If you want to keep your skin firm and healthy from the inside out, some good old-fashioned fat – aka ceramides – will do the trick. Ceramides are an underappreciated and ignored skincare ingredient. They are often seen in moisturisers, night creams, anti-ageing products and also in facial cleansers sometimes.
They play an important role in keeping a protective barrier between you and the polluted world outside. However, as with many other age-related side effects, the level of natural ceramide production decreases over time. How do you deal with this? It's as simple as that: replenish the ceramides1 First, let’s learn the basics about ceramides.
What are ceramides?
Ceramides are fat molecules also known as lipids. They are naturally present in skin cells and account for approximately 50% of the skin's outer layer (epidermis), so there is no surprise to say that ceramides play important role in how the skin looks.
What do ceramides do?
Let me explain with a simple example of bricks and cement. cement holds the bricks together in a wall. In the same way, ceramides hold the skin cells together by forming a protective layer that limits moisture loss and protects against visible damage from pollution and other environmental stressors. Phytosphingosine and sphingolipids, two ceramide precursors, actually help the skin in producing more ceramides.
A little chemistry of ceramides: They are members of the sphingolipid family, the building blocks of the epidermal barrier structure. 50 per cent ceramides, 24 per cent cholesterol, and 15 per cent free fatty acids2.
Why do I need ceramides in my skincare products if my skin already contains them?
Age and sun damage reduce the effectiveness of your skin's natural ceramides and can deplete them over time, weakening its barrier4. Drier, rougher skin, wrinkles, irritation, redness, and visible signs of dehydration are the results of this process. This is where skincare knowledge comes in handy because it is possible to significantly restore what has been lost.
What are the benefits of ceramides?
Ceramide-containing skincare products that are well-formulated (and properly packaged) will help reinforce your skin's barrier and increase hydration, giving you plumper, smoother, firmer-feeling skin with fewer visible lines and wrinkles3
How do I decide whether a product contains ceramides?
In most cases, the word ceramide will appear on the ingredients list (look for ceramide AP, EOP, NG, NP, or NS). Ingredients related to ceramides are another thing to look for on lists. For example, phytosphingosine and sphingosine are ceramide precursors, which means they can encourage the skin to produce ceramides. However, given ceramides' superior anti-ageing properties, most products will prominently display them on their labels or product pages if they are included in the formula.
Which skin types are ceramides best for?
Ceramides are "skin-replenishing" (also known as skin-identical) ingredients. Ceramides are ideal for all skin types, including the most sensitive, breakout-prone, or oily skin, because they are naturally found in your skin. They are also safe to use around the eyes as long as the product is free of fragrance and irritants.
Which other ingredients do ceramides work well with?
Ceramides are most effective when combined with other skin-nourishing ingredients like fatty acids, glycerin, and cholesterol. These lipid mixtures are ideal for improving skin tone, texture, and reducing signs of sensitivity. However, because no single ingredient can address all of the visible signs of ageing, make sure your ceramide-enriched product also contains antioxidants and "skin-restoring" ingredients such as retinol, niacinamide, linoleic acid, and peptides.
BMC Complementary Medicines and Therapies, January 2020, ePublication