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Clean Chat - CircCell's Push for Clean, With Founder Maya Crothers

Clean Chat - CircCell's Push for Clean, With Founder Maya Crothers

Our guest on Clean Chat this week was Maya Crothers, the founder of CircCell Skincare. As a brand who is currently transitioning its line to be exclusively clean, Maya is the perfect guest to help us continue the open conversation we are creating with Clean Chat.


Maya Crothers describes herself as an accidental entrepreneur. With both an engineering degree and an MBA, Maya began her career based in the technical and analytical side of business. In her 30’s, Maya retired and her family relocated to the small town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In Jackson Hole there is not a great deal to do other than to be outside, enjoying nature. However, being constantly exposed to the wind and the sun took its toll on Maya's skin and she struggled to find a product that could stand up to the harsh conditions (Maya even tried pouring olive oil all over her skin!).

So, Maya decided to create her own skincare solution, a line of products that work under extreme conditions, that can travel from climate to climate, all while bringing an element of nature and elegance. Although worlds away from her previous career, Maya used her analytical background to her advantage and created CircCell, a fundamentally performance based skincare line.


Like ‘organic’, ‘natural’ and ‘green’, ‘clean’ is a term which has no official standards or impartial organisation that both brands and consumers can turn to for guidance. As Maya said, “the definition of clean beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and thats the biggest challenge. Recently in the States, Credo Beauty has emerged as a leading voice in the clean beauty community. They hold the most stringent standards of what it is to be clean, and these are the guidelines that Maya has chosen to follow as CircCell transition to a clean brand.

CircCell remains a fundamentally performance based brand, but as the beauty industry evolves, so will they. The dirty ingredients in cosmetics products are often the preservatives and stabilisers. These are the ingredients that are being switched out for clean alternatives, and Maya is working hard to ensure the performance of CircCells products is never compromised.


In this episode we chat all about Maya’s inspiring journey from business and engineering to a beauty entrepreneur, an industry which isn’t as intimidating and challenging to break into as you might think! Maya talks about how welcoming and supportive the beauty community is and how its all about sharing our knowledge and experiences.

We also loved Maya’s top beauty tip; just go outside! Taking some time to get some fresh air and clear your head is sometimes the best thing you can do for your self and your wellbeing. Finally, Maya notes the importance of doing your homework when entering into partnerships in all aspects of your business. Its far easier to enter into a partnership than to dissolve one, so it really is time well spent.

Thanks again to Maya for being our guest on Clean Chat this week. We are really excited to see CircCell evolve along side the clean beauty movement. Now onto the show! Listen to the full episode below, on iTunes, or check out the transcript…


Full transcript: 

Raquel: Hi there and welcome to Clean Chat. I’m the host, Raquel Wing, founder of The Clean Hub. Every Thursday we help to grow the clean and natural beauty industry by interviewing key experts, founders and influencers so that people can make informed decisions. Check us out at to learn more. Now onto the Clean Chat podcast… 

Raquel: Hi there welcome to Clean Chat! Today we have the awesome Maya Crothers, founder of CircCell Skincare. So Maya has created CircCell as a skincare for the modern woman. The line is all about response to environmental changes and skincare challenges. They are currently on the move to clean beauty and we are here to talk about their journey. I’m so excited to have you on today Maya, thank you for coming on! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you started CircCell Skincare?

Maya: Hi, I would be happy to. Firstly thank you so much for having me. I really love all of your podcasts and the clean beauty hub and what you guys are doing for beauty and the clean beauty space. I’m so excitd to be here.

Raquel: Thank you! We are so excited to have you on.

Maya: So, my journey into beauty was truly accidental. I like to say that I am an accidental entrepreneur. My background is in business, I have an engineering degree and also an MBA, so really I have worked mostly in business but really on the technical analytical side of business. So I am very comfortable with data and analysis and anything related to science. I retired when I was pregnant with my daughter, my second child, and then a few years later we decided to move the entire family to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is a tiny little ski town  in the mountains. Very slow life, small town, it’s the kind of place where you walk into the grocery store and you know everybody. And there’s not a whole lot to do. You move to a place like Jackson Hole because you like the outside. So we don’t have you know lots of movie theatres and malls, and we don’t have places to go ride go karts, your entertainment is just that your outside. So it was just a lovely change for us and a great place to raise our children. One area that was a little bit difficult is what the move did to my skin. The environment in Jackson Hole is extreme so its really really dry all year round, high altitude so we are very close to the sun, were outside all the time so you know we are constantly exposed to the wind, sun, and for someone who had been a life long skincare junkie and had always prided herself on how great her skin looked, it really was difficult. And I could not find anything that could live up to those conditions. So I ended up doing things like just going to my pantry and pouring olive oil on my hands and putting it on my face, or you know using thick petroleum jelly’s. And so the things I ended up using, they just didn’t make sense and it definitely wasn’t the type of skincare regiment that I could take with me. It was spring break and we went to the beach in the Caribbean and Hawaii and now your in this really humid place, and you don’t just want to take a bottle of olive oil with you to out on your face when your somewhere humid! So I started thinking about a skincare line which was fundamentally performance based because I do have this analytical science background, that would work under these extreme conditions, but that would work elegantly. So I say that everything we create has to be hard working and elegant. And that can travel with me, because you know most women don’t stand still, we travel from climate to climate and from place to place. But I also live in this place where it is so beautiful and we live in nature everyday, so I want to everything to bring an element of nature. So I started to bring about this combination of performance and nature and a sort of luxury elegance component. And it first started out as a bobby, launched with one product. A year later we had two more products. So just over time it became a real business. It was not planned, especially kind of if you think about it, kind of in the second half of life. You know people don’t retire and move to this tiny town and say I’m going to have another career. So its interesting journey for me.

