Super Mum: Sjaniël Turrell
We recently caught up with Sjaniël Turrell, holistic makeup artist and Super Mum to two gorgeous boys - Jaden and Riley.
Before juggling motherhood and combining her expertise in nutrition and health with clean beauty, Sjaniël worked as an international model for 15 years before moving to London. Her love for all things health and wellness grew, culminating in a qualification as a nutritional therapist.
With over 20 years' experience in the industry, Sjaniël talks us through Supermodel era make-up vs. today, the importance of using natural and organic skincare, to how her parenting style has changed with each of her babies.
Read the full interview below and you can find out more about Sjaniël over at her website chemistryofwellness.com.
How do mornings look in your household?
I am NOT a morning person, but fortunately my husband is! He usually gets up with the kids around 6:30-7:30 and manages them till I manage to get out of bed, at least 30 min after we wake up.
I try to not reach for my phone first thing and I’m trying to do a bit of reading or devotion, but that only happens if my 21 month old, Riley, will allow. It’s usually just me laying in bed being jumped on and saving my bedside table contents from destruction!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve never had a clear idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I was very little I loved ballet and wanted to be a ballerina, and then for a few years a flight attendant or hairdresser, but as I got older I just found it more confusing to decide on any specific path.
How did you become a makeup artist and nutritional therapist, and what do you love most about it?
Makeup sort of happened by happy accident – I was 18 years old and working as an au-pair in the US. As part of what then was called a ‘cultural exchange visa’, I was required to do some sort of educational training in my year in America. No traditional college course was of interest to me (the entire reason I took a gap year to au-pair -duh) and so I found an agency that offered this makeup artist’s course. Once I started, I loved it and from there on I continued to experiment, practice and enjoy learning more and more about makeup. Once back home in South Africa, I ended up getting into modelling and that became my main career for 15 years, but I have always done makeup alongside in the industry and that has become my main focus in the last 7 years. It allows me to be creative and work one-on-one with individuals, both aspects which I love and thrive in.
I developed a keen interest in health and wellness around 2004 after I got married – I did years of self-study and research, but once I had moved to London in 2011 I became more involved in the wellness industry. After an awful stint of chronic fatigue, I had a massive turn around with healing through food and decided that I wanted to become a qualified expert and then signed up for my 3 year nutritional therapy diploma. I qualified in 2015 and have managed to combine my love of makeup with my love of wellbeing. I now refer to myself as a holistic makeup artist as I use only natural and organic products. I teach people how to make the change from commercial to conscious products and how to improve their immediate all-round environment to benefit their personal wellbeing.
What is your career highlight so far?
I think for me it’s when I help women who genuinely have a fear or negative feeling about themselves or makeup. I love being able to find something that works for them or makes them see themselves in a new light.
For example, a 60 year woman came to me once and was so embarrassed about her acne scarring that she said she had never let anyone touch her face! After I had convinced her that I needed to touch her face to find a good foundation for her and seeing the result, she literally hugged me because she thought her skin looked good for the first time in her life. I have had similar experiences with people recovering from cancer or illness or brides who never really wear makeup – it feels so good to allow women to see the beauty in themselves.
You’ve been a makeup artist for over 20 years now – how has the industry changed in that time and what positive steps are being made towards a more environmentally friendly, sustainable and cruelty free industry?
Well, certainly the digital age has changed so much of how we wear and do makeup. When I started, photoshop and digital cameras did not exist (yeah, that makes me feel pretty old). We wore A LOT of makeup back in the 90’s – it was the era of supermodels and makeup artists and photographers had to do back then what can be fixed in seconds in post-production today.
I love that the real fashion trends over the last 10 years have become much more minimal – sheer, glowing skin – not much eye makeup, powders or layers. I remember growing up that my mum would not be caught dead leaving the house without lipstick – there was way more pressure on women to be made up. I love that ‘norm core’ and everyday fashion trends lend themselves to everyone being who they are and want to be. I do also realise that there is an entire younger, ‘YouTube’ generation that are obsessed with going back to wearing too much makeup and fixating on things like contouring, highlighting and ‘baking’ – but that genuinely is not the case in high fashion and city trends.
