International makeup artist Munemi Imai radically changed her life after a brief illness and developed MŪN: a line of skincare based on wild harvested botanical oils and serums featuring prickly pear seed oil. Imai’s makeup artistry has featured in leading fashion magazines and on faces like Solange Knowles, Christy Turlington, Adriana Lima, Miranda Kerr, Naomi Campbell and Elle Macpherson. She spoke with us about her transition from makeup to organic skincare, and the benefits of MŪN’s key Moroccan ingredients.
Parvati Magazine: You started off as a makeup artist and worked internationally for Vogue, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, Instyle and many more. What did you love about this career and what are some notable things that you learned working in this industry?
Munemi Imai: What I loved the most being a freelance artist in the fashion industry in NYC was that you could meet and work with people from absolutely all over the world. It was like a global village with a very creative vibe. I am not sure what would be the most notable thing, but being the color consultant to Kao, the Japanese corporation, for five years to create their prestige line’s seasonal collection elevated my experience as a makeup artist. Seeing and learning how the cosmetics were made from a concept to the actual products was amazing. But the most important thing I learned throughout my career is that we are all the same under our skin.
PMAG: Why did your illness motivate you to segue into creating MUN?
MI: I knew I wanted to create an effective green skin care line that incorporates aromatherapy. That summer, I took a research trip to Morocco looking for interesting ingredients to formulate with and came upon Prickly Pear Seed Oil. I also serendipitously met my eventual business partner on the return flight from Casablanca to JFK. We were assigned to the seats next to each other and talked throughout the flight and exchanged contact info. One thing led to another and we launched the original version of the Aknari Brightening Youth Face Serum in May of 2012.
How Prickly Pear Seed Oil Heals
PMAG: Prickly pear seed oil is a featured ingredient in your products. Can you explain some of its benefits and uses?
MI: I love everything about it – from the superior anti-aging and brightening benefits to how sustainable and environmentally friendly of a crop it is. To name a few benefits: 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 (three times higher than argan oil). It is also very high in linoleic acid (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.
PMAG: What are some other ingredients that you find to be beneficial for all skin types?
MI: There are many wonderful ingredients out there but some people could have allergic reactions or dislikes of certain scents. However, ingredients like hyaluronic acid are beneficial to all as we have them in our skin, but our skin loses them as we age. Using products with hyaluronic acid can plump and help the skin retain moisture. Also, niacinamide (Vitamin B3) has fantastic skin benefits while having a very low risk of irritating skin. It enhances the skin’s barrier protection, refines skin texture and pores, brightens and provides a more even-toned skin.
PMAG: Tell us about your latest product launch.
Anti-aging and Anti-pollution Niacinamide Benefits
MI: It’s called AMAN Protect + Revive Moisturizer. AMAN means “water” in Berber. Berbers are the indigenous people in Morocco. We use Berber names for our products to honor the women’s co-op we have been working with in Morocco to source some of our main ingredients.
It is formulated with Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), vitamins and antioxidant-rich desert-harvested oils including prickly pear seed oil and Australian desert fruit extracts among other key ingredients. This protective moisturizer improves the skin’s barrier function and increases moisture to effectively brighten while boasting anti-aging and anti-pollution benefits. It is a lightweight yet very moisturizing formula. It is easy to incorporate to one’s routine and suitable for even the most sensitive skin.
MŪN founder Munemi Imai has worked in top runway shows, magazines, and with celebrities around the world. Today Munemi dedicates herself to growing her results-driven skin care line, and remains an active makeup artist. An avid juicer and believer in aromatherapy, she passionately advocates living a green lifestyle.