|Photo courtesy of zedge.net|
The time has finally come to reveal the big surprise! Thank you for being patient. For the month of January I have organized a wellness series called Whole Resolution. Let me explain.
I named the blog “Whole Nourishment” to represent two concepts important to me. One is the nourishing effects of eating whole foods. The other is whole wellness: the idea that true nourishment is holistic in nature - an integrated, dynamic state of wellness in mind, body, and spirit.
I was recently talking to a friend about how our wellness is a life-long practice. Balance in a healthy mind, body, and spirit will inevitably ebb and flow. But giving attention to seek wellness as a way of being, a way of living and a state of mind can be constant. And what better aspiration for a new year than making time to focus on our whole self, that is, on whole wellness? If we take this as a foundation, attention to specific dimensions are an outgrowth rather than a “one shot” resolution to diet, join a gym, and so forth. We all know how often these well-intentioned panaceas fizzle out.
To give inspiration towards this goal, I am sharing my interviews with four women in the wellness field who I find incredibly inspiring. These women dedicate their careers to improving the well-being in their own lives and in others, each bringing a different but vital perspective to approaching wellness. They will share knowledge and offer simple ways for improving our well-being in everyday life. By the end of the month, these combined perspectives will have painted a vision of whole wellness and equipped us with tools to use as we focus on the ‘whole self’ in 2014.
Our first guest is Milena, the remarkably passionate and talented woman behind Just the Goods, an all-natural Canadian-based skincare line. (Check out her website at http://shop.justthegoods.net/.) Milena’s concern for and thoughtfulness about the health of our bodies and the environment shines through in her commitment to create practical, approachable, and effective products that, as she puts it, “offers an alternative to reliance on petroleum and other unhealthy chemicals, wasteful packaging, and corporate ownership.”
In creating her skin care products, Milena seeks to build a bridge between natural and affordable. Her products are handmade to order by herself, use 100% vegetable and mineral-based ingredients, and are not tested on animals. As a committed user of her products and having gained insight into how Milena prioritizes the health and well-being of her customers from e-mail conversations with her over the years, I can confidently say there is not another skin care line out there today that I would trust using more than Just the Goods. Milena has a wealth of knowledge about caring for our skin and she has generously agreed to share her thoughts with us. So I hope you can find a few minutes to sit back and enjoy reading Milena’s interview.
You invent, test, and hand make your products to order. This is such a unique and personal touch! Let's talk more about your work and what it means to you.
What is behind the name "Just the Goods" and what does the transformation from hobby to a glowing company signify to you?
Thank you, Katie! The name Just the Goods seeks to highlight that my range of skin care products contain natural ingredients from the earth, never synthetics produced by petrochemical companies. The name Just the Goods also hopes to indicate that my choice of ingredients have long standing recognition in personal care – I don't reach for trendy extracts and other botanicals because I find that many of them are expensive simply due to their novelty factor. Just the Goods furthermore seeks to reflect that it is concerned with delivering quality products without the bells and whistles of fancy packaging or other branding gimmicks. Being both practical and consistent matters a great deal to what I do.
How do you strive to not only produce and deliver, but to improve the health and well-being of your customers?
I am not a medical doctor, so I can only convey that which I've read and observed in my own life, and the lives of others as they've chosen to share their experiences with me. But with that being said, there is increasing evidence that petrochemical-based toxins are responsible for substantial harm to our bodies and ecosystem. By sharing information about this – particularly the excellent research compiled by organizations such as The Environmental Working Group and Women's Voices for the Earth in the US, and the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence in Canada – I hope to contribute to growing dialogue about the negative profit motives of large companies that want to maintain their right to continue selling harmful chemicals. I also hope to present positive alternatives beyond safe ingredients, since I'm also very concerned about how the beauty industry hurts us through the presentation of unrealistic standards.
Now let’s talk about the natural ingredients behind your wonderful products.
Why is it important to use all natural, non-toxic skin care products?
In so far as our bodies are concerned, our skin is our largest organ and, although it does a great job of maintaining a barrier between what is inside versus outside of our bodies, it is permeable and anything we apply to the surface of our bodies is going to be absorbed and thus circulated elsewhere. We wouldn't dream of eating petroleum, or formaldehyde, or mercury, so why apply it to our skin?
The second consideration is that anything we apply to our bodies also ends up returning to the earth. The most evident example of this is when shampoo, soap suds, or shaving cream rinses down the drain. Unfinished bottles of toxic products also end up in landfill sites, where it can leak into soil. So indeed, choosing healthier products isn't only something we can do for ourselves, but those around us, as well =-)
How does a natural, sustainable approach to skin-care contribute to our wellness?
As one element in a larger approach, healthier skin care options reduce our risk of exposure to toxic chemicals, and helps us reduce the amount of chemicals entering our water stream, landfills, etc. Having a healthier body and environmental surroundings means a better chance to living well because we can feel better, have better access to fresh water, and a better food supply. I describe this as only one piece in a larger approach because we still have to contend with problems such as the privatization of water and chemical farming. All the same, while some concerns are very large and require collective intervention by activists and governments, we can still control what we bring into our homes, so even small changes add up.
What are the first steps you suggest taking for anyone looking to adopt a more natural skin care routine?
For me, the first step was to stop buying anything with petroleum and/or mineral oil in it. But, as I began to educate myself, I learned that ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate, cocamide DEA, parabens, and the vague term “fragrance” or “parfum” were also harmful. The Cosmetics Database – a resource compiled and maintained by Environmental Working Group (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/) – continues to be a fantastic place for me to learn about what is safe, and what isn't, in skin care. I recommended it to everyone! The scientific naming of ingredients (i.e. the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients aka “INCI”) can sometimes make avoiding harmful chemicals seem complicated, but this database allows you to enter any ingredient and learn all about based on a ranking scale from 0 – 10, where 0 – 2 is considered safe.
