Gut instinct

04 Dec 2018

Author: Georgina Safe

Photography: Supplied

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With a philosophy of ‘beauty begins in the belly’ Sydney entrepreneur Carla Oates has built a global empire based on powders and potions designed to improve skin and health from the inside out. Her ethos centred around gut health has won legions of fans and stockists around the world for The Beauty Chef, her brand based on probiotics and prebiotics and manufactured entirely in Australia.
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Carla Oates was working as a beauty writer when she began to question the ingredient used by many of the brands she was featuring in her title’s pages.

“I became concerned about the amount of toxic chemicals in skincare so I started researching the benefits of looking after your skin with clean ingredients, predominantly active plant compounds, that rejuvenate the skin from the inside out,” she says.

The result of her research was The Beauty Chef, which she founded in 2012 with a single powder called Glow containing probiotics, lacto-fermented ingredients and superfoods that was designed to be mixed with water or put into smoothies.

“When I first launched Glow many people thought the concept of creating a fermented powder that you eat to make your skin radiant was an unusual idea,” Oates says. “But since there has been a paradigm shift in the beauty industry – beauty is now inner health and inner health is beauty.”

Getting back to basics

Oates is now a leading identity in the $3.7 trillion wellness industry and her brand is everywhere from the shelves of stores across southeast Asia to American and British department stores and boutiques in Europe and the Middle East. The Beauty Chef employs 16 full-time and 6 part-time staff and 15-20 contractors to service demand from the nutricosmetics industry – pills, potions and powders that you swallow rather than creams that you put on your face – that is forecast to reach $8.5 billion in global sales by 2020.

“There is a wellness revolution happening as people are realising that modern life isn’t so conducive to good health,” Oates says.

“We are going back to basics – organic food and chemical-free skincare and personal products – and embracing traditional and healthy ways of preparing foods such as the art of fermentation.”

Fermentation is at the heart of The Beauty Chef, which had humble beginnings in Oates’ kitchen after her daughter suffered some skin issues.

“After investigating various studies that looked at what we eat and how food affects the gut and the connection between gut health and skin health, I put my family on a gut-healing protocol,” says Oates. “Part of this protocol was the inclusion of probiotic-rich, lacto-fermented wholefoods and after I began including these foods regularly in the meals I cooked for my family – and they overcame the sulphuric smell of sauerkraut – I noticed a profound difference in my, and my daughter’s, skin,” she says.

“When friends started asking me what I was putting on my skin, as it looked so ‘glowy’, I realised the power of the gut/skin connection.”

Oates began experimenting with lacto-fermenting 24 superfoods including macqui berries, zinc and antioxidant-rich grape skins then put them in a powder and called it Glow. Body (to support the body), Cleanse (an alkaline detox aid), Sleep (to induce slumber) and Antioxidant (to support the immune system) were among the products that followed, all with super food ingredients and focused on probiotics and prebiotics for gut and skin health.

“I know it doesn’t sound very glamorous, but the gut is where the seeds for health and beauty are planted,” Oates says.

“The skin is a great barometer of what is going on in the body and can reflect everything from a deficiency in nutrition to poor gut health. This is why our philosophy is ‘beauty begins in the belly’”.

Clean, green Australian ingredients

Many of her products begin with Australian ingredients including grains and legumes from a biodynamic farm in South Australia and an organic micro algae from Western Australia.

“We find a lot of customers are intrigued by the micro algae because when they look up the pink lakes in Western Australia they are so beautiful and the micro algae is reason for making them pink,” Oates says.

The Beauty Chef also works with an Australian scientist and microbiologist to conduct research into gut health, fermented foods and probiotics for its products, which Oates is proud to manufacture entirely in Australia.

“It’s very positively received when we tell customers we manufacture in Australia because people see Australia as being green and clean so the perception of products from Australia is being more clean and green than those from elsewhere,” she says.

Growing up near Sydney’s Bondi Beach, where she lives today, played a profound role in shaping her vision for The Beauty Chef when she came to found the brand in 2012.

“I was very inspired by the natural beauty of Australia and the benefits of nature for health and wellbeing,” she says. “Living near the beach is still very important to me today.”

As for the future of The Beauty Chef, Oates is keen to cement current markets before courting new ones.

“There is so much demand for the brand in Europe, Asia and the Middle East and every week we get enquiries from new markets and new stockists,” Oates says. “We are hoping to spread our wings further into the world but we want to make an impact in our current markets first.”

Find out more about The Beauty Chef.