My great grandpa, Heinrich Gerling, died a few weeks ago in his hometown — a small village called Preetz, located in the northern part of Germany. He died just a few days before his 101st birthday.
My family is all in okay spirits after his passing, but I’ve been thinking about his life so much lately. How in the 1950’s he and my great grandma escaped the chaos of East Germany and started with nothing in West Germany. They were poorer than poor. I could tell you stories that would blow your mind. I’ve also been thinking about my grandma’s life and how she immigrated to the States as a 17 year-old, pregnant with my mom. Incredibly brave.
It got me thinking that many of you may not know the story behind the name of my brand, Berlin Skin, and how this is something so close to my heart.
Here is a picture of my Grandma Ute and I in Portland. She’s the inspiration behind my line and a skin guru.
She’s also a true entrepreneur and always modeled hard work for me when I was growing up. Her latest venture? She remodeled an old house on an island in the Northwest and turned it into an epic Airbnb. In her 70’s. No big deal.
It all started with my Great Grandma (Ute’s mom) who used to literally cake vaseline on her face every single night. Legend has it that on her death bed she had not one single wrinkle. While the vaseline method wouldn’t be my first recommendation, our philosophy of protecting the skin’s moisture barrier remains the same. This approach has been passed down from generation to generation. I grew up with my grandma always sternly reminding me to not strip the skin of it’s natural oils, and to never use “soap” for cleansing. AKA, stay away from those sulfates, baby.
When I started getting cystic acne in my early 20’s, I tried every product under the sun, hoping for a miracle. I used stuff from the dermatologist and the department stores alike. Nothing was working. Then, when I started following a holistic lifestyle, my acne cleared up within a month. I couldn’t believe it.
This is when my passion for natural living and using plants in skincare really began. I started studying about all sorts of different botanicals and their uses on what they provided for the skin and mind. I guess you could say, I was “nerding out” on plants. It was fascinating to me and I wanted to share it with everyone I knew.
A few months later I was hanging out with my Grandma Ute at our condo in Portland, and I’ll never forget the day: we were sitting at my kitchen table, and I was sharing with her about my skin journey. She reminded me once again that we can’t be too harsh with our skin, and that we need to let it breathe and heal itself. We talked about how important it is to nurture the skin with nourishing ingredients and to not overcomplicate things.
It was like a lightbulb went on that day. The marriage of my newfound love of plants and my family’s minimalist philosophy was born. This ethos is reflected in every single thing we do at Berlin Skin: the ingredient selection, the amount of products in our line, and the fact that they are all multi-use and mixable.
What can I say? Grandma does know best.
Since Covid-19, I’ve had so many conversations with friends about how the whole situation has caused them to rethink many things in their lives — all relating around relationships, career, faith, and health. Though much of this year has been filled with pain and loss for so many, I do think the silver lining is that it’s created a shift in our culture to question why we were living a certain way before Covid.
“Why was I commuting 45 minutes to work every day?”
“Why did I trash my body with that type of food?”
“Why was I burning myself out?”
“Why didn’t I value relationships more?”
“Why was I addicted to my phone?”
For me personally, quarantine was a time where I started to do things that I hadn’t been creating space for previously: learning Spanish, reading, writing, cooking, being outside, meditating, and learning to be more present with my family. All very healthy shifts that have created new habits in my life - and these will in turn affect my son’s life in the years to come. For that alone, I’m extremely grateful for the paradigm shift of 2020 so far.
What will we leave behind to the generations that follow?
What will your legacy look like?
What will mine look like?
I can only dream that one day I’ll be able to inspire my granddaughter so much that she’ll want to start a business.
From my heart,
— Monica, Founder + CEO