“I couldn’t imagine a scenario where I had cancer,” says Alina Mehrle. At just 30 years old, reveling in the nonstop hustle of start-up culture in New York City, Mehrle was diagnosed with triple-positive breast cancer. “You have no time to be sick, and you have no time to be weak.”
Mehrle would have to tap into inner strength and learn how to navigate a wildly successful career running an architectural design studio, Asthetique, and cancer treatment. But Mehrle’s journey would awaken a new passion — familiar with beautifying physical spaces as an architect, Mehrle began thinking of how to translate this concept into skincare, but it wouldn’t be easy. “I’m an architect, [I’m] in construction development,” Mehrle says. “It’s really hard work, and it’s not beautiful like skincare.”
Before her cancer journey would inspire future success, Mehrle was surprised to receive her diagnosis — but she wasn’t completely caught off guard. “For the six months before I was diagnosed, I already knew that something was wrong with my body,” Mehrle explains. “[My] food behavior changed completely … I ate half of a watermelon and almonds and nothing else for six months. I didn’t want to eat vegetables, meat, fish — nothing. Just watermelon and almonds.”
After her diagnosis, Mehrle talked to a nutritionist and discovered that her altered eating habits were her body’s way of protecting her and letting her know something was wrong. “[The nutritionist] told me that cancer tumors need sugar to grow, and watermelon is just sugar and water. That’s the easiest way to get sugar fast. But almonds have a lot of nutrients and antioxidants, [so my body craved] something to keep me alive and something to feed the cancer,” she says.
Mehrle underwent eight sessions of chemotherapy and opted for a preventative double mastectomy. The treatments were hard on her body — her nails became brittle and she lost her hair; her skin became yellow and jaundiced. “[This was] absolutely devastating for a young woman,” Mehrle says. “The world is cruel, so it’s hard to be vulnerable and weak.”
But she never stopped working throughout eight sessions of chemotherapy. “I never [thought] I wouldn’t overcome this,” she says. “I always had this [state] of mind that this is just a phase; I will get through this.”
Mehrle wanted to focus on what she had learned from her journey — about her strength and resoluteness to never give up hope — and ignore the bad. From this, the first seeds of a new business idea began to sprout.
“[This was] absolutely devastating for a young woman. The world is cruel, so it’s hard to be vulnerable and weak.”
Asthetique, the firm she co-founded, had been running successfully for several years; following cancer treatment, Mehrle’s entrepreneurial spirit was motivated in a new direction. “I never was a skincare person, and I never did any injections or Botox,” Mehrle begins. “I always had normal, OK-ish skin, but after chemotherapy, it became so fragile and thin, and so dehydrated and yellow.”
Her doctor was the first to suggest cryotherapy — the use of extreme cold temperatures to increase blood flow to the face, which can tighten and brighten skin while reducing blemishes. He said cryotherapy could help relieve Mehrle of some of the skin-related side effects of cancer treatment. And from this idea, AMEŌN was born. “[My doctor] probably inspired me a little,” Mehrle says of her skincare brand. “He said, ‘Oh, you work too much, maybe you can do something for yourself.’”
Due to personal success with the alternative treatment, cryotherapy was Mehrle’s inspiration behind AMEŌN’s first product, Frozen Essence. Frozen Essence is a potent serum that is stored in the freezer, individually packaged to resemble ice cubes and formulated to rejuvenate the skin and reduce inflammation.
“Cryotherapy is a very ancient technique, and when you’re doing an ice massage, the blood vessels [in your face] constrict and then dilate, causing oxygen and nutrients [to flow] into the skin cells,” Mehrle explains. “It helps ingredients penetrate deeper, and you see results faster.”
Currently, AMEŌN has five skincare products, all dedicated to protecting and nourishing the skin barrier. “AMEŌN is a very personal project for me,” says Mehrle. “It was born from my skin recovery after chemotherapy and how I rejuvenated and restored it.”