All Just the Goods products have achieved a ranking of 0 – 2. Upon using the database, it is troubling to discover how many self-proclaimed natural brands are either not signers of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, or worse, making products in the 3 – 10 range and calling them “natural”.
Finally, a few words about wellness in your own life.
What is the most important part of your skin care routine that you never short change?
I have oily/combination skin that has difficulty exfoliating naturally, so I'm prone to plugged/impacted sebaceous glands that turn into hard red and swelling bumps on my face, especially in my t-zone. To prevent them from appearing, I exfoliate daily with my moisturizing face wash for oily/combination skin and I tone twice a day – at night after washing, and in the morning before rinsing. I won't deny that there are times I've come home so late that I just fell into bed without washing my face, and I've definitely paid the price for this, ha! And so, even if I'm really, really tried, I make sure I put that extra few minutes into going to bed with a fresh, clean face so my skin can breathe properly while I sleep =-)
How do you make time during the week for your own wellness?
This is a great question, as it is something I'm still learning how to do. For as long as I can remember, I've always juggled far too many responsibilities at once. This type of over-activity (which I can now admit is actually some variety of workaholism), became normalized in university. For example, for almost one year I worked full-time hours in a high responsibility administrative position while beginning a Masters degree on a part-time basis, and while working on self-directed projects to kick start my career in the arts, *and* while maintaining an array of volunteer positions with various committees... and it never occurred to me that it was too much. This behaviour only grew worse as a I started working in my [original] field on a contract-basis – keeping irons in the fire was always necessary to ensure a steady stream of activity and thus income. Even this time last year I was juggling 4 large projects in two completely disconnected areas and the negative consequences on my body/health were apparent, but I ignored them, only making things worse. However, there is good news! As of this past September, I've decided to make a huge change and direct all of my work energy toward Just the Goods, hopefully leaving me better available for volunteering in my community... which I care about deeply and want to keep doing =-)
So, the short answer to that question is that I'm learning to be more selective about my projects and prioritize rest because it is essential to good health and the only way to do a better job at the things that matter most.
Is there a favorite meal or snack that you find especially nourishing for your body and skin?
I won't deny that I love chocolate, which has antioxidants that can actually be great for skin if we're talking about high quality cacao without processed/refined sugars, or added oils. However, since that's a bit too obvious, I'm happy to share another favourite...
I work with accuracy to the millilitre and/or gram in the lab, but in the kitchen I like to improvise. Nothing ever comes out the same twice, and I'm okay with that ;-) A combination of items I enjoy in particular is pink grapefruit, cucumber, and cilantro. Sometimes I toss those items into my food processor to make a chunky raw compote, but its also yummy as a savoury salsa with a bit of lime juice, pink Himalayan salt and freshly cracked, or well blended with a bit of agave syrup then frozen to make a crunchy granita.
I took the liberty of making Milena's grapefruit salsa, and it was delicious! I cut the pieces in chunks (for the sake of the photo) but she suggests throwing it in the food processor and making it into a chunky compote. Yum!
Grapefruit contains numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Vitamin C, antioxidants, and bioflavanoids stimulate the production of collagen to help skin maintain elasticity and smoothness while potassium and retinol (from beta carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A) helps to renew damaged skin. Potassium also helps to manage dry skin from the inside out and can contribute to reduced hair loss. Vitamin C, which is more concentrated in grapefruit than any other type of citrus, also helps to boost immunity and strengthen connective tissue, two additional factors essential to the growth of healthy, shiny hair. In skin care products, grapefruit can reduce inflammation and help to prevent acne.
Cucumber is a great source of potassium which, as mentioned above, supports healthy skin and hair. Their vitamin C content also helps boost collagen and elastin, as does the presence of lutein and zeaxanthin. Ascorbic acid and caffeic acid can reduce water retention, and thus puffiness (i.e. the famous cucumber on eyelids trick), but this is also helpful for treating sunburn and windburn. Cucumber is furthermore said to help fade scars, but I've not noticed this personally.
Cilantro contains various nutrients that offer anti-septic and anti-fungal benefits, making it useful to soothe dermatitis/eczema. It also helpful to those with oily skin and can help keep skin clear of blackheads. It contains a fair amount of Vitamin A, which maintains healthy mucus membranes and skin, and vitamin c, which as described earlier helps skin maintain elasticity and softness. Most interestingly, due to high levels of chlorophyll, it is a natural deodorant that helps flush toxins from the liver, kidneys and digestive tract.
Thanks so much for these questions! I truly appreciate your interest in Just the Goods and I'm honoured to be a featured guest on your fantastic blog!! Thank you =-)
To get the week and new year off to a healthy and balanced start I am sharing Milena's delicious grapefruit compote on Mark's blog, Cookin' With Luv, for his Made With Love Monday series. I have provided suggested proportions from Milena's instructions below.
Notes: Directions below are for a chunky compote. Milena says it can also be made into a wonderful savoury salsa with a bit of lime juice added, or well blended with a bit of agave syrup, then frozen to make a crunchy granita.
2 pink grapefruits, sectioned
1/2 long English cucumber
1/2 bunch cilantro, or to taste
Pink Himalayan salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Add grapefruit, cucumber sections, and cilantro to a food processor and pulse into a chunky compote. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.