CHOOSE BEAUTY with Tom Porter: Wellness, Willingness and Water
The founder of Malibu Wellness, Tom Porter, will celebrate 30 years in business this year. He continues to live life as he wants to look back and remember it.
Asked to describe himself as a young person, Tom Porter, CEO and Founder of Malibu Wellness in Malibu, CA, says “I was the kid that was always looking under the rock to find something very special.” His curiosity, openness to opportunity and emphasis on health and wellness have flowed together throughout his life, with water being an essential connecting element of the story.
“My first job was as a Fuller Brush Man,” Porter says. “That was my entry into sales and into beauty because it was lotions, potions and brushes sold out of my briefcase, door-to-door. That is where I learned rejection and overcoming objection and not allowing it to define you.”
Always at home in the water, he soon ditched the briefcase and hit the beach. Through high school and college, he would lifeguard, instruct on water safety and become an aquatics director. After graduating, he took $600 saved from lifeguarding in Florida and drove his Lincoln Continental across the country to southern California to obtain a Masters Degree from University of California, Santa Barbara in Educational Administration. “I was a child raised on 1950s television and California always seemed the place you want to be.” His time there would involve wellness (he worked in administration and leadership roles in mental health organizations) and water (he and a friend ran an aquarium shop and sold it for a profit) until he was drawn back to the world of academia. He focused on the field of instructional systems technology, a new field at the time with only four programs in the country. “I had always been very interested in how media was affecting education.”
After obtaining his Master’s, Porter went to Indiana to work on his PhD in Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University. Following this, Porter would develop one of the world’s largest YMCA Wellness Centers at the Monroe County YMCA, including a Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program. During his time there, he said “yes” to a meeting that would change his life and he had a date with a woman who would become his wife and business partner.
“A YMCA member stopped in my office and she said her son-in-law, a chemist, was making some interesting discoveries around Vitamin C and its uses. At the same time, I met a buddy and some friends at a local restaurant and I met Deb for the first time. She came with me to hear this chemist talk about his discoveries on our first date.”
Porter’s personal research conducted at the YMCA, integrated with what he was learning about Vitamin C and its role in reproduction and protection against free radicals, comprised the basis of his technology and R&D for what would become Malibu Wellness and its line of patented formulas, products and in-salon treatments. With his wife, Deb, and young son, he moved to Malibu, CA and took over developing a Wellness Center at the Malibu/Pacific Palisades YMCA. He launched Malibu C out of his house, developing products that prepare hair for color without stripping and drying. The Malibu Makeover removes the leave-behinds from water—chlorine, minerals—along with oils and silicones, to improve hair health and prepare a perfect canvas for color.
“We've always been told we were way ahead of our time but things we were talking about 30 years ago are now mainstream. I was the first to use the term ‘antioxidant’ and everyone said I was crazy because no one in marketing would put ‘anti’ in front of anything. Nobody cared about the fact that we were food grade or vegan. We entered the salon industry because we knew we needed heat and proper application to really guarantee our products.
“What I’ve been trying to do all these years is focus on integrity and results and to help the beauty world understand oxidation. As an educator I know that I have to be a good communicator. I have to assimilate and share. I’m never the one on the pedestal, I’m the hub, and I’m only as good as the resources around me.”