These days, finding fans of natural living and clean eating is as easy as chatting to the next in line at About Life while you wait for an almond turmeric latte. It’s now cool to be kind to your body, in and out. But, before we were all 'gramming smoothie and Acai bowl flat-lays, there was Carla Oates, founder of health and beauty supplement business, The Beauty Chef. A beauty editor in another life, she made it her plight to educate readers on the nasties that can go into body and skincare products. That is, until she decided lip service wasn’t enough. Armed with an interest in nutrition, a passion for immersing herself in research, and a personal skin affliction, she disrupted the beauty world with an easy, accessible and ultimately healthy way to produce beautiful skin. From introducing the beauty world to her first groundbreaking beauty powder, Glow, to now being picked up by luxe e-retailer Net-A-Porter, we'd say her mission to educate the masses on natural products and good gut health has come into fruition. We spoke with her on the ‘gross’ path to beauty, why fermented products are so important and what we need to do to get glowing from the inside, out.
"I have always been into natural ingredients.
My mum always cooked with ingredients from scratch, but my interest in natural skincare and ‘beauty from within’ came because I had eczema as a child. Mum took me to a naturopath when I was 13, who eliminated certain foods from my diet and introduced others – so from a young age, I came to understand the connection between food and skin health - that what you eat can profoundly affect your skin and overall health.
I love RMS, it’s my favourite.
I’m not a huge makeup person, but when I went to the States and visited one of our stockists, CAP Beauty, I discovered RMS. As I'm more interested in skin from a health perspective, I don't usually get that excited about makeup, so this is the first colour brand that I felt inspired by and wanted to buy and use. The little pots of pretty colours, luminisers and foundations are beautiful and, because they're coconut oil based, they allow your skin to breathe. I love the Luminizer, the Buriti Bronzer, “Un” Cover-Up and the Lip2Cheek. I also find Herbivore Botanicals really lovely - they make great facial masks, which I bought for my daughter. They are natural and smell delicious.
I fell into being a beauty editor…
…for magazines for years. I worked as a writer and fashion editor for J Mag and B Mag, and I worked in a freelance capacity for lots of different fashion magazines. My mum was a fashion editor for ten years and although I enjoyed fashion, I was always interested in doing something with nutrition. In my mid-twenties, I had a toddler and was pregnant with my second child and tried to pick up my studies (in naturopathy) while working as well. It was very challenging, schlepping around clothes and trying to fit in study too - then someone offered me a beauty editor job at a mainstream paper, so I decided to focus on motherhood and writing and gave up on the styling and studying.
I couldn’t bring myself to write about the products I was being sent…
... after I started researching the ingredients in the mass market cosmetics I was being sent, I found it difficult to write about them. Many of the ingredients didn’t have the most basic set of safety data and some were known toxins. Being the editor of a main stream paper, I was inundated with letters from my readers asking me what I would recommend for their rosacea, psoriasis and other skin concerns. Because of my research into these toxic chemicals alongside my experience with eczema and understanding that good skin comes from within, I couldn’t recommend these dubious products to them. So, I decided to make it my mission to only write about natural skincare and help educate people on how to look after their skin more holistically. I turned the column into being quite natural, sharing lots of DIY natural skincare masks and introducing the idea of beauty from within. Then, a literary agent from the agency Curtis Brown, who loved the new natural flavour of the column, approached me and asked if I’d like to pitch a natural beauty book to Penguin, Lantern. So, Penguin, Lantern, commissioned me to write a natural beauty book full of recipes and Feeding Your Skin, which was published in 2004. I became the beauty columnist for Wellbeing Magazine (which I am still currently) as well as penned a column for Body and Soul, The Sunday Telegraph, called DIY Beauty for six years. I also started formulating my own skincare products.
I had my first facial in 20 years a month ago…
…at Eva Karpati. They extracted, massaged and then they used a light machine on my skin. It was lovely. I normally do my own facials, but had heard great things about the salon and as it is only around the corner from my office, so I thought I’d give it a go. I also bought the Eva Karpati Enzyme Powder – it’s natural and effective. While there are many great natural products on the market, there are also so many great DIY ingredients for facials and hair masks that you can use at home. I love making a papaya mask with yoghurt and clay. I am also a huge fan of coconut oil. I use it for everything – for my hair, to wash with, to moisturise, rub it through the ends.
I created GLOW, our hero product around eight years ago.
My daughter, my husband and I have all had eczema at some point. This is how my first product GLOW Inner Beauty Powder evolved. While helping my daughter with treating her eczema when she was much younger, I put her on a gut healing protocol. I had read about the benefits of lacto-fermented veggies such as sauerkraut for gut health as they are easily digested, rich in nutrients and rich in digestive-balancing probiotics. I believe there is a strong connection between most skin issues and gut health and more and more studies are showing this. When my daughter avoided gluten and dairy and ate probiotic foods, I saw a big improvement in her skin and health. And that's where Glow was born, about eight years ago – a little tub with 24 skin loving lacto-fermented superfoods!
My hair is getting a bit frizzier as I get older…
… so I just put a bit of Dr Hauschka Neem Hair Conditioning Oil in it after I wash my hair. I also love coconut oil for my hair, I like to wash with it, moisturise and rub it through the ends.
Topically is the best way to absorb magnesium in to the body…
Magnesium oil is great for your skin’s tissues, but also important for relaxation. A lot of people are deficient in magnesium so it’s a great mineral to supplement with. Studies show that it is more effective if you apply topically than to ingest it. I buy a magnesium oil online, from a place called GPA Wholefoods.
Sauerkraut is my favourite thing to eat.
I make a lot of it, I love it. We quite often have it with our breakfasts with eggs and avocado. Once I started fermenting I found a huge difference in my skin. When I first brought out GLOW Inner Beauty Powder, people thought it was quite strange because it was such a new concept – a lacto-fermented, probiotic powder that you eat for skin health! I’d try and explain that it was an inner beauty powder for skin health, not something that you put on the skin, but it was quite a foreign concept at the time. When I would use words like ‘fermented’ and ‘bacteria’, it made quite a few people grimace. I love that these concepts are almost mainstream now and that wellbeing and the foods, practices, and products associated with it, is something that a lot of people are embracing.
I even ferment some of my topical beauty products.
The Beauty Fix Balm was the second product I did after Glow. It is a fermented coconut balm. The beauty about that balm is that it's not just for smoothing out wrinkles and hydrating and healing chapped skin… it’s wonderful for skin problems like psoriasis and eczema, it is very healing, soothing and anti-inflammatory. My friend was using a harsh pharmaceutical cream for his skin condition and was quite sceptical about my little balm for treating his problem. A few weeks later, I saw him, the redness and dryness were nearly gone and he said, ‘Ok, I admit, it’s amazing.”
Story by Rikki Hodge-Smith; Interview by Sigourney Cantelo; Photography by Alice Mahran