Everything You Need To Know About Dry Winter Skin - and how to treat it

By Maya Crothers

This time of year can be very challenging for skin. The cold, dry environment coupled with heavily heated interiors can leave you feeling parched, cracked and sore. We get so many requests for advice around this issue that we thought we would put together our best practices for healthy, happy skin during the winter months.

Why Is Skin Dry In Winter Months?

The preponderance of skin issues related to cold months has to do with hydration. Dry skin occurs because of lower humidity levels, exposure (wind, etc. for us winter outdoor enthusiasts) and higher levels of dry heat in our homes and workspaces.

These conditions lead to high levels of evaporation of the skin's moisture. The result is a dehydrated, flaky stratum corium (the outermost and most exposed layer of the skin) while deeper layers of the skin become parched as well.  These conditions can cause uneven skin tone (red splotchiness and dry patches), discomfort and an inability of skin care ingredients to work effectively as they are not able to penetrate beyond the now tough, dry outer layer of the skin.


How Does Skin Hydrate?

Skin receives and maintains it hydration levels internally through food and drink and on the surface of the skin through built in barrier protections that inhibit evaporation. This barrier is your skin's outer moisture mantle.  Humid climates offer an extra cushion of barrier protection. If the humidity level in the surrounding environment is greater than the moisture content of the skin, then the skin’s moisture level will remain in tact (or even increase) so, effectively, the humid air creates an additional moisture barrier for the skin. If the surrounding air contains less moisture than the skin, moisture will be pulled out of the skin (evaporation).

How To Increase Moisture Content of Skin

You can increase your skin's internal hydration through diet. Drink more water, eat high water content foods (fruits and veggies) and consume less salt and alcohol. There are two ways to increase hydration levels on the surface of the skin: -pull moisture into the skin -provide effective barrier protection to halt evaporation of existing hydration.

An effective and consistent skin care regimen can help you achieve both.


How To Pull Moisture Into The Skin

Look for products that contain humectants. Humectants work to pull water into the skin from the surrounding environment. Some of the humectants we use in our formulations:

1) Hyaluronic acid (used in our Moisture Shield with SPF 30 and our Fruition Brightening & Polishing  Mask)

2) Lactic Acid (used in our Dew pH Perfector and our Fruition Brightening & Polishing Mask)

3) Salporene-8 (used in our ABO Face and ABO Eye serums)  But Beware… Some caution should be taken when using a humectant. The humectant will pull moisture from the most readily available source. If the surrounding air is too dry, then the humectant will pull moisture from deeper layers of the skin. 

All this does is dehydrate the deeper layers and once this moisture is on top of the skin, it is prone to evaporation (whereas it was safely protected in the lower layers). 

If this is coupled with inadequate barrier protection, this newly pulled up moisture will simply evaporate quickly, triggering the humectant to pull even more moisture from deeper layers of the skin – creating a vicious dehydration cycle. The result could be that you end up doing more harm than good. In order to combat this, formulations with humectants must contain water! 

This way, the humectant can pull water from the formulation and not the deeper layers of the skin.  There has been much written in the popular media about “waterless skincare formulations.” 

Microbes grow more easily in water. If you eliminate the water you reduce the likelihood of microbial growth. While this makes sense in a sound bite, it disregards the bigger picture. Some formulations, to be effective, need surrounding H2O. The worries about contamination can be remedied by using airless containers. Get rid of exposure to the air and you drastically reduce the risk of contamination. Another option is to use safe, effective preservative technologies to protect the formulations. Even with the use of water based formulations that contain humectants, It is still not a bad idea to apply these products to slightly damp skin.

Barrier Protection

Your skin has a natural moisture mantle that protects the skin’s innate hydration. But, this barrier can be broken down under extreme environmental conditions or as a result of overly aggressive treatments (over exfoliation). A perfect balance is required for the skin to function most efficiently - not enough exfoliation and the natural cellular turn over optimization of the skin slows down, leading to more rapidly aging, dull skin. This will also reduce the effectiveness of your high tech skin care ingredients as they are less likely to reach the lower layers of the skin where they will do the most good. Too much exfoliation stresses the skin and leaves it vulnerable to environmental damage and overall fatigue as it is not able to keep up with the necessary levels of repair. In this case, the functions of a healthy cell begin to break down, which can lead to a whole host of problems including accelerated aging and acne. The trick is to find the right level of gentle, consistent exfoliation and, at the same time, provide some added barrier protection. There are many ingredients that provide barrier protection. Oils are a natural way to provide this, but  may feel too greasy for many.


