Ojai’s Stacey Moss blends science and intuition to create organic, plant-based aromas that honor the source
By Amelia Fleetwood
“Plants are my passion,” says Stacey Moss, the creator of Moss Botanicals, an Ojai-based essential oil business. She is both perfectionist and purist, melding sustainability with her Native American heritage of honoring the earth. While synthetics and chemicals flood the perfume market, Stacey opts instead for all-natural ingredients, blending them into fine aroma mists and body oils.
Launched in 2007, Moss Botanicals offers unique oil blends with soothing, evocative names like “Transform,” “Relax,” and “Calm Heart.” She even created a special “Ojai Blend” in honor of her hometown. The blends are designed to foster emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing, and each scent evokes a distinct mood.
Stacey, who attended the College of Botanical Healing Arts for Aromatherapy in Santa Cruz, has a history as a healer and maker of home remedies, particularly plant-based medicines. But smell, she says, is the “most powerful and primitive sense we have. When people breathe things in, it … helps in the creation of an earth-consciousness, which is so important for me to share.”
A believer in the power of simplicity, Stacey uses only the bare essences of plants while drawing on and integrating her Native American sensibilities. She hand-blends and pours every batch of oil, and grows and distills many of her own plants: hummingbird sage, mugwort, rosemary. “Distillation is an art very much like making wine,” she says. “Batches can differ slightly from year to year, but the medicinal and therapeutic qualities will remain constant.”
For plants not readily available in the local area, she relies on other small companies that share her passion for sustainability and quality. She is careful not to employ any essential oils that appear on the endangered or rare list, avoiding scarce, overused Indian sandalwood, for example, and instead opting for a more abundant strain from Australia.
Indeed, Stacey makes earth-conscious decisions whenever possible and holds the plants themselves in the highest regard. “There is so much to learn from plants, and so many ways to use the oils,” she explains. “I’m always excited to give the plants a platform to communicate their knowledge to us.”
Integrity. Balance. Healing.
Stacey’s favorite? Transform: “I love the elegance and tranquility of the scent.”
Organic, wild-crafted, non-sprayed essential oils of Elemi (Canarium luzonicum), Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum), and Vetiver (Vetivera zizanioides) in organic jojoba oil.
10ml body roll on, $18; 4oz aroma mist, $26.
Purchase Moss Botanicals online at mossbotanicals.com or in natural foods and vitamins stores including Lassens, Lucky Vitamin, and Thrive Market (thrivemarket.com).
Chivas Skin Care takes an all-natural approach to health and beauty.
By Amelia Fleetwood
“This measuring scale is my favorite belonging in the world!” declares Donna Johanson, half of the dynamic mother/daughter team that owns and runs Chivas, a natural goat milk skin care line. She points lovingly to an innocuous, stainless steel scale in her spotless production room at the farm where many of the company’s natural products are created.
“This scale meticulously measures with the highest accuracy all the products we create here,” Johanson says. Chivas creates Argan Cleansing Oils, Argan Eye Creme, a selection of facial and body soaps, laundry soap, shave soap and essential oil blends, all at the farm. Still more of their goat milk skin care products are made in a lab according to Johanson’s recipes.
Run by Johanson and her daughter Lauren Johanson Jones from their small, peaceful farm in Fillmore, Chivas Farm is surrounded by orange groves and mountains and comes equipped with the quintessential red barn, two rescued free-roaming pigs, Piggles and Oreo, and Diva, their rescued red Angus cow, who still loves to be bottle-fed at the grand old age of a year and a half. The farm is home to chickens and dogs as well as 14 adult Alpine goats and their 20 babies, born this spring. Alpine goats, commonly used for cheesemaking because of their milk’s high fat content, supply all the goat milk needed for the Chivas Skin Care line.
