What Is The Role Of Ceramides In Skincare And How Do They Benefit Your Skin?

What Is The Role Of Ceramides In Skincare And How Do They Benefit Your Skin?

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We all want glowing, radiant skin, right? The foundation to achieving gorgeous skin is a healthy skin barrier. According to Dr. Brunilda Nazario of WebMD, “your skin barrier is made up of cells called corneocytes and held together by fats such as ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. When properly maintained, the skin barrier protects you from pollution, UV rays, irritation, dehydration, and toxins.”

Since it’s on the frontline of our protection, your skin barrier can easily become damaged by things such as poor skincare, stress, lack of sleep, aging, and more. As your skin barrier breaks down, you become more prone to skin conditions like eczema, itchiness, dry irritated skin, inflammation, acne, and premature aging. That’s the bad news. Let’s talk about how to combat it! The key to restoring the skin barrier is a consistent, appropriate skincare routine for your skin type, that helps maintain its structural properties like ceramides. Let’s dig into ceramides and why they’re such a buzzword in the skincare industry.

ceramides benefits for skin

What are ceramides?

Ceramides are a class of lipids (aka fatty acids) that make up about 40% of the skin barrier and play a key role in preventing the loss of moisture. Even the most basic skincare routines consist of a cleanser, hydrate, and SPF. Ceramides = hydration and are essential to lock in moisture and maintain the healthy glow we’re all trying to achieve.

Types of ceramides

There are twelve types of ceramides. You might see the following on your skincare labels:

    • Ceramide 1, also called ceramide EOS
    • Ceramide 2, also called ceramide NS or NG
    • Ceramide 3, also called ceramide NP
    • Ceramide 6-II, also called ceramide AP
    • Ceramide 9, also called ceramide EOP
    • Phytosphingosine
    • Sphingosine2

    How do ceramides benefit your skin?

    Ceramides are an integral part of a good skincare routine. Their top four benefits are:

    Benefit One: Restore the Skin Barrier

    Your skin barrier is made up of skin cells and lipids that act like glue. When the skin barrier is healthy, the ratio of lipids in the skin is 50% ceramides, 25% cholesterol, and 15% free fatty acids7. Since ceramides are the largest percentage of lipids in the skin barrier, you get your biggest bang for your buck focusing on skincare that replenishes your ceramides. According to a recent study, adding ceramides to your skincare helps protect against UV damage and “improve skin barrier health overall against chronic sun exposure.

    calming cleanser to protect skin barrier

    Benefit Two: Lock in Moisture

    The main function of your skin’s ceramides and other lipids is to prevent water loss. A 2018 study shows that even a full day after application, participants who used moisturizers with ceramides were significantly more hydrated compared to two other moisturizers without ceramides and no moisturizer at all.

    Benefit Three: Heal Dry, Irritated Skin

    Many recent studies have shown that a lack of, or decreased number of, ceramides in your skin barrier is linked to a slew of skin disorders and skin conditions. Some of those include:
      • atopic dermatitis aka eczema
      • psoriasis
      • contact dermatitis aka contact eczema
      • rosacea
      • dry, irritated skin
      • acne
      • premature aging
      • Ichthyosis
      • Gaucher Disease
    Maintaining a high level of ceramides can help keep your skin barrier functioning properly. This will help lock in moisture, prevent damage, and avoid dry, irritated skin and the other skin conditions above.

    Benefit Four: Anti-Aging 

    In an interview with Elle Magazine, dermatologist Dr. Ophelia Veraitch explains “Unfortunately, as we age, our natural skin ceramide levels reduce. By the time we reach our thirties, we have lost about 40% of our skin's ceramides. This then increases to around 60% by the time we reach our forties. With this loss, we see thinning of the skin and a loss of elasticity. This, in turn, gives a heightened appearance of fine line around areas such as the eyes and cheeks.”

    ampoule pad for anti aging

    Which skin types are ceramides best for?

    Ceramides are naturally occurring in all skin types since it is a structural element of our skin barrier and essentially hold our skin cells together. That means that everyone needs ceramides to maintain healthy skin. If you suffer from any of the skin conditions above, you must consider adding ceramides to your skincare routine. Dr. Mark Herron, a dermatologist at Herron Dermatology & Laser, also shares that as we age, “the amounts of lipids (aka ceramides) decrease significantly” in our skin, so it’s important to stay ahead of it and ensure that your skincare routine promotes the right amount of ceramides.

    What ingredients do ceramides work well with?

    Dr. Courtney Rubin MD, MBE, FAAD, of Figure One Beauty, shares that ceramides can safely be combined with the other active ingredients below.

    For maximum moisture combine with:
    • Hyaluronic Acid – This is a humectant which means it attracts and retains moisture in the skin. When you combine a moisture attractor and retainer with ceramides the result is optimal, locked-in hydration.
    • Glycerin—Another humectant that draws moisture from the environment, and pairs extremely well with ceramides.
    • Squalene – A naturally occurring lipid, like ceramides. Using them together can help achieve the optimal ratio of lipids in your skin barrier.

      A hyaluronic acid boosting serum combined with adenosine which decreases the look of wrinkles by energizing the skin barrier

    Combine with these to bump up their effects:

    • Vitamin C – We all know and love Vitamin C! An absolute powerhouse in skin brightening and reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation, dark spots, age spots, and sunspots. Since both Vitamin C and ceramides improve sun damage, use the two together for a super duo.
    • Glycolic Acid – A popular alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) used as a chemical exfoliant. Since glycolic acids remove dead skin cells, they can help ceramides penetrate your skin for higher efficacy.
    • Retinol – An absolute skincare must (if you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding)! Retinol is a retinoid made from Vitamin A, known for increasing skin collagen and elasticity. Many users experience dry, flaky, itchy skin. Ceramides help smooth your skin so you improve tolerance.

    Want an extra glow? Look out for ceramide products with the following:

    • Peptides – An amino acid known for stimulating collagen. The combo of plumpness from the collagen-boost and the ceramide hydration creates a refreshed glow.
    • Antioxidants – These are great for combatting the effects of free radicals and environmental stressors that can damage the skin barrier. Two is better than one when antioxidants and ceramides combine to create a healthy, strong skin barrier and leave you looking radiant!

    What are the side effects of ceramides?

    Most ceramide products can be purchased over the counter and are generally considered safe for all skin types. Moisturizers containing ceramides can help smooth skin irritation you might experience if you’re working to incorporate retinol or AHA’s and BHA’s into your skincare routine. As always though, please do a patch test and consult your dermatologist if you have any questions or concerns.