Ageless Beauty: In Conversation with Karen Cummings-Palmer
If there’s one word that would sum up the recent cultural shifts, it would be ‘wellness’. The buzzword is used everywhere, from marketing to pop-ups and incorporated into our everyday lives. So much so, that it is impossible to decipher what the word even means these days. Enter, Karen Cummings-Palmer. The Health and nutrition guru who became interested in age-management following a 4 year spell in the wellness center of the world, Los Angeles. These days she is London-based, helping anyone from private clients to the Sanderson Hotel to achieve a bit more balance. We caught up with her to find out her secrets, and more importantly what she always has in her cupboard…
How did you get into beauty and wellness?
Like most women I had my own beauty issues, so I was compelled to try and deal with eczema which I was born with and it was bad in my teens. It gave me a very interesting perspective on physicality. In many ways I felt very blessed, but I suffered from my bad skin and it made me self-conscious. I tackled that from a young age, so I was very used to having a skincare routine – a positive was that I took it very seriously from when I was a child. When I left college, I worked in the entertainment industry, and then in luxury lifestyle, so I spent a lot of my time eating in fancy restaurants, hotels and bars. I tried to create balance, appreciating the rich foods and steady stream of alcohol whilst looking and feeling my best.
And then luxury lifestyle turned to health and beauty products as people asked me to support the development of their brands.I spent some time in LA and I had the pleasure of interviewing some of the most influential people in terms of health and beauty on the planet from Jennifer Aniston’s facials to Rennee Zellweger’s colourist. I studied integrative nutrition to deepen my knowledge and it was whilst working with Raquel Welch and her trainer that I was inspired to focus on age-management.
What is the difference between the two wellness scenes in London and LA?
Let’s be clear when we talk about Hollywood we are talking about a bubble of people who have a vested interest in looking good but they are not all super skinny – they’re fit and trim, it’s in the cultural DNA. People would say to me “Have you worked out today? Let’s go for a hike or a walk on the beach, or Pilates together” Health and wealth was weaved through everything you did. On a way to a meeting you could pick up a great green juice with real nutrients in it that was freshly pressed. I was doing a shot of ginger and algae years and years ago – it was way ahead of other scenes. You could get brown rice sushi in a Japanese restaurant. You could go to a regular café and have gluten-free, spelt bread. So, it was just much easier and more accessible. And let’s not forget the sunshine!
What I found interesting is the difference between people’s ideals of health. People in LA are very focused on youth and what I wanted to take away from that was some of the tools, but also that while yes, youth is currency, age is currency too. There are things that come from age like grace, humility and wisdom that are beautiful.I help people maintain what I call the essence of youth while celebrating age – for me, someone like Helen Mirren looks great. And the reason is because she looks like she can do everything that a 30-year-old can do. There’s nothing that limits her, she looks strong, vital, interested and interesting.
Who is your typical client?
My core group is 35-65 years of age and men and women. Its generally the case that they’re not eating McDonald’s everyday but they think they’re doing the right things and eating reasonably well, exercising and using the right skincare – but they just feel that they need some support and they’re exhausted, often getting sick multiple times. And they’re just feeling like age is showing up prematurely.
My point of difference is that I also work with them to change their minds about their relationship with food and therefore themselves, and I also really work within the context of their lives so that if somebody is entertaining every day at restaurants, getting on planes and that supports their lives, I’m not going to tell them not to do that. What I do is give them tools that allow them to do that while achieving their goals of looking better, feeling stronger and having better immunity, finding balance, having more energy.
Alcohol for example is a problem, as it’s part of our culture. Three drinks a night is moderate drinking by London standards! But if you think, the large glasses of wine are 2 units and you’re having 3 a night, maybe with one night off – do the maths! I say to them, you know what – you know that you probably shouldn’t eat dessert on a regular basis and you might order one but you would never order two. And you must think of alcohol like that.
What would you say to someone who says they “don’t have time” to keep on the right path?
Take a layered approach to wellness; 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there. The key things are getting really good quality sleep, as it affects everything. One of the key challenges to that is the blue light – put away your phones and get them out of the bedroom. Turn them off if you can, or if you want them on for security put them on silent and in another room. Don’t look at them at least one hour before bedtime. Meditation sounds scary and challenging but it’s just about being present – some deep breaths, some conscious breathing.
Moving when you get up, moving every single morning as a non-negotiable. Your internal organs and spine, heart have been all crunched up while you sleep so get some stretch and movement in – 20 minutes is ideal, 3 minutes if that’s all you have. And if you stick to a time that you dictate, then you do it.
Get some good nutrients in. If you’re crazy busy, have a green juice before you start your day. Even if you’re grabbing things on the go and you’re not in control of your diet for the rest of the day, just start with a leafy green juice in the morning. Make sure that you’re mixing up your breakfast, as having the same one can create intolerances.
Ageing is scientifically the shortening of telomeres and essentially and simplistically inflammation so limiting the amount of refined sugars in your diet and getting enough omega 3 is key. I also use am amino-acid based supplement called Lumity – it helps the body work in perfect harmony supporting hormonal balance and feeding the hair skin and nails, it also helps deep regenerative sleep which of course makes everything work better.
What is your go-to skincare routine?
For me, the electrical current technology makes a lot of sense and that’s what I would invest in. I do also believe in the double cleanse, it’s not just a hype. Exfoliation is also key, you’ve got to get the dead cells off. And you want to be working with an acid based exfoliant and then I would say really focus on and invest your money in a serum, that deeply penetrates your skin and contains vitamin c, hyaluronic acid and copper peptides: game-changing ingredients that will make a difference. And then you need protection, from moisturiser. And then sun protection, and the key is that not that it needs to be so high, but you need to be consistent with it – and you really do want it to be natural. It’s the chemicals in SPF that will cause further damage as they react with the sun.
What does your average day look like?
I have a glass of water and do my stretching while oil pulling with raw coconut oil. Then comes the moment routine 10 – 20 minutes of Pilates, yoga, free weights – I mix it up to keep the muscles engaged. Then I am at my desk dealing with anything urgent before having breakfast at around 9 am, I usually have a client or two in the morning either at my home or theirs, I also give cooking classes and do kitchen edits. I work with corporates with means spending half days working with teams on their collective wellness. I also work with brands so I might have a brainstorming meeting or provided commentary for them. I’m working on a book so I try and give some energy to that too so my days are never the same or dull!
And what are your cupboard essentials?
Definitely turmeric – a powerful anti-inflammatory, I throw it in stews and tonics with a grind of black pepper which makes it more bio-available. Eggs, rich in bio-available proteins and very good for your hair, skin and nails – they’re the ultimate humble superfood. Avocados of course like everyone else! Cucumber, as its packed with silica which is great for your nails and hair. Raw nuts, a great quick protein snack full of great fats. Wild Alaskan salmon packed of omega 3 and berries always in the freezer, to throw in the Nutribullet.
What is your Positive Luxury?
Balance. Its about a day that is creative, where I am working with a brand and seeing clients and giving back and seeing that growth of a client, I also support a couple of charities – like Women4Women International – and then having fun! I love to dance. If I could have a day where I could do all those things and have some sort of spa treatment like acupuncture and have a glass of wine with dinner, then go out dancing – that would be my perfect day! But being by the sea is my ultimate happy place.