I do think though that the younger generation are much more aware of the impact that their choices have on the environment and that they want to use products that are kind to the earth and animals – I believe that the instant gratification trends will slowly start dying down and then overall, young girls and women are going to demand that big companies take responsibility for their packaging and cruelty free practices. We still have a very long way to go, but young women need to realise how much power they have in the buying decisions they make. Their collective buying choices and demands completely govern the way massive billion-dollar conglomerates make decisions.
Why do you believe it is so important only to use natural and organic skincare products?
Simply put, your skin is your body’s largest organ. It feels and filters your entire environment. It absorbs what is rubbed and applied onto it and is the biggest reflector of internal health. No one system in our body is disconnected from another – we are not made up of different systems, rather, we are one system with many parts and if one part does not get taken care of the rest won’t work well either.
That is the best way to think about your body. If you take care to eat healthy, organic food, but still apply any number of synthetic (often harmful) chemicals to your skin, you are still putting undue stressors on your body. So much of what we use in beauty products day to day has not been tested long enough to know the true outcome of their impact of our internal or even genetic health long term.
Of course, we have to ask – who are your favourite eco brands and product for makeup and skincare?
This is difficult to answer because there truly are SO many amazing products out there now. I wouldn’t say any one range or makeup brand ticks all the boxes or covers all the bases. It really is down to your individual needs. However, I will say that for me Twelve Beauty is an absolute favourite skincare brand for it’s clean and scientifically clever formulations for super dehydrated and sensitive skin (a must for pregnant and new mums). The serums and lip oil are the best I’ve tried.
On the makeup front I would say Absolution Cosmetics for the best lipsticks and concealer and right now Ere Perez for all round great foundations – although the list of favourites is way too long to mention here.
You are a big fan of vintage and second-hand shopping – where are your favourite places for this?
Gosh, I could live at a car boot! In South Africa the options for similar markets or car boot sales is very small, so I am in my element whenever I happen upon a great car boot sale here. Before it closed, the Wimbledon car boot was my absolute go-to for anything and everything. I would simply decide what my focus was for the day and go and fill up my granny trolley for £20 a go.
Right now, I am completely deprived of second hand shopping experiences as Wimbledon is no longer and also, since having another baby, I simply don’t make the effort to get out and explore. I do love to go into my local charity shops and see if I find anything special. Once in a while (when I have time to myself) I go into Traid and spend an hour or two finding myself some essentials for the next season – I’ve mostly given up on high street shopping and love discovering designer finds for next to nothing. THAT makes me super excited.
Other than shopping vintage, what are your best tips for buying sustainable clothing & who are your favourite brands?
TBH, as I said before, I seldom shop with mainstream or even sustainable brands – mostly because I’m on a mum budget and when I do have money it will usually go on buying the best supplements instead.
Fortunately, I have some fashionista friends who take very good care of me with hand-me-downs and I do have some lovely pieces from great brands. My favourite sustainable clothing brands are Closed Official and Armed Angels – they fit me well and I love their cool but casual collections.
For kids I also live for hand-me-downs or random charity shop finds. The realistic version for me is H&M Conscious (not quite as conscious as I’d like, but it’s what is available). I absolutely love Mini Rodini and of course Hunter+Boo. I also love finding handmade pieces at local farmers markets where local small businesses have great options.
What is your fave piece in your wardrobe?
Probably my dressing gown. Hahaha.
Yas! And what's your daily uniform/mum uniform?
I’m a jeans and t-shirt girl through and through. Even when I’m genuinely trying to dress up I end up in jeans and then just think that if I wear a nice pair of shoes my outfit will be formal. I definitely choose comfort over fashion.
Which females inspire you?
Any female who has a quiet, gentle confidence about her. I think it is a difficult thing to be very ok with who you are in the world today. We’re all looking at everyone else’s picture-perfect IG life and wondering if we’ve missed the boat somewhere along the line.
But I love a woman who owns her short comings, stands up for what she believes in and doesn’t feel like she needs to overcompensate to prove herself – and I don’t mean being a shrinking violet, I just mean feminine in their strength.