Traditionally, petroleum jellies have been used but these ingredients have fallen out of favor due to their effect on the environment and they lay outside of the natural ingredient spectrum that today’s consumer is comfortable with…not to mention they lack an elegant feel. Circcell uses high performing, natural ingredients that offer effective barrier protection. Squalene, an ingredient derived from olives provides noticeable barrier protection yet still maintains an elegant feel.  We use this ingredient in our Moisture Shield with SPF 30.   


This water-based formulation also contains the humectant hyaluronic acid, provides SPF 30 protection and is packaged in an airless pump for maximum purity. Because of the SPF we recommend this as the last step of your morning skin care routine. For evening barrier protection we recommend one of our three, elegant oils blends. We ferment our oils (a natural process with no harmful by products). This process allows oils to absorb more quickly, reducing the greasy feel one would get with most oils.

Our favorite barrier protectors:

-Squalene – Moisture Shield With SPF 30

-Fermented Oils – Jacqueline’s Blend for normal skin/ Nancy’s Blend for sensitive skin/ Wooshie’s Blend for acneic/oily skin

-Shea Butter – Crème ER3 Exfoliation and Hydration

Daily, gentle exfoliation will help your skin’s natural functions work more efficiently and allow your skin care regimen to work at its maximum potential.

Daily exfoliation coupled with weekly dedicated (mask type) deeper, exfoliation is recommended. A daily product like our Dew Perfector will gently keep your skin debris free and radiant. The exfoliant in the product, lactic acid, is also a humectant.



Lactic acid is one of the gentlest acid based ingredients for the skin and does not cause flaking. For weekly exfoliation we recommend our Fruition Brightening & Polishing Mask. This fruit based mask (40% real fruit puree) uses natural fruit acids to gently uncover beautiful skin, and also contains clean technologies that hydrate and brighten. This product provides immediate results yet is gentle enough to use several times per week.

Our Winter Skin Daily Hydration Regimen


Cleanse with our Geothermal Clay Cleanserhalf clay/half oil emulsion. The geothermal arctic clay detoxifies and gently clears away debris while the oils keep the moisture mantle (natural skin barrier) in tact

CircCell Dew Hydrating pH Perfector

Tone and treat with our Dew PH Perfector – lactic acid gently exfoliates and pulls moisture into the skin. Amino acids nourish. Willow bark supports oil control and helps with the appearance of acne. Camphor soothes.

ABO Face Serum – contains a medical grade perflurocarbon blend to support oxygenation and circulation. Saliporene – 8, one of the most powerful humectants available pulls moisture into the skin

ABO Eye Serum – Same as above but formulated to combat under eye circles and puffiness

Moisture Shield with SPF 30 – hyaluronic acid hydrates. Squalene adds barrier protection. Anti-oxidants protect against environmental degradation


Same as above except:

-For added rich hydration you can use our Crème ER3 with shea butter in place of ABO Face serum.

-Use one of our three oil blends in place of Moisture Shield with SPF 30 as the final step of your evening routine. 

The oils will seal everything in and create a sleeping mask out of all the wonderful ingredients underneath:

CircCell oily problematic skin face oil


Once or twice weekly use our Fruition Brightening & Polishing Mask. This 40% real fruit puree mask, inspired by a fruit smoothie, uses the natural fruit acids in passion fruit, papaya and mango to gently exfoliate. Citric acid in lemon, grapefruit and orange essential oils exfoliate and brighten while protecting the moisture mantle. Hyaluronic acid pulls moisture into the skin during the exfoliation process and other technologies brighten and soften the skin. The overall effect leaves a plump dewy, après ski finish on the skin. Plump, hydrated skin is beautiful skin and mimics the skin you had in your youth. You can achieve this skin through a sensible daily diet and by using a daily regimen that incorporates sensible exfoliation, barrier and environmental protection and practices that increase moisture content.

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