“Alpine goats are my favorite breed; they are quiet, sophisticated and intelligent. I think they are a really classy kind of goat,” laughs Johanson. The goats are hand-milked in the morning and late afternoon. They are typically fed organic grain and lots of alfalfa, free-choice minerals and kelp to keep them healthy and high producers of top-quality milk.
Jones explains the benefits of using pure goat milk in her products: “Goat milk is a complete food, packed with rich vitamins and nutrients. The fat and protein globules are very small, so all the goodness is easily absorbed into the skin. It also has a very low pH balance so it is gentle, especially important for problem skin.” Additionally, goat milk is high in alpha hydroxy acids (lactic acid) that break down and remove dead skin cells that can otherwise clog the pores.
Chivas does not use any synthetic fragrances, artificial colorants or chemical preservatives in its skin care products. No parabens, phthalates or mineral oils are used. It’s Jones’ dream for people to be as careful with what they put on their skin as what they put into their bodies. “We are all so focused on eating organically, but the skin often misses out.”
“Chivas offers an uncomplicated way to take care of the skin naturally. We like to keep things simple,” Jones says with a smile. This simplicity is reflected in their line, beginning with minimal packaging and a fresh logo, designed by Jones. “We are the type of women who like having fewer things in our bathroom cabinets.”
Chivas began in 2004 when Johanson bought two goats so she could have raw organic milk for her family. “I had a surplus of milk with these two goats, one in particular was dubbed Dolly Parton — she was so overloaded! I made cheese, ice cream, yogurt and eventually figured out how to make soap.”
Johanson was one of the first people to benefit from the all-natural, gentle soap she made. She had lived with chronically dry skin, trying every mainstream and high-end product to alleviate the problem. Those products just made her skin worse, so she started creating her own. And it worked.
She also began giving away bars of goat milk soap as gifts. Everyone asked for more. So she started selling them around town. At one school fair, Johanson remembers a woman who bought up every bar of soap they had. “She told me it was the only soap she and her daughter could use because of their terrible eczema! That’s when the seed was planted.” Johanson’s “hobby” was actually helping people.
Jones did some globetrotting before joining what is now the family business. After college she traveled around the world working on farms, where she was exposed to many exciting ideas that she brought home to Fillmore. A lavender farm in New Zealand left a lasting impression. “That is a smell I will never forget. I was so inspired!” Jones became obsessed with the idea of using natural, essential oils instead of synthetic perfumes. During her travels she also became aware of the benefits and importance of using only fair-trade ingredients whenever possible. When she joined her mother at the farm, the two got serious about their business. With Jones’ encouragement, Johanson switched over to pure plant-based essential oils and started sourcing fair-trade ingredients.
“It starts with the soap. That’s the foundation, the first building block to any beauty regime. A good moisturizing soap is really the key,” Johanson says of the company’s beauty philosophy. Chivas specializes in a boutique line of soaps with such scents as energizing peppermint, soothing chamomile rose, refreshing lemon eucalyptus and balancing sage and geranium. It also has a line of market soaps with scents of lavender, citrus mint and lemon. And it offers a popular, fragrance-free version for those with especially sensitive or problem skin.
The line includes two simple moisturizers and two newly launched toners, one “calming” for those with sensitive skin, and another “nourishing” for especially dry skin. There’s also an array of goat milk body lotions, essential oils and a brand-new eye cream. Additionally, it has a great line for men.
Chivas goat milk skin care products are now sold in over 100 stores nationwide, and Johanson and Jones are involved in fun projects like their collaboration with Lionsgate Entertainment, bringing the fictional soap from the Netflix show, Orange Is The New Black, to life. They also partnered with Elizabeth’s Canvas to create a line of Gifts That Give soaps. For every soap purchase, a portion of the proceeds goes to help Elizabeth’s Canvas fund free art classes for cancer patients and survivors.
Johanson and Jones agree. “Beauty is not just what you see on the outside. It’s staying hydrated, using sunscreen, eating good food and, above all, keeping it simple.”