The Beauty Chef’s Carla Oates Wants You To Unlearn Everything You Know About Wellness

By Ashleigh Cometti
The Beauty Chef aka Carla Oates.

Author and entrepreneur Carla Oates, founder of The Beauty Chef, is shifting the dial on beauty, wellness and our thoughts on silverbeet.

Carla Oates doesn’t expect you to wake up at 5am for an hour of yoga before sunrise, or down three litres of green juice in an infrared .

In fact, for The Beauty Chef founder and CEO, the pursuit of wellness can be found in simple acts like weeding her sprawling vegetable garden or tending to her worm farm.

It’s refreshing to speak to someone who is part of the wellness world but is aware of its pitfalls. In Auckland to launch the newest product in her range, Carla and I spoke over smoothies about how to achieve wellness, not overwhelm.

As a long-time fan of The Beauty Chef’s bio-fermented wellness and beauty products (I take Glow almost daily) I’ve charted Carla’s rise and rise for many years and assumed I’d had her all figured out before we met. How wrong I was.

Sure, we spoke about supplements, but mostly we talked about how proud she was of the silverbeet growing in her garden, unpacked the challenges of biodynamic gardening, and agreed on the importance of shifting beauty standards when it comes to ageing.

In an industry so dominated by exercise as a means of achieving optimum wellness, Carla is re-framing the movement as something that brings joy and happiness over any appearance-based outcomes.

“There’s a lot of pressure for people to tick all the boxes. You have to eat this way. You have to do yoga, Pilates, infrared saunas, the list goes on. Wellness means different things to different people, and it would be good if it was a little bit more individualised,” Carla says.

“For me, I love doing crosswords. People ask me: “How does that have anything to do with wellness?” Because it takes me away from my work and any daily stresses. It’s my kind of meditation.”

Couple this with time spent tending to her garden or dancing at No Lights, No Lycra — you won’t find her slogging it out on a cross trainer or lifting weights at the gym.

“It’s more about bringing some joy and individuality, those nuances back into wellness. What makes you feel joyful is what’s healthy for you,” she says.

“I know for myself if I’m trying to do too much all at once, it becomes overwhelming and takes the joy out of it. Wellness is not about perfection.”

Carla Oates relaxes at home in Bondi Beach with her dog, Wolfie.
Carla Oates relaxes at home in Bondi Beach with her dog, Wolfie.

The Bondi Beach native started The Beauty Chef in her bedroom in 2009, back before the wellness category even was one.

She poured $3000 of her own money into creating a product to help alleviate her daughter’s eczema and began her mission to educate consumers on the importance of gut health not only for glowing skin, but mental clarity and boosted immunity.

“We’re not a company that’s just jumped on a bandwagon by putting just anything into a tub. We’ve come at it from a place of authenticity and helped more than a million people with their guts over the past 15 years,” Carla says.

“I launched the first ingestible beauty product, but what I really did was start a category — there were no shelves to put it on! Everyone in marketing knows if you create a completely new product or category you have to spend a lot of money on education to get it out there.”

What she lacked in funds she made up for in word-of-mouth recommendations, and before long her burgeoning e-commerce business was attracting the attention of Selfridges and various other retailers across the globe.

Her signature product, a probiotic powder called Glow, remains one of the brand’s best-sellers and highlights a raft of organic and biodynamic botanicals which undergo a state-of-the-art fermentation process to make the ingredients more potent and digestible.

“This means they’re more nutritious for the person taking them and contain a wide spectrum of probiotic and postbiotics, which are essential for nurturing good gut health. But what we’re really about is beauty beginning in the belly. We create super potent, supercharged formulas that are very different to anything else,” she says.

Over the past 15 years since The Beauty Chef launched, Carla has witnessed a shift in the wellness industry, one which unpacks the gut-skin axis, and has seen a rise in supplements geared towards gut health.

But rather than feeling pressured to stay relevant today in what’s otherwise a saturated market, Carla says she’s grateful that gut health is now a cornerstone in the wellness lexicon.

