An Interview with Bibimbap Skincare’s Lynn Mueller

As an equestrian, skincare is super important. We are constantly exposed to the elements, and pre-mature aging is a constant battle – I like to keep the leather look for my tack, not my face. I’ve been a beauty product addict since 7th grade, and I love trying out any beauty product I can get my hands on (Sephora is a very dangerous place for me). Scrolling through Instagram one day, I found Bibimbap Skin, a new Korean-influenced skincare line created by a competitive equestrian to turn back time – and my excitement could not be contained. I love supporting small businesses and I think it is super cool that I can ask the person who created the products a question if I have one – and as it turns out, I had a lot of questions, and Lynn was kind enough to let me share her answers.

What made you decide to create a skincare line?

LYNN MUELLER: I decided to create a skincare line because I struggled with skin issues for YEARS.  I had really bad acne starting in middle school and it got to the point where in high school and college, I was a grade 3 – which is almost the worst kind of acne you can have (grade 0 being totally clear, and grade 4 being the worst).  In addition to acne and oily skin, I also had a ton of hyperpigmentation from scarring and somehow managed to have super dry patches all at once.  It was incredibly frustrating, not to mention terrible for self-esteem, so I always would put on a ton of foundation and a full face of makeup when leaving the house.  After I finished my undergrad, I moved to Korea for two years to attend grad school and work (I’m a Korean adoptee, so it was a really great experience to live in “the motherland” for that long). Over in Korea, it was crazy to see how great everyone’s skin looked.  There is a very different view of skincare there, and it’s a booming industry.  People (both men and women) tend to regard their skincare routines as “me time,” a time to really take care of yourself and make yourself feel good.  They are very careful about selecting products that work for them, and skincare products are formulated with both clinical and natural ingredients. In contrast, think of that orange Neutrogena acne wash that most of used as teens – all chemicals, and it made most of our skin worse than it started. I started trying different formulations and my skin improved a ton over there. I realized that a lot of my issues stemmed from being able to find a product with a combination of both natural and clinical ingredients that worked effectively but wasn’t irritating – which can be tough to find in the US.  I wanted to create a skincare line not just to address the needs of those who want to take care of their skin and address anti-aging issues, etc., but to also help others find the confidence and inspiration that can come from looking in the mirror and being happy with what you see.  I never thought I’d see the day when I was finally acne-free and not battling oil and flakiness all at the same time, but it finally came – and I’m hoping to help others obtain the same results.

How does being an equestrian inspire your products and how does it set them apart?

LM: As an equestrian, I understand the absolute beating that our skin takes!  We’re out in all sorts of weather, whether we’re boarding in a heated barn or traversing through the fields to feed the horses every morning. Then there’s horse shows – I’ve found that this is another instance where we often forget to take care of ourselves, as we are so focused on the wellbeing of our horses! We remember to ice, wrap legs, and get our horses sports massages before and after our big classes, but most of the time, we find ourselves forgetting to put on sunscreen or drink water, collapsing into bed without washing our faces, and oh right, eating lunch, what’s that? As a result, our skin often protests – that’s when we see sunburns, irritated skin, hives, rashes, pimples, and dark spots.  My products set themselves apart because they are formulated to address specific issues that we encounter as equestrians: Antioxidants from the damage we encounter daily, anti-aging ingredients to turn back time from fine lines and sun damage after spending all day at the barn, and healing powers to take care of eczema and hives that inevitably we all get – from fur, or even sweaty chafing – even if we aren’t specifically allergic to horses.

Do equestrians need to take care of their skin differently than others? If so, how?

LM: Truth be told, ALL people need to take care of their skin, equestrians included. However, where equestrians need to take extra care of their skin (and this may differ from people who spend most of their time indoors or are not involved with animals) is in the area of environmental damage. Sun damage isn’t the only thing that can cause issues with skin – and we are definitely out in the sun a lot (cough, why is the ring always running 2 hours late when I swear there were only 5 trips ahead of me…)! Being exposed to so many different types of environmental stressors is a big issue for equestrians. Think of one day over the weekend at the barn in the winter: You may have picked your stall (dust), then groomed your horse (itchy fur), ridden (sweated all over/oil), then walked your horse back out to the pasture and cleaned your tack (wind, snow, ice, dry skin).  Because of so much exposure within a short period of time, skin can then react – think breakouts, dryness, even just dullness in general when ideally we would be seeing a clear and radiant face. Being careful to wash your face both morning and night, instead of falling asleep with dirt all over or just using a makeup wipe (they do NOT get all the dirt off!) is super important to keeping everything as clear as possible. In addition, the right hydration is important. Too rich, and our already sensitized skin will just break out or get a rash, but too light, and it wont work. A good serum is also vital to combating all of this damage by healing, restructuring, and providing nutrients for your skin to regenerate and heal itself.

