Meet the makers behind Flynn & King, a natural skincare line born from the tiny Brooklyn living rooms of Corina McDonnell and Summer Dinh Manske. It's no surprise that goods labeled 'all natural' might not quite be the case. Upon discovering that the FDA doesn't regulate what ingredients get listed on skincare products, Corina and Summer set out to educate themselves and learn how to make truly natural products from simple ingredients. They became their own test subjects, and after finally perfecting the formulas, they bring us Flynn & King. Read through our interview with Corina as she walks us through their process for taking better care of our skin. Catch Flynn & King at the Brooklyn Makers Holiday Bazaar at 501 Union.
What’s the story behind Flynn & King? Was there an ah-ha moment that made you realize the skincare industry needed change?
Summer and I worked at a Williamsburg salon and apothecary that focused on natural products. We quickly learned that not all of the products that claimed to be "natural" were actually so. How this was possible?! We did some research and found that the FDA doesn't control cosmetics and skincare, and that it is actually a free-for-all when it comes to labeling. We decided that we wanted to create a brand with 100% natural products with ingredients that came from good ol' Mother Earth. I like to think of it as making products like our great-grannies did, with a modern-day twist. We also wanted to show that all-natural doesn't have to be brown and crunchy. It can be fun, modern and badass!
F&K started as a “skincare club” amongst friends. We’d love to hear fun details on what these were like. A bunch of friends in your living room making all natural beauty products?
We started off meeting once a week to discuss what we learned via what we were reading, and also the research we were doing on products we liked and ones we didn't. We would make snacks and listen to music and talk about everything green beauty. We'd then shop online for organic and natural carrier oils, essential oils, butters, clays, flowers and gadgets. We love our gadgets! It was basically home-schooling for natural ingredients, taught by us!
What was the very first product you created? What’s your favorite to use now?
The first and our favorite product is the REVIVE Oil-based Cleanser. Summer & I have very different skin types, so we are a great test group in order to create products that are suitable for all skin types. I have dry, sensitive skin with bouts of eczema and have always struggled to find a product that was cleansing, but not over-drying. Summer has naturally oily and acneic skin and struggles with issues of seborrheic dermatitis. We wanted to create a product that was natural, non-drying, but effective at cleansing. We started with rosehip seed oil, which is one of our favorite oils because of the amazing anti-aging and hydrating properties. We then made homemade castile soap to mix into the luxurious oils, which gave it the consistency of a cream cleanser. You get all of the benefits from oil-cleansing, but without the greasy aftermath.
What goes into your decision making process when sourcing all natural ingredients?
We generally start with identifying the properties that we want to achieve, and then we search for cold-pressed, organic, and sustainable ingredients. We're very choosy with our purchases, and if we can't afford the best quality, we will wait until we can. We absolutely consider the economic and ecological impact of our purchases as well. Many soap makers use palm oil in their recipes because it is good for soaping, but not so for the environment. Palm oil creates many ecological issues with deforestation in the rainforest and subsequently destroys the natural habitat and food source for the people and animals of that area. We try to leave as small of a footprint on the earth when sourcing our ingredients as possible.
Your beauty mission is do good, look great and you’ve developed the Do Good Collaborations to give back to marginalized communities. In what ways have you found skincare and beauty products to be empowering?
We work with the Center Against Domestic Violence and we donate our rebatched soaps and extra products. There are pieces left over from our hand-cut soaps, and they can be melted down and remade into new bars. I once read an article that said that one of the largest costs for city shelters and rehab centers is soap, and I knew right away that we would try to help as many as we can with our extra soaps. The women at the CADV are inspired by a small women-run company, and they are so appreciative that we take the time and effort to give them a little something special. I think it really brightens their day, and they inspire us by remaining so positive after the awful experiences that themselves and their family have endured.
Do you have any not-so-secret tips on just simply loving and owning your skin?
Drink plenty of water and change your pillowcase more frequently! Time-saving tip: when I change my sheets, I put two pillowcases on my main sleeping pillow and 3 days in, pull the top one off. Now you have a clean one to make it until the next change! Any oils in your hair or on your face are easily absorbed by the cotton and redistributed back onto you face as you sleep, when your skin is hardest at work repairing itself. Also, don't be afraid of natural oils. Many people think that they should shy away from oil-based products because they don't want to breakout, but that is a huge misconception! When you strip your skin with detergents and harsh chemicals, your skin will overproduce sebum (oil) to hydrate your dehydrated skin and will cause breakouts. However, if you give your skin the moisture it needs and don't strip away the natural oils, then there is no need for it to produce excess sebum, and you will see very few breakouts. I'd say the #1 most important tip we have, though, is read your ingredients! We are very transparent and list all ingredients on our labels and website, and don't hide behind "proprietary recipe” loopholes. You need to know what you’re applying, so that you know what works for you and what doesn't.
Lastly, what does being a Brooklyn maker mean to you?
Being a Brooklyn Maker is extremely inspiring! We are very lucky to have access to so many creative people in our lives. We would not have been able to create our dream brand if it weren't for our amazingly generous and talented friends helping us and supporting us along the way.