Interview - Soma Rituals
I recently sat down with the lovely Chandra Casali-Bell of Soma Rituals in London for a chat about natural skincare and my holistic philosophy to outer beauty.
1. What Inspired you to set up Greenholm Wellness and how did it develop.
It happened quite slowly, I had no grand plan, it just gradually evolved. Healthy food had always been important to me, I’d had acne since the age of 11 and had always been a bit obsessive about skincare. In my early 30’s I started using an organic and natural skincare brand, and for the first time I saw real change and healing in my skin. At that point I had fairly young children and was beginning to consider a return to work so instead I considered a change of career!
For the first couple of years after retraining I offered facial treatments from herbalist and complimentary health clinics in Glasgow and Edinburgh, before opening my own studio.
I would often offer tips to clients on foods to eat and avoid for skin health and eventually I realised a need to formalise my education to have a real in-depth understanding of how food supports not just our skin but the body too. I studied for three years at the College of Naturopathic Medicine.
At times it was exhausting attending lectures, writing assignments, taking part in student clinics, all while continuing to run my skincare studio and looking after my family, but I’m so glad I persevered. The knowledge I gained has been invaluable in supporting my clients in their journeys to skin health and beyond.
2. How did you get on the path to green beauty and a more sustainable life in general?
I was lucky enough to spend my childhood living in the country with a Dad who loved to grow fruit and veg and a Mum obsessed with recycling and repurposing. This was the 70’s and these were not things that were generally happening in the world at large.
We had an abundance of apples, plums, strawberries, raspberries, peas, beans, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, courgettes and my sister and I spent our summers gorging on berries straight from the plants.
As I moved into late teens and left home for the big smoke and university, that way of life became a distant memory. However once my own family came along, and faced with my ongoing acne, eczema in my little boy and my husband developing an auto-immune condition, I knew I had to reconnect with nature and a way of living that not only supported my own family’s health, but supported our planet.
3. Can you tell us about your holistic philosophy for outer beauty?
For me the foundations of outer beauty begin with our inner health. Our skin is not separate from our body, they are intrinsically linked and part of a whole.
We need to give our body the necessary nutrients to produce the building blocks for healthy skin cells, to support the production of collagen and our own hyaluronic acid, and to fight oxidative damage from within.
The products we apply can support the skin or hinder its natural inherent regenerative processes. For me synthetic manufactured lifeless ingredient simply can’t compare with the dynamic active antioxidants, vitamins and minerals found in vibrant healthy organic plants.
Touch is an integral part of supporting a healthy body, skin and mind. Research has demonstrated that gentle touch can accelerate wound healing, relaxation and even offer pain relief and general comfort. I use a gentle rhythmical touch in my treatments, slow gentle movements to awaken the body, not force it, to gently stimulate the flow of fluid within the lymphatic system, moving metabolic waste from the tissues and allowing oxygen and nutrients to feed the deeper layers of skin.
We need quality sleep to allow the body’s renewal process sufficient time to heal and repair.
The importance of water can not be underestimated, you can apply the richest of moisturisers but if you aren’t hydrated from within, skin tissue will ‘shrink’ making lines more pronounced.
Beauty is more than the traditional societal view, it’s an attitude. Our thoughts, emotions, even posture can all affect how we look and age. When we have regular negative thoughts this shows in the ‘set’ of the muscles and fascia of our face. Adopting a more positive and grateful attitude can do wonders for our mental wellbeing and the ageing of our face. A smile really is the best beauty asset.
And movement is crucial to keep muscles toned so they support us, to stop rigidity and stagnation.
4. What keeps you grounded and mindful in your daily life?
It sounds like a cliche, but being surrounded by my family gives me so much joy. I think some people might find my life a bit slow and dull, but I genuinely love a weekend spent walking with my family and dog. I start the week rejuvenated, and with a sense of peace and purpose.
Daily walks on the hills around our house with views stretching across to Ben Lomond and the mountains beyond inspires and soothes my soul. Regular yoga and pilates practice allow me to connect with my inner thoughts and cooking in my sunny kitchen looking out over the garden and the braes beyond always fills me with gratitude.
I’m grateful for my simple existence, I give thanks every evening after doing my cleansing ritual, for the friends I’ve spoken with that day and for the food I’ve eaten that nourished my body. I think of something new I learned or something I saw that inspired me. Even on a day thats been stressful or busy I try to find a time of calm contemplation, so that my mind is stilled and at peace before I switch off the light.
5. What are some of your favourite botanical ingredients?
Oh goodness this is difficult, there are so many wonderful healing plants, it depends on what I’m trying to address I suppose.
Roses are incredible, they have a harmonising effect on the skin, bringing it back into balance. Roses have both oil and water components providing us with water soluble B vitamins, that reduce inflammation, boost hydration and help protect the skins barrier function. And vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps minimise free radical damage, preventing and repairing sun damage, and is vital in the production of collagen.
Rose oil is rich in vitamin E, another super anti-oxidant fighting free radicals and keeping the skin barrier healthy and strong.
Nettle probably isn’t a herb that most people would associate with skin health, but apart from being a potent detoxifier it is jam packed with vitamins; A, B complex, C, D, E and K and minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc which is a powerful skin healer. It supports every aspect of healthy skin functioning and skin ageing.
I have a huge amount of love for Marshmallow Root, it’s not the prettiest of plant ingredient but the rich hydrating mucilage contained within it and the vast quantity of polysaccharides, both of which help the skin’s natural ability to hydrate and retain water are remarkable, and far superior to any hydrating benefits of synthesised hyaluronic acid. It’s rich in B vitamins supporting healthy barrier function and quercetin to address inflammation. It has a wonderful affinity for water friendly tissue like fascia and can help with stagnation in those connective tissues that can lead to premature ageing.
6. Why is natural skincare so important to you?
It’s a more natural way of life in general I crave. The European Chemicals Agency estimates there are more than 144,000 man-made chemicals in existence and around half of those have been produced in the last 70 years. We are surrounded by them in our environment, food, water and skincare. Every little bit I can do to reduce my family and my clients exposure to these is important.
It is a commonly held misconception that to achieve positive results in skin care, synthetic lab-created ingredients are necessary. This couldn't be further from the truth. Lab-made ingredients are cheaper and easier to produce than real plants, they cannot contain the hundreds of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and nutrients contained in raw unrefined whole plant ingredients. Synthetic ingredients use isolated vitamins and minerals and ignore the necessary cofactors present in plants that assist in the assimilation of those vitamins and minerals to produce the beneficial results we want. In short, there is simply no man-made ingredient that can compare to the delicate, intricate, and powerful science of nature.
7. What is the best part of your work as a holistic therapist?
I love the calmness it brings to my life. Giving treatments is as much therapy for me as I hope receiving them is for my clients.
Sharing in someone’s journey to better health or improved skin is an honour. I meet some incredible and very interesting people, and my life feels all the richer for it.