A few months ago, I had the pleasure of not only getting to try the gorgeous, amazing and truly magical No.1 Aknari Brightening Youth Serum from MUN, a luxurious organic skin care line. I treated it as if were gold in a bottle because it was just. That. Glorious. Containing the age-busting prickly pear seed oil (also called “Aknari”) paired with rose and argan oils, this is not your run of the mill serum. It’s luxurious, and perfect for a nighttime beauty routine. Paired with MUN’s No.11 Anarose Rejuvenating Rose Toner… this combination hits it out of the park. One of my favorite finds of last year, hands down!
Instead of a long love letter that is 800 words long (I could do it, I tell ya!), I am going to share a Q&A that I had the pleasure of conducting with MUN’s founder, Munemi Imai. Not only is she a badass high profile makeup artist, but she has a wealth of knowledge on powerful organic skincare ingredients. And…she’s kind. And awesome. READ!
No.1 Aknari Brightening Youth Serum has truly glowing reviews across the board. What makes your formula stand out among other natural serums? How did you develop it?
What makes it special would be the main ingredient, prickly pear seed oil. When I first came across this oil on my first research trip to Morocco in 2010, I was amazed by the fast results I saw on my then-developing under-eye dark circles and fine lines…and also how it made my skin baby soft.
Prickly pear seed oil is loaded with high contents of essential fatty acids and antioxidants; it is the king of the oils for anti-aging.
It’s also rich in amino acids, which stimulate collagen production to promote faster cell turn over. It has vitamin K, which is beneficial to brighten under-eye dark circles and also promote skin elasticity. However, there was a challenge to this amazing oil…
Despite a very high content of vitamin E – a natural antioxidant and preservative – prickly pear seed oil is very unstable without an additional stabilizer or extra preservative, due to a very high amount of linoleic acid (omega 6) that takes up about 60 percent of the chemical components of this oil. This is what we were also told by our lab in the U.S. That means the effectiveness of the oil would degrade fast without an additional stabilizer or preservative. The oil also experiences accelerated degradation when stored in a clear container, as opposed to a dark glass bottle to cut the light exposure… and direct contact to air (oxygen) is even worse.
We went through so many producers and suppliers in Morocco as this oil depends on the producer. When we met the oldest producer of the oil in the country who’s been producing the oil since the 1960s. He told us that without a stabilizer, the oil would be only good for six months. However, over the course of his long practice and experiments, he found out that combining the prickly pear seed oil with a certain percentage of argan oil would extend the effectiveness of the oil a lot longer. So it became the serum’s second ingredient.
Essential oils serve as a natural preservative on top on their therapeutic effects and fragrance. They help penetrate the oil into the skin a lot faster than when pure oils are applied on skin. The pure prickly pear seed oil has a pretty hard nutty smell that’s rather unpleasant, and I wanted to bring a pleasant and luxurious experience of the fragrance and fast penetration by combining it with aromatherapy.
To avoid the light contact, we use miron glass, specially developed to cut all the UV rays and preserve organic substances. Also, to avoid air contact, we chose the pump top so the customers don’t expose the oil to the air each time it’s opened. We produce small batches from the women’s cooperative we work with.
The final product is a raw and simple formula that is made with Ecocert highest quality ingredients that work wonderfully together and have perfect synergy to deliver the results. Countless test formulas were made and several final test formulas were sent to our testers for sampling before finally deciding on which one. It ended up that pretty much everyone loved the simple rose scent, which was essential oil blend “no.1,” so that also became part of the name, No.1 Aknari.
The No. 11 Anarose Rejuvenating Rose Toner is your newest product. A lot of people still don’t understand the importance of a good toner. Can you explain why it’s essential to any beauty regimen?
I came from Japan, a big toner culture. A lot of people in Japan will invest in a good toner rather than creams. Toner is what gives the skin water hydration on the skin’s surface after cleansing and it also restores the pH balance. When you are in a humid place, your skin feels hydrated from the moisture in the air, but water evaporates in drier climates without other moisture-binding ingredients in it. Our toner is a water and rose water base with other moisture binding ingredients: antioxidants and anti-aging properties to give you soft and supple skin. Also, it gently removes built up dead skin cells to enhance the performance of your skin treatment that follows.
The right toner can give the skin a healthy glow and fresh feeling after cleansing and throughout a day. It gives the skin the foundation for a deeper penetration of your serum or moisturizer. It works best when applied with a cotton pad, so if there are any traces of residue after cleansing, it will remove it. I start prepping models and clients’ skin with a toner on clean skin every time to make a good canvas to work on.
Can you give us a behind the scenes look into MUN’s headquarters? How are your products mixed up and packaged, and what’s the culture like?
We are based in NYC. Our core team is very international. I am from Japan and have been in the beauty business for 20+ years. My business partner, Anass, is from Morocco, and went to a business school here in NYC. He has a financial background and is very smart. The very reason he came on board with this company was because of the vision he always had: to have a business that connects his native country of Morocco to the whole world. We think very differently because of our different backgrounds, but it’s great in regards to how many different ideas come out from both of us and what we can bring to the table. Dora, who is our window to the retailers, is from Croatia. She also went to business school, and has a lot of experience in the retail world. She is such a hard worker and has a very accommodating personality – everyone just loves to work with her. Aymane is Anass’s brother and deals with a lot of logistical matters. He studied international relations and political science. He is concerned with the world affairs and is a very sweet person.
It’s a very interesting mix of a team that I am blessed to work with. We work with a couple of FDA approved facilities to produce our products. They can accommodate our small batch productions. We have been lucky to work with understanding and flexible places, when most facilities won’t even talk to you unless you meet their huge numbers of minimums.
It’s a challenge for a boutique brand like us, that deals with precious raw materials, to find manufacturers that understand and support the way we practice small batch sustainable production.
What’s next for MUN? Can you give us in the inside scoop on your plans for 2015/2016?
We are planning to launch two more products this year… and please stay tuned for 2016!
… and there you have it: straight from the creator herself! Thank you so much, Munemi, for letting us pick your brain and give us a behind the scenes look at your amazing brand. We feel so lucky to have collaborated on this with you!