that way says Oates, who advises that it should always be about figuring out what works for you rather than scrambling to get aboard the wellness bandwagon.
âDonât jump on trends. Look at what works for you and your lifestyle. Maybe you donât enjoy meditation, and thatâs okay! Donât feel pressured to do it,â she says. And donât berate yourself for not making it to the gym during a busy week. âWhen you have a lot on your plate, over- exercising is not good for you. If youâre already stressed it creates more free radicals, making you more tired and putting more pressure on your body,â says Oates.
And while thereâs a growing body of research supporting the importance of a healthy gut microbiome, supplements formulated with pre-, pro- and postbiotics are just one part of the puzzle. Oates believes many of us would benefit from going back to cooking delicious nourishing food and embracing simple practices. She swears by lacto-fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and tempeh; healthy fats from sustainably sourced fish; polyphenol-rich foods including high-quality dark chocolate and berries; and plenty of fibre- rich foods, leafy vegetables and seeds and nuts. âRather than jumping on bandwagons and following trends, itâs about going back to basics,â she says. âYou donât have to do all of it.
âWe put too much pressure on ourselves; self care has to be number one,â Oates says. âThe best gut health comes from good nutrition, lots of rest, being kind to yourself and not overdoing it. Eat well, increase your sleep, try not to stress â those are the best supplements.â