Optima Nutricosmetics - Cate and Karissa

Take Five: Optima Nutricosmetics

They say beauty is only skin deep, but the ladies behind this Aussie startup had a gut-feeling that nourishing our digestive health could only lead to good things – inside and out. Aiming to create a natural, ethical and sustainable beauty elixir that delivers better gut and skin health, friends Cate Lilja and Karissa Mather combined their skills to launch ingestible beauty brand, Optima Nutricosmetics. We caught up with Karissa and Cate to hear more about the purpose and passion behind their scientifically-backed skin saviour. 

Why is health and wellness so important to you personally?

Cate: As a naturopath, I understand the importance of good nutrition and good gut health, or more importantly the impact poor nutrition and poor gut health can have on long term systemic health – including that of our skin. Often chronic low-grade nutritional deficiencies and chronic low-grade inflammation only manifest as general feeling of tiredness, minor gut or skin irritations or feeling ‘run down’, so they go unnoticed and unaddressed for years. This can result in more serious conditions over time or as we age so its really important to be mindful of your health and wellness from an early age for healthy active ageing. 

Karissa: My interest in gut health and wellness is a lifelong passion. My dear mum got diagnosed with bowel cancer when she was just 27 years old. I was two. I’m grateful every day I still have my mum. This experience really has shaped my view on health.  

While living in NYC, I began researching the connection between gut and skin health, as at the time I was experiencing my own issues with both. A good friend of mine encouraged me to go and see her Ayurveda practitioner, Dr Pratima Raichur. I was treated by Pratima for a year and on my journey read her book, Absolute Beauty, and so my inner health skincare journey began. This was nearly 15 years ago now. 

What inspired you to create your own brand?

Karissa and Cate: Being able to offer people something that is backed by science that we know delivers results is our driver. We wanted to create something simple yet effective. It’s so rewarding to receive feedback from happy customers. Some of the results they have experienced on our Ultimate – Complete Skin Food Elixir have been truly amazing and for some, to quote them, life changing. That makes us so happy! 

Our goal is to deliver the most effective results in gut and skin health, all while complying with the highest standards of sustainable and ethical production practices.

Optima Nutricosmetics Elixir


What’s the link between gut health and skin health?  

Cate: Our gut and our skin are constantly communicating with each other in a relationship known as the gut-skin axis. Messages are sent between our gut, our microbiome, and our skin via the immune system, the nervous system and the endocrine system to help keep our body working in harmony (a state otherwise known as ‘homeostasis’). 

When our gut is in good health, it is able to support the healthy functions of the rest of our body by providing not only all of the nutrition we need, but also by regulating our immune system, excreting toxins and signalling to the rest of the body to maintain homeostasis. 

When we experience poor gut health and imbalances in our microbiome, our gut-skin axis also becomes unbalanced – and an unhappy gut on the inside often reveals itself in unhappy skin on the outside. Poor gut health can lead to hormonal imbalances, increased circulating toxins, immune system disruption and chronic low-grade inflammation. 

These physiological imbalances can manifest as premature skin ageing, acne, blemishes and breakouts as well as skin sensitivity and chronic inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and rosacea.

Our gut and our skin are constantly communicating with each other in a relationship known as the gut-skin axis.

Can you tell us about your approach to ethics and sustainability, and why this matters to you?

Karissa: From Optima’s inception, Cate and I have been determined to cement our passion for a more sustainable future into every facet of our brand. Starting your own business and creating a brand is a very personal journey. It is your chance to put something of value to others out into the world in the hope you can truly make a difference. Ethics and sustainability for us is a must have, not a nice to have. These principles are at the core of every decision we make. 

Our products are crafted from premium, ethically-sourced ingredients; we have worked diligently to ensure every part of our process – from our suppliers to our production – meet the very highest standards of social and ethical responsibility.

For example, we use only certified sustainable marine collagen in accordance with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards. This ensures all collagen used in our unique formula is sourced from MSC certified, wild-capture, sustainable fisheries. Another great example, the grape seeds used in our grape seed extract are a bi-product of the sustainable wine industry from New Zealand’s South Island. The grapes have been sustainably grown in line with the guidelines set out in the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ) certification program.

We are also active and responsible signatories to the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO).

Ethics and sustainability are so important to us, we have an entire section of our website detailing the lengths we go to ensure best practices. I’m proud of this. It feels great! 

Ethics and sustainability for us is a must have, not a nice to have. These principles are at the core of every decision we make. 

What are some of your favourite ways to practice self-care? 

Karissa: The startup world is challenging yet wholly exhilarating! I’m pretty much outside my comfort zone daily, so meditation, exercise, and energy healing have become a daily must for me. It’s crucial to work on your mental health as well as your physical wellbeing.  I’m very aware of keeping both mentally and physically fit.  

When I’m feeling tired or run down, I let myself stop. I avoid alcohol and excess sugar and let myself sleep in if I want to. I’m also careful not to overbook my social calendar.

One of the best things I’ve done for myself was a 10-day health retreat at Kamalya in Koh Samui. It was an amazing and life changing experience. It was over those 10 days I committed to starting my own business. Getting away, switching off from the world and going within yourself ignites your creative spirit. I pretty much came back from that trip and started to put things in place to start, what would become, Optima. 


Optima Nutricosmetics are offering friends of Peppermint a discount – use the code Pmint20 for 20% off.