“Hair is produced by a living part of the body. I think we have kind of forgotten that.”
According to Jasmi Bonnén, we haven’t quite been giving our scalp the attention it deserves. “We have been treating hair like it’s a dead part of the body,” says the founder of natural skincare brand Nuori, which recently released their first line of haircare. “Hair is produced by a living part of the body. I think we have kind of forgotten that,” says Bonnén. “People invest a lot in face care products, but the scalp has been completely mistreated.” The Finnish founder and CEO of Nuori set out to develop of haircare line after a customer with sebbhoreic dermatitis reached out to the brand, explaining how the itchiness and redness she suffered from cleared up after using Nuori’s facial cleanser on her scalp. “She wrote us saying, ‘please can you create a haircare line?’ and I kind of laughed at it at first,” says Bonnén. “Then I started hearing more people saying we need haircare brands that understand the function of the scalp. So I said, ‘okay, we’re going to do this,’ but let’s focus on understanding the basis for healthy hair and creating an environment where the scalp is allowed to breathe and balance itself out.”
We spoke to Bonnén. about the new line of haircare products, and why what you put on your scalp is just as important as what you put on your skin.
Nuori as a company is all about “freshly blended” skincare. Where did that idea come from?
I was working as a marketing manager for L’Oréal Paris product categories in 2006 or 2007, when the European Union decided they wanted to increase transparency in cosmetics. They proposed that all cosmetics should be marked with an expiry date, just like in food and medicine. There was a lot of pushback from the industry, and they managed to lobby to the point where the industry standard was made that cosmetic products should have a minimum shelf life of 30 months, because no one wanted to start working with expiry dates. Now, all of this relates only to safety in terms of bacteria and mold. None of these measures have anything to do with product efficacy. I hadn’t thought about cosmetics having a shelf life and I started reading about what happens to cosmetic formulations over time. As a consumer, I sort of assumed they were forever. I remember I had this La Mer eye cream years ago and I was saving it up for special occasions. I probably had it in my drawer for a couple of years. I started reading about cosmetic formulations and I found out that active ingredients actually break down very quickly in formulations. The aha moment for me was understanding why those ingredients break down. [Nuori’s new Shield haircare range is freshly-blended just as the rest of the NUORI range in small batches every 10 to 12 weeks. Each product is also marked with a batch number that is stamped on the front of the outer packaging. The expiry date is stamped on the bottom of bottles and top of the tubes.]
What did you find out, after looking into that process?
I hadn’t realized that oxidization happens the moment you mix a formula. Any product that contains water contains the H2O molecule, and that’s what starts the oxidization process. I started to think about the rate at which molecules break down, and when we’re talking about the industry standard being two and a half years and how, as a consumer, I have no way of looking up when a product was made, I have no way of knowing whether what I’m buying contains active ingredients. Then I started thinking about the other side of shelf life, meaning how you actually can ensure a product stays free of bacteria and mold for two years. You have to use a lot of chemicals to do that—preservatives, but also stabilizers and fillers. I had this idea to make freshly blended skincare, and products that would actually work because the active ingredients would not be broken down. That was the initial idea for Nuori. The line launched August 15, 2015, so we’re coming up on our four-year anniversary now.
What’s sets Nuori’s Shield haircare line apart from conventional haircare?
When you’re using conventional haircare, a lot of shampoos are made with very harsh foaming agents. People love the feel of foam but actually that foam isn’t doing anything good for your hair. What it does to the scalp is that it dries it out. Most people have overactive oil production in their scalp to counterbalance the harsh drying effects of the haircare they’re using. They don’t notice it because they are shampooing every day or every other day. With natural haircare, because you’re using much gentler washing agents, you will actually notice in the beginning that you have greasy hair. Your scalp will continue producing that excessive amount of oil, but that will eventually calm down and you’ll notice a much calmer scalp. You’re also getting rid of all that build-up that comes from the silicon derivatives that we use to condition hair. With silicon derivatives, you get that nice detangling effect, but it’s not actually treating your hair. You’re just building a layer on top. It feels great in the beginning, but then you start building it into the hair and it may get brittle, or lose its volume, and you’ll end up having this build-up on your scalp, which then can cause different reactions. We really wanted to get rid of all of that. We wanted to balance the scalp and bring it back to its natural condition, where it reduces the amount of oil it needs to stay glossy and healthy, and then add nutrition to the inner cortex without building this artificial layer on top of the hair to make it look shiny.
What should the transition to natural haircare feel like?
It is a bit of a commitment. The same way when people transition to natural deodorant, it can be a little bit scary. It’s a similar process. You need to get rid of the build-up, but it will get better. There are a lot of people who don’t have the patience to make that shift into natural haircare, and I get that, too. But the summer months are the perfect time to make that transition, because you may not have as many business meetings, or you may be on vacation and not need that perfect blowout as often. With Nuori Shield, we recommend a double shampoo every time you wash your hair. You will notice that the product will feel much better on the second wash. Because it is a natural shampoo without any silicone or synthetic detangling agents, we also say to apply the conditioner and then use a wide-toothed comb to comb through the hair with the conditioner in it.
What are some of the principles the line was based on?
If we talk about the name Shield, it’s because we integrated into all of these products an innovative new ingredient called KeraGuard. It’s this complex from tara tree flower tannins and it shields hair from all kinds of environmental and physical stress, whether it’s UV rays or pollution or extreme heat. It also has the ability to repair damaged—even chemically treated—hair, and prevents colour loss [in dyed hair] as well. When I saw the research behind it, I thought this was such an exciting ingredient that I wanted to include it in all of the products—the shampoo, the conditioner and the spray. For the shampoo, we incorporated some fruit enzymes to gently exfoliate the scalp and let it breathe, removing all those dead skin cells. We also used oat kernel extract and betaine to hydrate and balance the reaction to the enzymes. We also have this wheat protein complex that hydrates the hair inside the hair cortex. With the conditioner, it’s made up of shea butter, and natural lightweight oils like argan oil.
Why did you choose the Shield spray as that third product in the line?
I love a little bit of texture and I wanted a product that had the same qualities of a salt water spray. The problem with salt water sprays is that salt dries out hair. I started to look at other ingredients that could give the same texture and hold, and I found that you can do the same with the sugar molecule. Sugar, as opposed to salt, is actually very hydrating. It also has the same KeraGuard ingredient to protect the hair. You can just scrunch it in at the end for a little bit of texture or apply it to the whole head if you’re on the beach and want to make sure it stays protected in the sun.