Munemi Imai is the founder of MŪN, an organic and green beauty skincare line made with 100% natural ingredients sourced responsibly.
Green beauty lovers, you simply cannot miss this incredible interview. We chat with green beauty hero and makeup artist Munemi Imai, the founder of the beloved organic skincare line MŪN, about her obsession with New York City, the reason why you should use prickly seed oil in your beauty routine, and how your purchasing choices can have a positive effect in society.
I personally fell in love with MŪN as soon as I tried their latest product, the AMAN Protect + Revive Moisturizer ($65.) A perfect transitional moisturizer for this crazy weather, it is a gel cream light enough to be used during the Indian Summer, yet powerful enough to deliver enough moisture and nutrition to the pickiest of skins. A completely natural formula, it focuses on reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, evening out the skin tone, and most importantly, protecting skin from urban pollutants and environmental stress.
Do you want to know what makes this green beauty brand with a social impact even more special? Meet Munemi Imai and her views about slow living, sustainability, and organic cosmetics.
Mun is a complete skincare line that has just a few hand-picked references. Why do you keep your line short and sweet?
Munemi Imai: “I worked as a freelance makeup artist in Tokyo and NYC for many years, so I was always running around and traveling with a suitcase full of makeup. I needed my skincare kit to be compact with essentials that are gentle enough for most skin types, multi-tasking, and effective. Also, in my heritage Japanese culture, we appreciate craftsmanship with simplicity and long-lasting high quality. Combined with both of these in my background, I wanted to create skin care products that become essentials for a very long time – something timeless.”
On your website, you mention that you discovered clean eating after a brief illness. Did that inspire you to create a clean skincare brand?
Munemi Imai: “Absolutely. It was a natural progression after eating very strict and clean for a couple of months. Not only did my body feel better, but I also felt better mentally. So that was my wake-up call, and I started reading books about how we could be consuming potentially harmful substances through food and personal care. By that point, I was already starting my own skincare line and had spent a lot of time thinking about it and researching the process, so I knew that I’d incorporate botanical ingredients in the formula. This new info made me determined to create a product that was really green with high organic content (I wanted it to be a force for promoting organic farming to protect our soil even if it was really small) and using only high-quality raw ingredients that perform for the signs of aging I was starting to seeing – under-eye dark circles to fine lines. And the result is our best seller, AKNARI Brightening Youth Serum.”
Do you have a superhero ingredient?
Munemi Imai: “Yes! Prickly pear seed oil. I love everything about it – from the superior anti-aging and brightening benefits to how sustainable and environmentally friendly the crop 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 complexion.
The vitamin E found in prickly pear seed oil is the highest of any plant oil on the market (3x higher than argan oil). It is also very high in linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid), which has been proven to lighten sun-induced hyperpigmentation, protect the skin barrier, lower water loss, and retain moisture. Other beneficial components include vitamin K, which helps 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 and antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The combination of phytosterols and natural essential fatty acids works well for anti-aging concerns and encourages new collagen production.”
Mun skincare products have a positive impact in society. Can you tell us a bit more about how you help Berber women in Morocco?
Munemi Imai: “Yes, I was so fortunate to be connected with these incredible ladies. When I was working on the concept and business model of the brand, I wanted to have a “give back” element. First, I thought about looking into a charity to donate a part of the profit. Then, the more I spoke with people who started their own charities, I learned that simply giving money for free can hurt someone’s pride. Instead, when you can contribute to creating an economy/jobs in the community, it provides positive empowerment. It took us time to decide which suppliers to go with for our prickly pear seed oil, but when I tapped our current company, it turned out that they were a woman run supplier who worked with a network of women’s co-ops. It was a dream come true. As we grew, they also grew, and have added more than 20 jobs since we started working with them. My business partner, who is a native Moroccan of Berber heritage, visits them sometimes. Once he asked what they want and how we can help, and they told him that they want more work. They are really enjoying their work and having a way of making income to contribute to their household, setting up the fund for their children’s education and healthcare. We source three main ingredients from them: prickly pear seed oil, argan oil, and olive oil. It has been a pure pleasure to work with them.”
