In light of featuring the all natural, Canadian company for personal products – Mountain Sky on Evolving Wellness, I have special guest Nina George with me today.
Nina is the co-founder/owner of Mountain Sky, along with her partner Raynald Losier. Nina was kind enough to send me some samples to try of each of their products and also to tell us more about the company in the following interview.
EVITA: Hello Nina and thank you so much for being here with us today to let our readers know a little more about your company, what it stands for and what products you offer. You are one of the co-founders of Mountain Sky. What was the driving force or inspiration for starting this company?
NINA: We started the business to be home with our girls on the farm. We grew a lot of our own food, canned and lived simply. Starting our own natural body product business fit into our lifestyle.
EVITA: Can you tell us a little more about Mountain Sky in terms of how many years has it been around and what are the feature products?
NINA: We started Mountain Sky in 1993. We feature various soaps, balms, body bars and rubs. All of our product descriptions can be found on our website -Mountain Sky Soaps.
EVITA: Personal care is such an important area as most of us use various products each day, but with all the chemicals being used out there today, can you tell us how Mountain Sky is different?
NINA: We do not use “organic” ingredients because we find that the certification process is not very secure. And too many companies overuse the word “organic” when their product is not “ organic”.
For instance, many companies claim that they use organic coconut oil and it is certified by Oregon Tilth standards. As far as I know, Oregon does not grow coconuts, so how would they have standards for coconut plantations? My experience with third world products is that most producers will say anything to get you to buy. So if you ask if their product is organic, they will always say ‘yes’.
Mountain Sky is different because we are not trying to deceive our consumer, we practice environmental manufacturing processes, and we are a small family business that cares about what we do. We make all of our products. We mostly start out with whole oils and create products from that. We like to make an excellent product at a good price for the average consumer.
EVITA: It is hard to trust companies to be completely “natural” today. It seems between relaxed labeling laws and a lot of manipulation in the personal care industry, that word has lost a lot of its meaning today. How can customers trust that what they see on the label of Mountain Sky products is all that there is?
NINA: It is true that there is a lot of deception in the personal care industry. The personal care industry is considered a self-regulated industry. Government has set some rules of conduct on ingredients and labeling but does nothing to enforce the rules. We are extremely frustrated with the amount of deceptive labeling. We have made an industry complaint about some companies that do not follow the rules to Health Canada. But because personal care does not directly endanger people, Health Canada does very little to enforce their own rules.
Every company will tell you to trust them. And every company will have a great write-up on all the great things they do. But unless one really knows how to analyze ingredient listings and understands how and where product ingredients come from, it is very difficult for the average consumer to really know what they are buying.
For instance, we add natural flavor to our lip balms instead of essential oils. Essential oils can be quite drying on the lips. So when we researched natural flavors we found that all natural flavors are processed using cottonseed oil ( extremely cheap oil). Since, cottonseed oil is not considered a food product it has a high amount of pesticide residue. So we requested our natural flavors be manufactured using sunflower oil at a higher price. However, on our label for the lip balm, the consumer would not know the difference between our natural flavor or our competitors. All the labels say the same thing- natural flavor. I personally never buy food that has natural flavor in it for this reason.
I don’t expect people to trust Mountain Sky implicitly just because we say so. We have lots of information on our website, we have some informational videos. We answer all questions that are sent to us. We follow all the Canadian Ingredient Listing Rules. It is up to the consumer to decide.
EVITA: Many of your products come in scented and unscented options. Personally I am not a huge fan of fragrance, for no other reason than it usually comes from toxic sources. I mean I love pleasant smells, but only if they are natural. However, I do recognize that many people out there enjoy products that are at least slightly scented. Can you tell us what kinds of scents or fragrances Mountain Sky uses in their products, and what is their level of quality and safety?
NINA: We, like all bath and body companies, purchase from the same large manufacturers of essential oils. Unless one can buy from a very small artisanal manufacturer, all essential oils are commodities. All the large and smaller companies really buy from the same large producers, but maybe from different distributors. We have looked into purchasing from artisanal manufacturers but we would have to raise the price of our product about 10x to sell the product.
Essential oils by definition are steam distilled but they are still very processed and concentrated products. We use essential oils in all our scented products. We only add a fragrance (chemical aromatic) in our Vanilla Cream soap and Vanilla Body butter because so many people requested a vanilla soap. We clearly label that we have added a fragrance to the product in the ingredient listing. We do add some vanilla essential oils in both products but it is extremely expensive to scent the whole product with vanilla essential oil.
What is safe? Water can kill you if you drink too much of it. Natural does not automatically equal safe. Chemical fragrances are not necessarily any more toxic to your body than essential oils. Many essential oils can be dangerous and toxic. Like all things it depends on how much you use.
We only use essential oils and fragrance that have been approved by Health Canada and that comes with a Materials Management and Safety Certificate. We carefully analyze each ingredient that we use. We chose not use essential oils in our lip balms because of its potential drying effect on lips. Many people consider essential oils natural but it is not always the best product for your lips, we opted for natural flavors instead and we do offer an unflavored lip balm also.
People need to judge for themselves what level of aroma feels right. We at Mountain Sky tend to scent our products at a slightly lower level than most of our competitors, as we feel that there is a large group of people who prefer some scent but do not like to feel overwhelmed by it.
EVITA: Is Mountain Sky planning any new features or products for the near-future?
NINA: We have been asked often why we don’t make lotions. We don’t make lotions because lotions require mixing oil with water. An oil and water mix always requires a preservative. Our massage bars and body butter are solid moisturizers without water.
EVITA: What is the best part about working at Mountain Sky?
NINA: We are a small family business that puts our family and our employee’s families first. We allow for a lot of flexibility at work to create a stress free and fun environment.
EVITA: Where can customers buy Mountain Sky products most easily?
NINA: People can purchase our products mostly in Health food stores across Canada, if a store is not carrying our product, a customer can request Mountain Sky as we are carried by the largest Health food distributor in Canada. We are also selling at various online stores. For locations across Canada, please see our full listings by province. Canadian and US customers can purchase the products also from various online stores, like Well.ca – which offers free shipping on every Canadian order.
EVITA: Nina, thank you so much for your taking time out of your schedule to share with us all here today more about your company – Mountain Sky. It was very much appreciated and I look forward to telling our readers more about your products on our site. To learn more about what I think of Mountain Sky, also check out the Mountain Sky monthly feature.