Indie-stry Guru: Carla Oates

Our Indie-stry Gurus series highlights people who are paving the way where no one previously has, walking a path much less traveled, or building a legacy totally different than the rest. They are thought leaders and provokers from all different industries - beauty, wellness and beyond. They’re the people who ask not just “How?” but “Why?”, and most of all, they’re empowering others with knowledge, education and inspiration.

This month we're talking to Carla Oates, Founder of The Beauty Chef. Her company is all about the relationship between our gut health and our skin. We chatted with her about her discovery of this relationship and where it's led her today.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I am the Founder and CEO of Australian beauty and wellness brand The Beauty Chef. In a past life, I worked as a newspaper columnist, beauty editor and stylist, yet I’ve always been a passionate naturalist and gut-health advocate. This passion led me to write three books over the last 20 years - Feeding Your Skin, The Beauty Chef Cookbook, and more recently The Beauty Gut Guide. I also worked as the natural beauty columnist for WellBeing magazine for fifteen years and was the ambassador for The Biological Farmers of Australia and Australian Organic for 15 years. Writing, researching and educating our customers on the connection between gut health, beauty and wellbeing is something I’m incredibly passionate about.

We view you as an Indie-stry Guru of your field, which means you've paved a way no one previously had, or you're paving a way much different than the rest. What is your path or your journey, and what does it represent? When I created the first iteration of GLOW™ Inner Beauty Powder from my home in Bondi 10 years ago, I never could have imagined the momentum and global growth the brand has experienced over the last few years. Back in 2009, the concept was very left of field. The idea of an inner beauty product? Strange. Fermented foods with probiotic bacteria for gut health and glowing skin? Even weirder. I was told by numerous people that it was too strange a concept and would never take off, but I truly believed in it. I felt so passionate about what I had discovered -- a real solution to skin issues, not just a bandaid. I knew it worked.

I am very proud of creating a brand that encompasses both products and education, to help people with their gut health, their skin health and their overall wellbeing so they can be the best, healthiest versions of themselves. I also think The Beauty Chef has been a part of the paradigm shift in the beauty industry with our ‘beauty begins in the belly’ philosophy. I am passionate about helping to challenge and change antiquated ideals in the beauty industry of what beauty is, supporting ideologies that are healthier - that support diversity in beauty, as well as beauty that is clean and green – and espouse the importance of healthy living for glowing skin and wellbeing.

When did you first become interested in the link between gut health and our skin? My journey to creating The Beauty Chef really stems from my own skin and gut health issues and that of my family’s. As a child I suffered from eczema and allergies. My mum took me to see a naturopath who dramatically changed what I ate, removing processed foods as well as allergens like gluten and dairy from my diet. My allergies and eczema subsided, so I experienced firsthand the connection of food as medicine - that what we eat can affect our skin and health.

Interestingly, when my daughter also experienced eczema and allergies around 12 years ago (she was about ten), I eliminated trigger foods like dairy and gluten from her diet but I also started researching the link between gut health and skin health and found some of the studies very interesting. As I explored this link more closely, I decided to put my family on a gut-healing protocol, which included eliminating certain foods from our diet as well as introducing lots of lacto-fermented wholefoods teeming with beneficial bacteria -- aka probiotics -- into our diet.

These included foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and kimchi. As I began to experiment in my kitchen at home lacto-fermenting a variety of wholefoods, I realized I was onto something. Friends and family also took notice, asking what I was doing differently as my skin was glowing. I quickly became the local clean beauty pusher and supplier for these fermented foods as they became in high demand from everyone from neighbors to friends and family. They found they had better energy, happier tummies, and healthier, more radiant skin.

What is the most important mission for you as a founder of a clean living brand? The Beauty Chef was founded on the philosophy that beauty begins in the belly. We believe that gut health and beauty are inextricably linked. Our mission is to help our customers be the healthiest and happiest version of themselves through shedding light on the importance of gut health and nutrition for beauty and wellbeing.

How do you define wellness? For me, being well means being healthy and balanced in both body, mind and soul, and feeling grounded but energised and inspired at the same time. It's also about acquiring and harnessing the tools and the knowledge to help me achieve this – through diet, supplements, exercise, relationships, and mindfulness.

What are your top four wellness products?

  1. GLOW Inner Beauty Essential - My everyday go-to product for supporting holistic gut and skin health.
  2. Indie Lee’s Superfruit Facial Cream - This product keeps my skin super supple and hydrated.
  3. Herbal teas - all varieties! At the moment I am loving peppermint and fennel together.
  4. Organic Coconut Oil - I use it as a cleanser, a hair mask and for cooking.

What does empowerment mean to you? I’ve always believed that health and beauty are inextricably linked and that women feel their most confident when their holistic wellbeing is in check. When you feel good on the inside, you radiate an undeniable and infectious glow on the outside. When you engage in a healthy diet and self care, taking the time to nurture both body and mind, this helps give you the energy and clarity to be your best, most empowered self.

What are your morning and evening rituals? Morning - I usually wake up naturally around 5:45am and I do my best not to check my emails and phone first thing. Instead, I love to start my day by going for a walk or run along Bondi Beach, stretching and breathing in the ocean air. For me, walking is meditative and helps to clear my head. It’s also when I feel most inspired, so often by the end of my walk, I usually have a bunch of new creative ideas that have sprung to mind. When I get home, I have a spoon of GLOW™ and COLLAGEN mixed together in a glass of filtered water. GLOW™ is like my inner beauty moisturiser, while COLLAGEN is my inner beauty serum – and it’s the most delicious skin-loving elixir. Breakfast often consists of eggs, which I enjoy with mushrooms, tomatoes and salmon, or maybe a hearty bowl of porridge made with buckwheat, quinoa, miso, apple and almonds.

Evening - Cooking is one of my favorite things to do and I think of it as a meditative practice. I love combining the joy of cooking with the science of nutrition, so when it comes to my recipes, both gut health and flavor are always front of mind. Depending on what’s in season, dinner could be anything from a salad with veggies and protein, or a piece of grilled or steamed fish with baked sweet potato and sauerkraut, a slow roast, a warming curry or a slow-cooked soup or stew with lots of veggies, herbs, spices and bone broth. My number one rule with all meals is to always have more veggies than meat on my plate.

A few just for fun - What’s your guilty pleasure? I enjoy the occasional glass of red wine and a really good quality dark chocolate. Oh, and a Netflix series!

Beverage of choice? I am obsessed with herbal tea.

What’s your mantra you’d like to share with others? Look after your gut, be gutsy and follow your gut instinct.