We sat down with MUN Skincare founder Munemi Imai to find out why good skin is vital for makeup application and how attitudes in the wellness industry have changed over the years.
What does MUN stand for?
It’s a shortened version of my name, Munemi. Also, Moon is one of my nicknames, and MUN is pronounced as Moon.
How did the conception of MUN come about?
The idea of launching my own skincare line started brewing while I was consulting for Japanese corporation Kao on their prestigious line est cosmetics back in 2008 as an NYC based freelance makeup artist. There were some trial and errors along the way, but I learned and gained a lot through the process. By the beginning of 2010, I knew I wanted to create an effective botanical based skincare line that incorporates aromatherapy (which I was studying at the time). That summer I took a research trip to Morocco looking for interesting ingredients to formulate with. During that first trip, I came upon Prickly Pear Seed Oil. I also serendipitously met my (eventual) business partner Anas on the return flight from Casablanca to JFK. We were assigned seats next to each other and talked throughout the flight and exchanged contact info. One thing led to another and it didn’t take too long before he joined the venture. We launched the original version of the Aknari Brightening Youth Face Serum in May of 2012.
The range focuses mainly on anti-ageing and radiance, was there a particular reason for this?
Yes. Anti-ageing part, because when I started developing this project, I was in mid-30’s and started seeing the signs of ageing that I wasn’t seeing before such as under eye dark circles and fine lines, and I wanted to create the product that would help address them. The radiance part is a lot to do with my experiences as a freelance makeup artist. We all want that healthy “glow”. We makeup artists are always looking for a “pick me up” product as a skin prep, and our AKNARI Brightening Youth Serum is just that. When you have a healthy glowing complexion, you don’t need much makeup.
If someone was new to the brand what would you suggest they try first?
That’s a tough one. Because I always ask people what they are looking for and what their skin concerns are before making suggestions. But if I had to choose, it would be AKNARI Brightening Youth Serum. Because it was our first product and represents so much about the brand; pure, simple yet effective.
Do you have a favourite ingredient in the range? What do you love about it?
Prickly Pear Seed Oil. I love everything about it – from the superior anti-ageing and brightening benefits to how sustainable and environmentally friendly it is.
Some benefits (to name a few): it reduces the appearance of fine lines, helps prevent premature wrinkle formation, brightens dark under-eye circles, calms redness, helps relieve sunburn, and brightens and evens the complexion.
The Vitamin E found in Prickly Pear Seed Oil is the highest of any plant oil on the market (3 times higher than Argan oil). It is also very high in Linoleic Acid (Essential Fatty Acid), which is proven to lighten sun-induced hyperpigmentation, protect and strengthen the skin barrier, lower water loss and retain moisture. Other beneficial components include Vitamin K, which helps brighten under-eye dark circles, reduce spider veins and broken capillaries, and Zinc, which helps reduce redness and inflammation from acne lesions and decreases oil production.
It’s also high in Phytosterols, especially Beta-Sitosterol, which provides antioxidants, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The combination of Phytosterols and natural essential fatty acids works well for anti-ageing concerns and encourages new collagen production.
Being a makeup artist, why is good skin so important to you and your clients?
I started in the 90s when there was no Photoshop, we were shooting on film and Polaroid. To be able to create flawless looking skin no matter what the subject’s skin condition was so important and valued. We would spend time perfecting the base. After moving to NYC, I met Matin, a celebrity makeup artist who has worked closely with Laura Mercier, who told me that when you have made the skin beautiful, 90% of your job as a makeup artist is a success, and that left a lasting impression on me. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with people with acne and breakouts and no matter how beautiful their facial structure might be, that really made them feel insecure and uncomfortable. Also, I’ve learned through working with people from all over the world, with different skin tones and varying definitions of beauty, that there is one universal beauty: a clear, beautiful complexion.
What are your favourite things to do when you’re not working?
A good question. The thing is that longer my company goes, I have no time but work. I was reading an article earlier this year about the founder of a company who said in the interview that people ask him what his hobbies are all the time, but the reality is he doesn’t have time for hobbies.” And I agree with him. The company becomes your “life”. But I still love to sleep. It’s the best thing for rest, stress relief and skin. So I suppose a good sleep at night is my favourite thing to do when I am not working. And a lot of times, I also enjoy cooking. It takes my mind away from work to be creative and be in the moment.
How do you think attitudes to skincare and wellness have changed over the last year/years?
I think people are definitely more keen to make healthier food choices. Health is wealth, and it would be even better if it’s connected with consciously consuming; where the food comes from, how it is grown, what are the impacts of your choices. Also, the connection between food and skin has been realised. I feel that we are seeing a big expansion of interests in “natural/botanical based” products, and it’s connected with the health of both ourselves and the planet. We are proving that botanical-based products really work and continue to get more and more sophisticated! What’s better than this?
What motivates you in the morning?
Responsibility for work and possibilities to make differences in people’s lives even if it’s just one person at a time.
Where would you like to see MUN in the next 5 years?
I have so many different ideas that I am yet to share the details of my vision. But I know that we’ll grow and be distributed in more countries to keep spreading our signature #munglow !!