Friday, December 9, 2011

Feature Friday: Just the Goods

I had the pleasure of interviewing Milena from Just the Goods who is a Winnipeg-based producer of handmade, natural and affordable skin care products. We had an in-depth conversation about her natural skin care products, a very educational insight on why every day indulgences shouldn't cost the earth or our health, her wonderful product photography tips and a fast Q&A about some of her personal tastes! Enjoy!

Your product is so unique, how did you start making them?

I started making natural skin care products in 2007 in response to three things. First, my partner developed an allergy to petroleum products and we needed to find alternatives. Next, I was troubled to see how natural skin care products were often positioned as luxury goods, and thus unfairly expensive. Third, I was frustrated to learn how many of the brands I was buying were actually owned by corporations that have other brands doing significant environmental harm. Making my own products meant being sure about ingredients while also finding a way to opt out of conventional consumerism. Thanks to positive feedback from friends, I decided to start making my work available on a wider basis =-)

How do you educate others regarding the benefits of your natural skin care products?

I am a fully compliant member of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, and have recently achieved Champion status, which means that—through an analytical tool developed by scientists affiliated with over 150 better health/environment organizations (i.e. Environmental Working Group)—it has been determined that my ingredient choices are among the best possible. Between 2004 and 2011, over 1500 companies signed with the promise of improving their production practices, but as it turns out, only 321 of us actually fulfilled that commitment. 

Talking about the goals of the compact, and it's online service known as the Cosmetics Database (, has been a great way to engage with people about the nature of ingredients in conventional products, which are selected by corporations for various reasons, including extending shelf life to facilitate the profit-oriented goals of mass production. 

With regard to the safety of ingredients versus things like animal testing, I like to explain that our skin is our largest organ, and everything we put onto it ultimately enters our bloodstream, etc. If we're not comfortable with ingredient choices to the extent that we'd need to prove their safety by testing on animals, why would we even want to go there? If we wouldn't want something inside our body (formaldehyde, parabens, artificial colours and fragrances) why would be want it on our bodies? 

Fortunately there is more and more information about this issue available to people than ever before, and that's thanks to fantastic health and safety advocates =-). 

What is your favourite item in your shop and why?

I'd have to say my favourite item is my toner for oily/combination skin, which has made my complexion better than ever before and to never again smell the harsh stench of what I used to use... what a relief! Ha ha!

Long term aspirations for Just the Goods?

I must be honest in writing that I'm amazed Just the Goods has taken off in all the ways it has because I'm always juggling it with other work and responsibilities, and have never given myself an opportunity to form a “real” promotional or growth plan. That said, I'm excited about the possibility of my products becoming more widely available, but I am being very thoughtful about how this happens as each new opportunity presents itself because I want to maintain my handmade promise as much as I want to ensure my products are truly safer choices. 

I like handmade and natural skin care because... it makes a tangible impact on people's lives and the earth itself. By reducing our collective exposure to petrochemicals, we can become healthier and ensure fewer toxins are released into our soil and water. I also like providing an alternative to the mainstream beauty industry that thrives on making people feel poorly about themselves in order to generate profit. 

Please give us some photography tips, yours are outstanding! 

Thank you for this kind compliment!! Etsy suggests photos be taken with natural sunlight, so I've often worried that mine are too dark and dramatic, but since I don't have access to space with abundant natural light, I've had to make due ;-) I set my products on a non-reflective backdrop, direct incandescent light onto them in an otherwise darkened room, set my camera to the macro (close up) function, and shoot as many photos as possible from different angles, adjusting the light after several takes. I shoot with the highest resolution possible, because it's always easier to shrink down than enlarge. My camera (a rather cheap compact, not a high-grade digital SRL) offers an alignment guide in the viewfinder (like a tic-tac-toe grid), and I use that to make sure the bottles look upright and not tilted. After selecting the best shots, I colour adjust as necessary using a free, open source photo editing software program called The GNU Image Manipulation Program (aka GIMP). I also take this opportunity to crop images, blur dust spots and otherwise remove anything that prevents the image from looking spotless. I've gotten better at this over the years – I'd really like to go back and replace some of my older pics, but I have yet to find the time!

In case you craft asides from producing skin care products tell us what you make... I'm a curator, writer and event organizer, so although my other production activities aren't physical, I do certainly make other sorts of things =-). I would love to take up sewing again... it's been over 10 years since I've made anything. 

I choose handmade because... mass production carries with it many of unfortunate consequences, both social and environmental. I feel we need to re-think our sense of needs and wants, and insist that all things be made with care and integrity, as well as ethical production practices. 

I am currently reading... a whole bunch of super awesome things! Realizing the Impossible: Art Against Authority edited by Josh MacPhee and Erik Reuland, and Art and Liberation: Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse edited by Douglas Kellner are the two grabbing my attention the most. 

I am currently listening to... so much! Lots of The Raveonettes, Lykke Li, Editors, and New Young Pony Club, but I've also recently discovered Boxer Rebellion, The Cinematics (which broke up not too long ago – sad face!), and The Dead Weather. 

I combat creative blocks by... If you can believe it, I actually don't have creative blocks with Just the Goods since the list of products I'm eager to develop is as long as my arm, but I do have energy blocks. When I'm tried in the lab and have deadlines to meet, I pick myself up with aromatherapy – rosemary to refresh and awaken, neroli to lift my spirits, and lavender to stay calm when it seems like there is no way I'll get everything done ;-) A lil' vegan dark chocolate helps, too ;-)



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  1. excellent interview! lots of things for us all to think about. I'm a huge fan of these products!!

  2. Thanks LemonDear and Periwinkle Dzyns!! I'm grateful for your positive feedback =-) =-) =-) And of course, I'm most honoured to be featured this week - thank you so much!!

    On that note, I'd like to give credit to our fellow WESTies, Jake+Cleo --- the photo of our collaboration -- a gift set including eco-friendly silver jewlery and my perfume -- was taken by them.... definitely they're the real pros when it comes to photography! and, oh gosh, I sure gave my newbie status away when I typed SRL instead of SLR (Single-lens reflex camera). Whoopsie ;-) I'm afraid to know what other typos lurk *tee hee*

    Thanks again for the opportunity to be featured!


  3. I love your products and your environmental concept. You are the future! :)

  4. This was just lovely. Milena is such a star!


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