Raquel: That sounds awesome. And did you find it a challenge to break into the beauty industry when your previous career was so different?

Maya: So the challenge wasn’t breaking into the business, its actually a very welcoming and friendly business and right away it is very easy to meet everyone that you need to meet in all the different areas of the business. Right, so you need to meet formulators and distributors and you need to meet people on the marketing side and its very friendly, there are a lot of women in the business, we are all very supportive. Even you know the entrepreneurs I have met with competing brands, we share our knowledge and we tell each other, I just met with this buyer and she was amazing and I really think your brand would be good with them. So the challenge wasn’t necessarily getting into it. The challenge is that really there are so many beauty brands that how do you sort of get people to notice you. So I would say more than anything that’s the challenge.

Raquel: Getting people to notice. There is such a strong community but it is actually getting in front of the consumer base to get noticed.

Maya: Exactly, just because the consumer has so many options and there are so many brands that how do you differentiate yourself, rise above the fray. So I think that really is a key piece to success for a lot of brands.

Raquel: So your brand is now transitioning to a more clean beauty stance. What does clean mean to you?

Maya: So that’s a really good question. So really defining clean can be a challenge. So it may seem to the consumer that you know that clean is just some kind of category that you switch into like moving to a new zip code. You just kind of transition there and your in the zip code. But its really not. The definition of clean kind of is in the eye of the beholder. So that has been one of the challenges for us from the beginning. From the beginning we have just wanted to create really amazing products, the best that they could be, and delivered in the best way possible to the consumer. But you know how do you define clean, and who really is the leader in that movement so you can say yeh that’s the definition of clean that we are going to follow. You know this is the voice or this is the organisation that is saying what clean is so you can say, we meet these standards. So over the years there have been so many, hundreds of different opinions of what’s clean and what’s not clean. Everything from pretty much your just going to have to mash the avocado and put that straight on your face, you know there is some super stringent ideas of what is clean, to you know definitions of clean that maybe to us include some things that even if your liberal in that you don’t seem clean.

Raquel: Right.

Maya: So what we have tried to do is just individually with each product try to deliver the best technologies and the most sensible and reasonable way that we can. So you know we didn’t use parabens, and for a long time in place of parabens everybody was using phenoxyethanol. So we have four formulations that have phenoxyethanol because for years that was you know the thing to do. But now we are learning that phenoxyethanol is bad so of course we are formulating that out and by the end of the year, we will be phenoxyethanol free. So that’s just kind of explains to you some of the challenges, there is not any one standard where you can say I want to be clean and this is what I do. So its challenging for a brand. But what has happened recently in the beauty space, at least in the US is the rise of an organisation called Credo Beauty. So Credo Beauty is a started off as a brick and mortar store that sells what they consider clean brands, and they have their own standards of what clean means. And in order to be stocked in their stores you have to meet these standards. And of course they started off as one store, they are now 7 or 8. They are growing they have a website, they are a leader, a leading voice in the clean beauty movement. So we decided, okay its starting to look like there is one authority, so we are going to follow their standards. And so now we are changing what needs to change in our line, to follow their standards. So you know prior to that as a brand your just spinning your wheels. You know one voice says do this, so you do that, and another voice may say something contradictory, and its kind of hard with everything changing and evolving so quickly and with so many different ideas, to decide what to do. But with the rise of Credo Beauty we felt confident. So that’s why we are going through and reformulating what doesn’t fit their standards, to meet their standards, and we feel pretty confident in that definition of clean and selling that definition of clean to our customers.

Raquel: Right. So it feels like finally someone has put a stamp or a line in the sand saying this is what you know our community deems as natural or clean and then that’s the best way to fall forward with it.

Maya: Yes because they are really coming across as an authority, they are coming across as an authority. And maybe someday another authority that is not related to a company that might be more of  a not for profit. For example EWG has some clean standards and we actually meet their clean standards and have pretty much all along. But Credo is more stringent so we will follow Credo.

Raquel: Oh I wouldn’t of know that that Credo was more. I’m from the states as well and I am familiar with Credo and I didn’t realise they were more stringent that EWG, that’s interesting to know. Awesome. And so what is it that you want CircCell to transition in to as you move into a clean beauty brand?