What does beauty mean to you?
Munemi Imai: “I’ve been in the beauty industry since I was 17, and I’ve seen both the positive and negative impacts that come with pursuing being more a beautiful version of yourself and caring about what the fashion and beauty companies dictate to society as ideal beauty. When I witnessed the negative side, I seriously doubted what I do as work. But along the way, I also met wonderful people whose story and attitude not only gave people a light, but also inspired and changed the way many see what’s beautiful, including former top plus size model Kate Dillon to ever iconic Linda Rodin. And I’ve seen a lot of good beauty has done for people. The important thing to remember is that beauty is what you define for yourself. Don’t let others decide what’s beautiful for you. The most lasting beauty I’ve ever experienced were the kind souls. Not the outer beauty. Beauty is everywhere if you pay attention and look around. Embrace your own uniqueness and be kind to others and yourself. When we are not pressured by what society may suggest as the standard of beauty, we are free, you can be comfortable in your own skin, respect your body and eat healthily and feel good about who you are. There is only one you in this world. Celebrate all your goodness. Cheers!”
How do you define green skincare?
Munemi Imai: “I’d talk about “green beauty” in general. These days there are more and more companies with “clean beauty” products and branding, and green beauty has sort of been mixed in with clean beauty, but I think there are differences. For me, green beauty companies care very much about their environmental impact – from the ingredients they use to their packaging and the efficacy of their products. So, I’d like to say that green beauty products are more consciously made from start to finish thinking of both the consumers’ and the planet’s health. Clean beauty is all about non-toxic. Green beauty brands focus on using botanical and naturally-derived ingredients in their formulation beyond just being non-toxic, clean beauty brands use both botanicals and synthetic based on what they define toxic and non-toxic, but not necessary looking into how the ingredients were treated with other chemicals to be made. Sometimes I feel that the marketing messages that come out from “clean beauty” are just scare tactics. Your blush is not going to kill you. But fear and stress can make you ill. I love green beauty because they are the products that are not only good for you but are kinder to our planet as well.”
Do you use any synthetic ingredients in your formulas?
Munemi Imai: “That depends on how you define synthetic ingredients. As simple as making tea goes, tea leaves are synthetized in hot water. But for most of us, tea is pretty natural right? All of our ingredients are naturally derived from vegan sources, but some do go through a few processes in a lab with our green chemistry specialist to create our final ingredients. ”
What is your favorite MUN product and why?
Munemi Imai: “That is a very hard question to answer as it’s like asking who your favorite child is! I use all of our face products and body serum daily and would not want to miss any of them! That’s another reason why MUN is so tightly edited. I’d like the collection to be with just essentials.”
Cary Caster, the founder of the aromatherapy brand 21 Drops, has left this question for you: What makes your heart sing?
Munemi Imai: “Nothing makes me happier than positive feedback about how much our customers enjoy our products and love what we do. Thank you emails from the customers, happy and supportive comments on social media. Doing this business is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I work extremely hard. Some days, I wonder why I even started doing this if something is so hard. But it’s all worth it when I hear that positive feedback and the support from our customers. And it’s great to know that my efforts and products helped people and made them happy.”
What would you like to ask our next interviewee?
Munemi Imai: “This is what I don’t really think about, so I am curious… What’s your dream retired life look like?”
Finally, for our Beginners in New York, what is your favorite restaurant, place, and season in New York City?
Munemi Imai: “Longtime favorite restaurant would be CookShop. Their ingredients are sourced from sustainable practices, and they work closely with local farmers. And the food has always been good!
With regards to places, I like the Met, Central Park, Grand Central station, Lincoln center. They are all NYC’s landmarks and every time I get to see them, their beauty always amazes me.
Finally, I love Fall in NYC, especially when the color is changing in Central Park. Though it could be cold, Holiday time in NYC is so beautiful with decorative lights, Xmas trees, and special window displays.”