“AMEŌN” comes from two words with different meanings put together to form a whole. According to Mehrle, “Âme” means “soul” in French, and “Ōn” comes from AMEŌN’s motto to “turn on your skin potential.”
“It’s a balance between two worlds that, for me, are very important,” Mehrle says. “It’s the world of spirituality and the world of modern science, achievement of medicine, design and art, and the perfect middle of these two worlds. It’s the way I see happiness, harmony and the balance of life.”
AMEŌN’s five products took Mehrle and her team almost two years to develop, given the formulas are built from scratch. “We don’t want to be just a brand for the shelves,” she says. “We want to make people happy with our products. We want to build something for them.”
Mehrle didn’t just build a brand, she built an experience. After AMEŌN launched, the company had a pop-up at New York City’s Saks 5th Avenue in early 2022, which was wildly successful. Because of this, Mehrle knew the brand needed a permanent location, and the AMEŌN Retreat Room was created within the Equinox fitness space at Rockefeller Center. There, customers can receive a one-hour “skincare ritual” from a professional esthetician, featuring AMEŌN products and designed to work all muscles of the face to lift, firm and refresh skin.
“It gives you a beautiful facial and a great skincare experience, but it also helps you feel happy,” Mehrle says. “[We teach] you how to breathe correctly [and] to make you feel like yourself, so it’s more of a holistic experience, because we really believe in the healing power of rituals.”
Mehrle even drew upon her sharp architectural and design skills with Asthetique to transform the Retreat Room into something beautiful and meaningful. From the type of marble used to the art on the walls, every artistic touch holds a deeper significance.
“We use very interesting art,” says Mehrle. “The woman who created this art found broken pieces from furniture — something that you see and think it’s junk and nobody wants it — and she combined all these pieces and created this totem. [It looks] like something perfect, something almost magical from a different world.” This sentiment mirrors Mehrle’s daily mantra: “Even when you look like a broken piece and you think nothing good will happen to you, it will,” she says.
This past July, AMEŌN won the Cosmoprof North America Award in skincare for its Frozen Essence ice cubes at the major B2B industry show in Las Vegas, Nevada. This competitive award formally recognizes the most outstanding products in skincare and is a testament to the hard work Mehrle and her team put into creating something beautiful and unique.
“Even when you look like a broken piece and you think nothing good will happen to you, it will.”
But she also wanted to help others. Because Mehrle knows firsthand the significant physical and mental effects of cancer treatment, she wanted AMEŌN to give back to those who helped and supported her through one of the toughest times in her life. Currently, Mehrle is working on expanding AMEŌN’s nonprofit arm, AMEŌN Cares. AMEŌN Cares’ latest project is its partnership with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. AMEŌN donates and raises money for life-saving breast cancer research by creating a special kind of NFT (or “nonfungible token” — sort of like digital art with monetary value). For every $100 tax-deductible donation to AMEŌN Cares, individuals will receive a human “muse” NFT as a gift. Each AMEŌN Muse is a digital representation of the soul of an AMEŌN skincare product.
“This [project] is very meaningful, because each of our five products have people who inspired us to [create] that product,” says Mehrle, “People like nurses in the hospitals, my friends, or people I saw on Instagram who were very inspirational and beautiful and gave me positive energy. I thought [about] what would be the best way to combine all of this, and we came up with the idea for digital humans. We have digital representations of physical objects. They’re all very different and a little bit magical.”
Mehrle’s long-term goal for AMEŌN Cares is to create a line of skincare for cancer patients undergoing treatment, as well as anyone experiencing skin issues related to illness or hormone therapy — all for free distribution in hospitals. And while it may take time to reach this goal, Mehrle is confident the results will be worth it.
While Mehrle’s journey was far from easy, her resilience through treatment inspired so many positives in her life. “It’s hard in the beginning, but it will come to an end, and you will find so much happiness after,” she says. “You cannot imagine how many new opportunities and new people [your journey] can bring, and how much better you will be as a person, inside. I think after someone experiences something like this, you have more kindness and more empathy inside yourself.”