Meet Marla: Our Co-Founder’s Journey to Wellbeing Interview

Meet Marla: Our Co-Founder’s Journey to Wellbeing Interview

Posted by Tori Paide on

Walk us through your morning skincare routine. 
My skin is very sensitive and our products are the only ones I can tolerate. Having struggled with acne in my 20s, melasma in my 30s and reactionary skin now, I’ve learned to shift my routine intuitively to help my skin achieve balance. 

In the mornings, I wash with our Balancing Cleanser, spritz with our Replenishing Mist, dab on our Peptide Eye Cream and then follow with our Tonifying Protective Lotion. I finish with a tinted sunscreen. During allergy season, I may do some light cupping under my eyes to move fluid buildup after sleeping.

What is your evening routine like? 
In the evenings, I wash with our Balancing Cleanser or Rejuvenating Cleanser if my skin is feeling dry. I always swap either cleanser with our Exfoliating Cleanser 2-3 times a week and leave this on for 15-20 mins before rinsing. 

Then, I follow with our enhancements: Cellular C Serum, Peptide Eye Cream, and Healing Enzyme Serum as a spot treatment if I have breakouts. I seal everything in with our Bioactive Regenerating Oil

On the weekends, I use our Time Defense Mask and read for 20-30 minutes while it’s on. I also do facial gua sha at least  3 times a week, paying particular attention to the tension in my neck. 

How did you decide to create a clean skincare line? 
My passion for clean beauty started with a fertility class I took in acupuncture graduate school in 2005. I was in my mid-30s and had heard that I was “hormonally old” by Western medical standards. At the time, soy was very trendy and I ate tons of soy pasta, soy protein drinks, and soy crackers. The midwife who taught the fertility class helped me see that my overconsumption of soy was disrupting my fertility. Because of her, I completely changed my diet and became pregnant with my first son at 36. 

Twenty-five weeks into my pregnancy, I began contracting and was put on full-time bedrest. I had fibroids the size of grapefruits and needed to prevent them from growing by reducing stress and avoiding all hormone disruptors–or else risk losing my son. Cleaning up my beauty routine was at the top of my list, but there weren’t a lot of clean brands at the time. That’s when I learned that the US has extremely lax ingredient regulations and started ordering skincare from the UK where they have more stringent guidelines. 

My son was born at 37 weeks and I’m confident that the changes I made mattered. After he was born, I continued the clean lifestyle, the fibroids shrunk, and at age 40 I had my second son. I have since devoted a large part of my acupuncture practice to hormone health. When Tori and I opened our first spa together in 2011, we knew we wanted to educate others on the hidden toxins in beauty–that’s how the idea for TOMA was born. 

How did you get introduced to acupuncture in the first place? 
In my 20s and 30s, I worked long hours and traveled constantly. I was so burned out that I started to get terrible migraines. My roommate suggested I try acupuncture. To be honest, the first experience freaked me out: I had no idea I could feel that relaxed with just needles! I kept going and with every treatment, I was able to tune into my body more and begin to recognize my migraine triggers. 

What finally got you to make the switch from the corporate world to holistic health? 
My acupuncturist was a founder of my acupuncture school so we often spoke about me going to school–but I never thought I would actually do it because I was already in my mid-30s.

Then 9/11 happened. I was in my office in Pentagon City and remember it like it was yesterday. Shortly after, I met up with some friends and we talked about what we really wanted to do with our lives. I said I wanted to go to acupuncture school– it was the first time I had said it out loud.

What have you learned through your work with clients in your acupuncture practice?
I attract clients who were like me years ago. We talk about the effects of stress on their body, mind and spirit and how it can impact pain, fertility, migraines, menopause, insomnia and more.

I love working with these clients and believe that they continue to show up in my life as a reminder to pay attention to my own balance. In 5-element acupuncture, we talk about the energy of our words and their impact on our body, mind and spirit. I can’t actively participate in these conversations if I’m not doing the work, too.

How do you approach your own wellness now? 
Today at 52, I’m learning to embrace the aging process. I now appreciate my body and don’t worry about changing it as much as supporting what it needs. 

What other daily practices do you rely on to feel your best? 
My entire family got trained in transcendental meditation several years ago and it continues to be an essential practice for me. When I’m with my husband and kids, we love to go biking, take a hike, or cook a meal together. 

It’s a delicate dance but sometimes I need to recharge on my own. No matter how tired I am, I end every night with a book. It’s a must for me to let go of the day and relax my mind just before turning out the light.

What transformation do you hope to see in the TOMA community through your work? 
I hope our community can see that we are passionate about helping them cultivate wellness in all aspects, not just skincare. I’d love to see that, through TOMA, they are not only enjoying radiant skin but also paying closer attention to the other pieces in the puzzle that support their overall wellbeing. 

What larger change do you hope your work will help spark? 
This is a huge question and one I ask myself often. From a health perspective, I’d love to be part of the movement that requires beauty companies to remove toxic ingredients and be more transparent. As a founder, I’d love to help female business owners who are starting out. We’ve experienced firsthand that women are not supported enough in business–I want to be part of changing that. 

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