“Everyone’s more understanding of it. We changed that paradigm in the beauty industry. It’s so important to look after your nutrition for your gut health, but for beauty and wellbeing too,” she says.

“It’s not just the gut-skin axis, it’s the gut-brain axis. It’s an information highway between your gut and your brain, and it regulates and influences your mood and how you feel. If you want to look better and feel better, focus on everything you can do to foster good gut health — everything else flows from that. I love that women drink their Glow smoothie even before they put on their makeup in the morning because I think it’s a much healthier approach to beauty.”

The 51-year-old adds her own approach to beauty has changed over time, stripping back her own routine to a few foundational principles — eating wholefoods, engaging in light exercise and drinking water.

“That’s the beauty in getting older, you feel much more comfortable doing what feels right for you. I think a lot of younger people feel you have to do certain things to be part of something that’s still relevant in the wellness space,” she says

Launching next week, Energy & Vitality looks to a blend of supplements to combat tiredness.
Launching next week, Energy & Vitality looks to a blend of supplements to combat tiredness.

Tonics and elixirs aside, Carla’s expansion plans for The Beauty Chef extended to wellness supplements in pill format, with the launch of the Supergenes range in 2023.

Carla says the shift away from powders and cold food ingredients was a shock for her loyalists at first, but soon many flocked to the format for its therapeutic dose of herbs, probiotic and nutrients, as did those too busy to bother with blending.

“It’s really about diversifying the different delivery systems to make it easier for our customers, especially those who travel or are always on the go,” she says.

The newest of which is Supergenes Energy & Vitality, $65, which launches on March 4 and contains high levels of Siberian ginseng, ashwagandha, and rhodiola to combat symptoms of stress, tiredness and fatigue.

But it’s an entirely new category that’s exciting Carla most about 2024. Plumpers, chewable collagen tablets, will be added to the range in early April.

“It’s probably the most fun product we’ve done,” Carla says, adding the Plumpers campaign ushers in a new era for the brand — one with plenty more colour and with a new target demographic in mind.

While most of the industry shifted their focus towards gummies, Carla says her preference was to formulate a chewable tablet over a gummy due to the amount of filler ingredients needed to support an active dose.

“I’m a purist. I don’t want a lot of stuff in my product which is why chewable tablets are great, there’s no sugar, no colours — they’re all natural.”

Available in three flavours — Kakadu Plum & Berry, Orange & Turmeric and Chocolate — Plumpers are touted to enhance skin hydration, collagen production and collagen density, while simultaneously boosting immunity.

Expect to see Plumpers added to The Beauty Chef range in April this year.
Expect to see Plumpers added to The Beauty Chef range in April this year.

Carla’s wellness rituals

In the morning: “I make sure I have my Beauty Chef Glow in the morning for my gut health and helps my neurotransmitters for my happiness and all my body systems. I live at Bondi, so I love going down to the beach for a walk and a swim. Saltwater is so therapeutic, and you receive negative ions from the ocean air. Studies show it helps improve positivity and relieve stress.”

In the evening: “I save meetings that don’t need face-to-face contact or Zoom for the end of the day, where I’ll walk and talk while out with my dog for about an hour and a half from 5.30pm to 7pm. I walk around all the beaches and the hills, but always save 20 minutes at the end to listen to nature and walk around without any stimulation. It’s like a natural filing system for my brain. I get a lot of ideas when I’m out on a walk.”

At the weekends: “I do mat Pilates and book a massage once a month. I alternate between a few different therapists around Bondi, there’s a great Thai massage place and I also love Slow House.”

In her downtime: “At home, I have a magnesium plunge pool and a steam shower, and I alternate between the two for some contrast therapy. But if I had to choose, I’d say gardening would be my number one. Every morning, I get up and check my herbs, and my worm farm. I get so much joy out of watching it grow. I think anything you get to create and watch it flourish is so rewarding. I’m a big believer that gardening is really important for your health. I’m so proud of my rocket, my tomatoes are going really well, as is my oregano and rosemary. I use silverbeet a lot in cooking, in stews or soups with lots of chickpeas and tomato paste. It’s just delicious.”

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