Chattanoogan: Michelle Neubel – “I’m A Mixologist”

Friday, October 25, 2013 - by Jen Jeffrey

After years of dealing with skin, hair and scalp issues, Michelle Neubel decided to create an all-natural hair tonic for her own hair and wound up launching her own business.

Growing up in Chicago, Michelle’s first love was art, but she mingled the other interests she had in science and culinary arts to cultivate her passion for healing.

“I had taken art with the plans to go to the Art Institute of Chicago, but that was not an opportunity, so I decided to major in math and science at UTK,” Michelle says.

The love of art stemmed from reading her mother’s many books of Dickens, Alice and Wonderland, C.S. Lewis and Dr. Seuss. Michelle loved to illustrate from the stories she had read.

When she was seven years old, she entered a drawing in a contest at the VA hospital where her mother worked. Michelle used butcher paper that her dad had given her and she drew a castle that she had seen on the back of one of her books and she won third place.

The creative gene ran in her family and Michelle learned over the years to channel that creativity in ways that would help others.

“I come from a family of artists. My brother is an artist and my dad is a fine artist. The three things that I love the most are art, science and culinary – I loved working in the kitchen with my mom,” Michelle says. “My mom knew a lot about culinary herbs and would come up with various remedies. My gift of creating might have come from her.”

Michelle seemed to contract many childhood illnesses, whether it was an auto-immune deficiency or simply having sensitivities to everything – she describes herself as a sickly child causing her to develop a curiosity of the sciences.

Having witnessed her mother using herbs and remedies for healing, Michelle tapped into her creative side as well when she realized the products on the market were not helping her with skin issues.  

“My brother took Tai Chi and introduced our family to Asian Medicine and he introduced our mom to chamomile tea. He acquainted me with herbs and I started studying little by little,” Michelle says.

The inquisitiveness to know what was in the products and why there were so many variations of synthetics added to the product which claimed to be ‘natural’ had motivated Michelle to experiment and come up with her own natural remedies.

Michelle usually did her own hair but had decided to treat herself to a beauty shop one day.

“They did not use clean tools and I developed a rash that wouldn’t go away no matter what I tried. I even went to a dermatologist and none of it would heal the problem. I had always dabbled with herbs because I like culinary, but it rolled into medicinal herbs and learning about herbology. My sister had beautiful locks, but they were falling out. She said, ‘Michelle you should just create something for the both of us’ so I did,” Michelle says.

“I had put it in Mason jars, but it was made just for us. I had a friend who I went to college with and she had long, dark blonde hair. When she had turned 30, her hair started falling out and she said that it ran in her family. She was going to use Rogaine but she didn’t want to, so I gave her the tonic I had made. She tried it and she said that it grew her hair back and she wanted more. She asked me, ‘How about marketing it?’  That wasn’t my intention, but after being laid off in the insurance field and working various jobs, I decided to start my own business,” Michelle says.

In 2002, Michelle launched her hair tonic business and eventually added other natural skin and hair care products. Though the products began as remedies for her own family, Michelle says they are not geared toward African American hair or skin.

“I didn’t expect it to take off and I didn’t have ambitions for it to go from where it was to where it is now. People of all ethnicities were telling me that they were seeing new hair growth so I didn’t gear it toward any particular ethnicity,” she says.

Her sister talked her into creating an all-natural shampoo to accompany the tonic and to add conditioners. Michelle came up with a black-soap conditioning shampoo, but it isn’t for African American hair only.

“The reason for using the word black is because it comes from the country of Ghana. I was familiar with this because my friend had a store and she used to sell Shea butter and black soaps – it was the only soap I thought of because it has wonderful healing properties,” Michelle insists.

“It is a homogenous mixture in which Ghanaian women take pulverized carbon molecules from the shell of the coconut and grind it. They take palm kernel oil, plantain skins and coco pods and they make that into an ash. It makes a homogenous soap when they saphronize it and makes suds. Then it is mixed with the palm kernel oil to for skin issues such as ringworm, dry patches and psoriasis. Using all-natural ingredients that have healing properties, I knew that I could add conditioners to it also,” Michelle says.

The herbal shampoo and hair tonic is high in antioxidants and vitamins C and E. It is formulated to protect hair from the elements and prevent dry, brittle hair. It is high in silicon content to promote growth and keep hair strong and, while it conditions the hair shaft and follicles, it also brings hair to normal PH levels.

“Since my family had so many sensitivities, I like the fact that I know what’s in it and that it is natural and safe.  I majored in chemistry and with my background of art and science along with culinary, I guess I am like a ‘mixologist’,” Michelle laughs.

Though she never planned to start her own business, Michelle’s sister encouraged her with entrepreneurial goals. Michelle began her skin and hair products in 2002 and in 2004 she also started a tutorial business called “Think Tank Tutorial”.

“I am currently getting a Demeter and organic certification for bodycare. If you have a patch of land a mile from the road, you can start your own herb garden and get the whole area certified as a supplier. Eventually, I have in mind to get my own manufacturing area on my parents’ property in Dayton,” Michelle says.

Today, Michelle has a line of nine products ranging from the hair tonic, the shampoo, whipped Shea butter, facial body oil and dead sea salts with an herb mixture that she creates during the spring or winter months.

“I felt that others may have issues like I had and need relief. I created three varieties of salts ‘because it deals with the person's personality. Some people like to relax with floral scents and some people like to heighten their mental capacity with a lemony scent and others like to revitalize and have their muscles stimulated with an invigorating type scent,” Michelle clarifies.

She also came up with the titles of the salts, naming them Lady Day Salts, which is the floral scent, Einstein, which is the lemon scent, and Hercules, which is the invigorating scent.

“Studies have shown that lemon scent enhances cognitive function and the capacity to regain memory – that is the reason I call it Einstein. I also have one for ‘tired dogs’,” Michelle says. “It’s a bath salt for the feet in case you don’t want to do the full tub, but just a foot basin. I called it ‘Tired Dogs’ because my dad is a fan of Dick Tracy and all of those old movies and I always loved Jimmy Cagney - he would always say, ‘oh, my dogs are tired,’ " Michelle laughs.

In 2007, Michelle received her certification in aroma-therapy from the American College of Healthcare Sciences and her certification in esthetics from Chattanooga State in 2011. She will soon have national certification license for aroma-therapy and her State Board of Tennessee license in esthetics.

“In the near future, I would love to have a wellness center that will bring different modalities – conventional as well as alternative - a place that houses medicine and keeps the all-natural flair incorporating healing from different cultures such as hydrotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, aroma therapy, Pilates, herbalism and massage healing,” Michelle says.

With her passion for creating, Michelle also has a desire for quality. “I like body care products and I like 100 percent natural. I have been blessed to help soothe the souls of the suffering and I think that is what my parents bestowed on me as a child – care for my well-being,” Michelle says.

“I wanted to somehow formulate that in a bottle and give people a piece of my well-being from how I grew up.”

To reach Michelle for more information on her products email her at: MichelleNeubel@yahoo.com or visit her facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Michelles-Herbal-Products/302181993186284

jen@jenjeffrey.com


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