What are some key ingredients equestrians should look for in their skincare products? 

LM: First, I’ll touch base on what should NOT be in products – sulfates and parabens! These are chemicals that can be very damaging and can actually cause hormonal damage. They also have been studied to cause cancer in animals. That being said, I feel that cruelty-free products are a must, regardless of the ingredients. Some key ingredients that equestrians should look for in their skincare products include soothing ingredients like chamomile and blue lotus. Other great ingredients include any kind of tea – the antioxidants are really powerful.  In addition, seabuckthorn is great for supplying nutrients to the skin (both face and body). Arbutin is also excellent for protecting skin from free radical damage.

How did you go about formulating your products? 

LM: I actually used to work for a dermatologist who specialized in both medical and cosmetic dermatology, so I drew a lot of experience about products and formulations from this doctor. Also, fun fact, I’m a med school dropout, so even though I didn’t finish, I still learned a ton about skin! In addition to this practical experience, I did a lot of research both independently and also worked very closely with the lab that I found to create the products, so I could produce products with the results I wanted – but still keep the ingredient combinations safe.

Do you have any sunscreen recommendations? 

LM: I love Drunk Elephant’s Umbra Tinte sunscreen.  It doesn’t melt off and gives you a nice glow.  I used to use Dr. Jart’s Every Sun Day sunscreen, but I recently found out that the company does heavy animal testing, so I’ve chosen to stop using that product.

Do you think there’s a big difference in budget vs pricier skincare products?

LM: YES, there is a difference.  Some types of skincare products, like body lotion for example, do the job regardless of the brand – say a basic moisturizer by Target’s Up and Up generic brand, vs. the “compare to” brand St. Ives.  Same ingredients like aloe vera, glycerin, same stuff.  However, where facial skincare comes into play, the ingredients and manufacturing have a big difference. With budget skincare, manufacturing processes may not be done by hand, and ingredients may come from “cheaper” sources or be of lesser quality. They also tend to have more fillers and even chemicals like those dreaded parabens and sulfates to preserve the products.  In addition, the packaging may not be as effective at preserving the product itself – more expensive products may come in airless dispensers or be opaque rather than clear, in order to prevent the product inside from being exposed to light, air, or other areas that would cause the product to oxidize or otherwise degrade – meaning that those products would last longer.  Think of a Vitamin C serum, for example.  There may be a $20 Neutrogena Vitamin C serum that comes in a clear bottle. Yes, it’s cheaper, but once that serum comes into contact with the light and is exposed to air, it will oxidize and in 6 months is no good. Compare this to Drunk Elephant’s Vitamin C serum (which is a great product!). This item does run a good $80. However, it comes in an opaque bottle with an airless dispenser, so the product will last until you use it up, essentially – no oxidation and it remains effective. Manufacturing also plays a role. If a company uses an in-house laboratory that organically distills oils and other botanicals, without animal testing and with ethical manufacturing processes, the ingredients are more expensive to produce, thus raising the price of the product. Meanwhile, if “botanicals” are derived from a mass-produced, cheaper source with who knows what (possibly unethical) manufacturing or hiring processes, yes they might be the same ingredient by name (chamomile, for example), but the quality of the ingredient itself will not be as effective. Therefore, you may blow through more of that inexpensive product (thus spending the same amount of money as if you purchased one bottle of the pricier product in comparison), and the inexpensive product will likely not be as effective – if it does anything at all to help your skin. This is actually a really good article for further reference, using a cream for comparison:

Shop Bibimbap Skin’s full skincare line here.

Follow Bibimbap Skin on Instagram here, and on Facebook here.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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