I suppose since I see myself as someone who probably overwhelms others with how much and how loud I can talk when I am passionate about topics, that I feel I could do with a bit of a filter. It could just be that I’m South African and haven’t had that slightly more reserved British sensibility bred into me :D
As a mother of two, what is your philosophy on motherhood and parenting style?
It’s very interesting discovering the mother I am now with my youngest compared to the mother I was first time round 10 years ago. I have definitely relaxed my parenting style. I suppose a lot has to do with living in a more conscious age where we acknowledge our children as individuals more, but also that I believe the older you become, the less you feel the need to be perfect.
My two boys are 10 years apart, but they are so extremely different in personality, that I’ve realised our children are simply little strangers that arrive in our family and our job is to get to know them and then love them for the person they are. We shape very little of who they are intrinsically – mother’s often see their children as an extension of themselves, but I am now fully aware that my children are completely separate from me as humans, and I simply have to nourish them as individuals and guide them to be the best versions of themselves.
Of course there will be many traits that you will recognise in both yourself and your partner (often the worst of both – haha) but you are ultimately not the one who can decide who they’re going to be. And also that not every child can be raised in the same way because what works for one personality simply may not work for another. I realise in my time of growing up, that type of thinking may have caused a lot of harm to children because parents believed that they were being fair. We have to play and show love to their individual strengths. Just as adults have love languages, so do children.
What's been your proudest moment as a parent to date?
Gosh, I am proud and amazed of my 11 year old every single day. He is one of the most empathetic and conscientious people I know – the level of self-awareness he has is astounding to me at times. I do like to think that I’ve nurtured that in him, but he genuinely is an amazing human and now an even more amazing big brother.
With Riley, my youngest, my proud moments are those that I enjoy with him. He is a ray of sunshine and makes me laugh and smile all the time. I tend to take life way too seriously at times – even trying to decide to have him took me 10 years because I over analysed it so much. But he truly brings me joy and that is something for me personally to be proud of for sure.
And any funny parenting story to share?
Too many! Kids are hilarious. Let’s think of a Jaden comment… I’ve had to go through the FB archives for these. It’s usually things they say between the age of three and six.
On his dinner this evening:
"Yum Jazzy this is my favourite dinner. I don't need to argue or try to get away. You won't have a difficult time with me today"
Jaden's most sincere bedtime prayer this evening:
"Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for making me a mole. Thank you that I can dig holes and make tunnels under the ground. Amen"
“Spiderman says it's always the girls that are in trouble and needs saving because the men have gone to work”
Jaden commenting on the Men's Health cover next to dad's bed:
Jaden: ‘Mom, why does that man have so many boobies on his tummy?’
Me: ‘It's called a sixpack & you get it when you exercise hard.’
Jaden: ‘But I don't want dad to look like that.’
Me: ‘Don't worry love, he won't.’
And so on and so forth – write that stuff down - they really are very funny.
Riley is just generally hilarious on a daily basis and thinks everything in life is funny – which helps when you’re having a bad day – not so much when you’re extremely tired and all you want to do is sleep, however.
Any tips for us working mums on juggling career and motherhood?
Seriously, no. Not really – I don’t feel as though I have this figured out at all. Lack of sleep in general makes me have massive respect for mums who juggle full-time work and children. I freelance, but that means that I mostly stay at home with Riley and only get onto emails or planning work in the 2 hours per day that he has a nap.
I think that the hardest thing is accepting the space you’re in and even though you may feel mentally ready for new things, you’re not always physically able to implement your ideas. I think we can often feel as though we’re doing nothing all day and that we’re not ‘doing’ enough, but merely having to have your mind and eyes on your toddler at all waking hours means that you are actually busy.
What are you working on now and what’s in the pipelines?
I hope to continue to educate and break down clean beauty concepts for people. I love consulting with women individually and helping them find what works best for them, but also create more awareness on the importance of making changes to our current environments.
I’m also part of an exciting project which will hopefully come to fruition during this year – I am signed on to be makeup designer on the first sustainably filmed Hollywood movie and if we can make that happen, then hopefully we’ve paved the way for an entire new era of eco consciousness in Hollywood, because that definitely needs to start happening.
Wow how exciting, we can't wait to hear more!
You can follow Sjaniël on Instagram here.