Meet The Founder: An Interview on Science with Dr. Martey-Ochola

Nuele prides itself on being responsibly sourced and organic, but what does that really mean? We receive product messaging from everywhere about certain ingredients being bad for you but still consistently see companies using them. What can we do to spot the difference? Where is the accurate and scientific information?

I asked the co-founder and chemist Dr. Christine Martey-Ochola a few questions about ingredients, Nuele and her background for more insight:

So let’s get to it. Why are parabens bad?

“Parabens are affordable preservatives that are used in many products. They mimic the hormone estrogen, and are therefore considered a risk because they can interfere with the biochemical pathways triggered by estrogen. Some studies have shown that parabens are found in higher concentrations in cancer cells as compared to non-cancerous cells. Early studies have also linked parabens to certain types of breast cancer. All in all, our recommendation is to steer clear of items that have the potential of disrupting the endocrine system.”

I had NO idea that parabens mimicked estrogen. I would prefer to not have any products with that inside, especially since it’s only for my hair! That is incredibly eye opening. Another ingredient I see often in hair care products is alcohol. Any time I use something with it inside, it causes my hair to feel “stripped”. Does alcohol dry hair out?

“Alcohol hastens the evaporation of water, so if you have alcohol in your hair they will a) dry out your hair quickly b) cause the hair strands to somewhat separate causing the hair to be brittle and have split ends.”

That makes a lot of sense.  I wanted to also ask you about sulfates! They are often the first or second ingredient listed in some products, but recently in the media people have said they were potentially harmful. What makes sulfates damaging? Why would we use them if they are bad for us?

“Sulfates especially Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a surfactant and enables foaming of shampoos. It is good for removing dirt and grease from hair, but if your hair type is one that already suffers from lack of moisturization, the strong sulfate based shampoos will strip off your natural oils and leave the hair shaft further unprotected, leading to more hair damage.  This is why, people who have oily hair can thrive with sulfate shampoos, but people who have curly less moisturized hair (with natural oils) should reduce their use of sulfate based shampoos.”

It’s incredibly interesting that sulfates are only for the foam! This also would make sense in why someone people benefit from certain shampoos than others. All of this is making me consider organic products more - but is it worth the price and effort? What are the benefits in using products that are organic?

“You have less exposure to pesticides and synthetic substances that could be allergenic or even be cancerous.”

That’s definitely important to me after finding out these ingredients and their potential dangers. How did you go about making a product like Nuele?

“Nuele was made as a result of seeing the effects of heat damage on hair that is continuously blow dried or flat ironed.  [Dr. Martey-Ochola] I have been a formulation chemist for many years, and created many beauty and food products. I realized that there were many moisturizers in the market but there was still a need for a moisturizer that could also provide some level of protection to the hair when heat is applied.  The final formulation that is now Nuele has taken over seven years to develop, and we are thrilled that people finally have a product that gives them the value that they seek.”

That’s incredible! It’s amazing that you formulated something that you believe in. Nuele smells good and feels great, but how is it a moisturizer if it’s oil-based? I’ve heard that oils don’t actually moisturize or penetrate the hair, why did you choose to use these for ingredients?

“The oils we selected in the formulation that we have derived actually penetrates the hair shaft because of the polarization of the individual fatty acids (building blocks) of the oils.”

It sounds like you really did the research and made the effort in finding oils that are helpful, not harmful to the hair. Thanks so much for your time, I learned a lot!