Maya: We fundamentally will not change. We continue to want to be fundamentally performance based with a deep commitment to delivering health products and a commitment to incorporating nature into our formulations as well. So we continue to be that brand, that doesn’t change. What is evolving is kind of again the definition of clean. So I think that the fundamental message that we want to send to our customer is, we are a dynamic company and we do not stand still and as this definition of clean changes, and in many senses that definition is changing because the market is driving newer technologies that do things to replace what the ingredients that’s we don’t like do. So as those newer and better technologies come up, we are going to use them. So one thing that I really want to mention is that the technologies that we are switching out, don’t have anything to do with the performance side of our business. So for example we use medical grade gas carriers, we use tyrosinase inhibitors, not hydroquinone, ours is sources form daisy’s. We use antioxidants, we use peptides. So we are not having to change out any of these ingredients, none of them are dirty, they don’t have anything dirty in them. The things that actually end up being dirty are the things to preserve, to stabilise, to make sure formulations don’t separate, and because of the demand for cleaner ingredients, that side of the business is evolving. We can find cleaner replacements for those ingredients. So I want our customers to know that our performance based ingredients are the same, our products will still perform in the way that they performed. Its this other stuff that we are able to switch out as the industry evolves.

Raquel:Right, and this other stuff, would you say that it is obviously the most challenging part of the process? Because obviously you guys already incorporated natural ingredients that have helped for the performance, but the most difficult part is finding the stabilisers or finding these ingredients that can replace the other ingredients I guess. That’s the most challenging part.

Maya: It really doesn’t have anything to do with what your delivering to the customer. Its just kind of the glue that holds it all together. So particularly if your going to be a performance based brand, those ingredients, you know they can loose their efficacy over time if they are not formulated the right way, right? So not having the right stabiliser or the right preservative, doesn’t just mean that your product is going to grow mould, it just means that those very powerful performance based ingredients that you have put in there over time might not be as powerful. And that is not something that you would ever know as a customer right, because if it doesn’t start to smell bad, or change colour or grow mould, then you don’t realise it. But what is secretly happening is over time those ingredients are becoming less effective. So because of our commitment to performance, we want to make sure that everything is stabalised properly, and that everything, you know the first pump out of that airless jar is just as potent as the last pump. These are things that are particularly challenging for us. We just want to make sure to deliver a high performing product that stays a performing product though out its life.

Raquel: Yeh definitely. What can we expect from CircCell in the future?

Maya: So a continued dedication to innovation, products that really work, products that you really love and that you want to repurchase over and over again. So again just the fundamental elements in our DNA and we will continue to deliver that. And if I can just make one other comment about our ability to be performance based, so many other brands start out wanting to be natural or wanting to be clean and you know were going to perform, right, so with that kind of, and when they go to the formulator and they go we fundamentally want to be natural so then to that formulator there are a whole category of ingredients that are not going to be included. We kind of did it backwards, so we said we want to be performance based first, so let figure out what we need to be as performance based as possible, and then that’s a great first draft, you know formulator, but now all these ingredients, we don’t want them. So keep the performance part, but lets find a way to  make this formulation make sense that doesn’t include these ingredients. Kind of a very fine distinction, but it does change the level of performance that you deliver when you approach formulating that way instead of starting off wanting to be natural. Does that make sense?

Raquel: Yeh that definitely makes sense. And I can see the vision for that and why it is important to you and CircCell and your customers, and it sounds absolutely amazing. Can you tell us, obviously you mention before, you started CircCell as a need for your new environment. Can you tell us one of your top beauty tips for your customer or for anyone listening to Clean Chat? 

Maya: Yes! For me because of where I live and because if our lifestyle, its really hard for me to think about beauty and to not think about nature. And being outside in nature everyday, taking a walk, or riding your bike or doing something more extreme, to me is my number one beauty tip. The fresh air and the exercise and that time, some times with a group of friends or  sometimes by yourself, clears your head, brings fresh air into your lungs. To me its almost a mood stabiliser and that’s my number one beauty tip. Go outside and be in nature everyday.

Raquel: Such a great idea and you have been a very inspiring business woman. Could you tell us one of your top business tips you give to a brand that’s looking to enter the industry?

Maya: Yeh, be very careful about who you partner with. You know early on make sure that you choose the right people. Partnerships are easy to make, can happen very quickly in a moment, but they are very difficult to unwind. So for example, switching manufactures is really hard, and you can say that about every single entity, support group that you work with. So really take the time upfront to make sure your finding the right partners. Ask for references, do your homework, talk to customers because that saves you a lot of time in the long run. Again save your time upfront so you don’t have to change your decision later. 

Raquel: I think that is a great idea and no one has said that but it is so important because people don’t realise so much energy goes into, like you said its so easy to make a partnership but dissolving that partnership is such a challenging and time consuming and energy you know sucking task, so thanks for that. So last but not least, we talked about your plans for CircCell and your next moves, how can people get a hold of your products?

Maya: In the EU you can find us on and in the Unites States you can find us on, we are also in a handful of Neiman Marcus brick and mortar stores as well. 

Raquel: Awesome. Well its been a pleasure having you on, everyone check out their Instagram and their website page. Thank you so much for coming on, and everyone have a great day. Viva clean beauty! Thanks for listening to Clean Chat everyone. Don’t forget to rate us on iTunes. Chat soon and viva clean beauty!


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