The Beauty Chef’s Carla Oates: ‘Wellness has become almost inextricable from beauty’

The world of wellness is becoming more overwhelming by the day — 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 ‘inner beauty’ was nothing more than a platitude. Fast-forward to today, and you don’t 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 it’s long luscious locks, healthy nails or glowing skin, you name it and there’ll be a supplement on the shelf at the supermarket promising it. In fact, the supplement market is so saturated it’s easy to feel like you’re doing the whole wellness or beauty thing wrong if you’re not gulping back a handful of pills or tonics each morning.

Miles ahead of the trend, it’s 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 ‘inner beauty’ and ‘gut health’ in the same sentence. “There was some media attention from magazines that thought it was a unique little idea,” she says, “but most people thought it was so strange. ‘What do you mean an inner-beauty product? What do you mean gut bacteria?’”

Today, The Beauty Chef is going from strength to strength, with Oates’s supplement line stocked all around the world, including at 400 Sephora stores across the US alone. “It’s taken a while but I love the fact that the inner-beauty concept is now so mainstream,” she says. “People 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.”

Oates’s own inner-beauty journey started at home, when she couldn’t find a cure for her daughter’s skin allergies. Deciding to take matters into her own hands, she looked into the connection between skin health and the gut. “That’s where it all began, with my own health and my family’s health,” she recalls. “I started fermenting foods and eating a lot of probiotic and prebiotic foods.” 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. “From there, Glow was born.”

It’s 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 — science has, too. There’s 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. “Glow started off with certified- organic ingredients that were bio-fermented,” she says. The revamped Glow Inner Beauty Essential follows the same formula, but includes additional ‘supercharged’ nutrients. “I’m a perfectionist when it comes to formulating,” Oates explains. “So I’m always looking at how we can enhance our products and make them better.”

After five years of working with a team of microbiologists and scientists, Oates has just finished building The Beauty Chef’s very own state-of-the-art dedicated fermentation plant. “Fermentation is an art, but also a science,” 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 team’s lives. “But I also know they’re really proud of the product,” she laughs. “We’ve 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 I’m thrilled that it’s through an organic fermentation process.”

While taking a holistic approach to beauty and wellbeing has never been more mainstream, it’s arguably never been more overwhelming, either. “There’s so much greenwashing, so much clutter,” agrees Oates. There’s also never been so much pressure on us to tick all the boxes — the morning meditation, the yoga, the organic whole-food diet, the clean beauty routine. “Every day there’s a new ingredient you should be using, a new tool for your skin, a new kind of exercise you should be doing,” 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. “And if you don’t know what you need, maybe it’s about writing it down, reading up about different supplements and what’s in them,” she advises. Oates believes being aware of what’s going into the supplements you’re taking is incredibly important. “Some hair and skin supplements might be loaded with iron, but if you’re not iron deficient, too much iron isn’t good for you. It’s about figuring out what you need as an individual and doing your research on the ingredients.”

While Oates embraces a plant-to-fermentation- plant philosophy where possible, not all supplements on the market take the same approach. Once you’ve deciphered the ingredients and nutrients you need, Oates recommends doing research on the companies too. “Where are their ingredients from? Are they transparent about where they source their ingredients and how their products are made?”

With dozens of locally sourced ingredients in Glow’s formulations alone, it’s 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 doesn’t 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.

“Don’t jump on trends. Look at what works for you and your lifestyle. Maybe you don’t enjoy meditation, and that’s okay! Don’t feel pressured to do it,” she says. And don’t berate yourself for not making it to the gym during a busy week. “When you have a lot on your plate, over- exercising is not good for you. If you’re already stressed it creates more free radicals, making you more tired and putting more pressure on your body,” says Oates.

And while there’s 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. “Rather than jumping on bandwagons and following trends, it’s about going back to basics,” she says. “You don’t have to do all of it.

“We put too much pressure on ourselves; self care has to be number one,” Oates says. “The 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 — those are the best supplements.”

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The Miracle Worker

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