With age, environmental damage, and seasonal changes, the skin moisture starts to deplete, and you may experience breakouts and dull, flaky, dry patches—it’s a skincare tale as old as time. This happens because your skin’s protective barrier has been compromised. But thankfully, you don’t need to fret too much. With the right ingredients, you can rescue your skin and get back what it’s yours, a glowing, healthy-looking complexion. Case in point: ceramides. Keep reading to learn about the different types of ceramides and their role in your skincare routine.
What are ceramides?
Ceramides are lipids naturally present in the outermost layer of our skin (stratum corneum), along with fatty acids and cholesterol. Making up about 50% of the skin’s structure, they have a pivotal role in maintaining the lipid barrier strong, controlling transepidermal water loss (TEWL), and blocking harmful substances from entering the skin.
How ceramides work
You see, our skin’s barrier is like a brick wall, with cells being the bricks and lipids like ceramides acting as the mortar holding everything together. Ceramides work by filling in the gaps between skin cells, forming a protective barrier that locks in moisture and keeps irritants out.
As this barrier gets damaged—it could be because of harsh cleansers, over-exfoliation, external factors, and other conditions—ceramides start to break down, leaving the skin vulnerable to dehydration and bacteria. When applied topically, ceramides swoop in to help replenish the depleted lipids levels, restoring the integrity of the protective barrier, reinforcing its defenses, and relieving dry, cracked skin.
How ceramides can benefit your skin?
Ceramides are a dry skin savior due to their moisture retention abilities. They create a semipermeable barrier on the skin that prevents excessive water loss while allowing for controlled hydration. Ceramides-containing moisturizers are especially effective in winter months and dry climates when the skin loses more moisture than it can attract.
Skin barrier repair
The skin’s natural response to topical products with ceramides is to stimulate the natural production of ceramides, which in turn repair the moisture barrier and restore its normal function. For this reason, ceramides are key players in most skin barrier repair products.
Protection against environmental stressors
The protective barrier created by ceramides helps to shield the skin from environmental stressors such as pollutants, UV, and harsh weather conditions. Ceramides reduce the penetration of these external aggressors, minimizing potential damage and inflammation.
While ceramides won’t magically erase wrinkles, having a weak barrier will definitely work against you. An impaired barrier function is a “Welcome” sign for dryness and sun damage, two culprits that can make aging signs appear more prominent. Ceramides not only help to smooth out fine lines but also gives skin a plump and supple appearance.
Relief for eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea
Ceramides have shown promise in managing eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea, thanks to their ability to repair and strengthen the protective barrier. Moreover, ceramides are emollients with softening properties, so they can provide almost instant relief for inflammatory skin conditions.
Are ceramides good for acne-prone skin?
Yes. Acne-prone skin tends to have a weakened skin barrier, making it more prone to inflammation and sensitivity. Additionally, ceramides have antimicrobial properties, which means they can help to inhibit the growth of acne-causing bacteria on the skin and reduce breakouts.
Types of ceramides
Don’t expect every product with ceramides to provide the same benefits. The origin of ceramides used in the formulations of those products makes a lot of difference in how they will act on your skin.
There are actually various types of ceramides used in skincare, and just a few are naturally found in the skin and can work to repair the barrier:
- Ceramide 1 (Ceramide EOS)
- Ceramide 2 (Ceramide NS)
- Ceramide 3 (Ceramide NP)
- Ceramide 4 (Ceramide EOP)
- Ceramide 5 (Ceramide AP)
- Ceramide 6 (Ceramide I)
- Ceramide 6 II (Ceramide AS)
- Ceramide 7 (Ceramide AH)
- Ceramide 8 (Ceramide NH)
Among these, ceramide EOS, NS, NP, EOP, and AP are considered skin-identical ceramides. They closely resemble the ceramides naturally present in the skin and contribute to its barrier function. Ceramide NP is the most commonly used and researched in skincare products.
Synthetic vs. plant-derived ceramides
Ceramides can also be lab-made or naturally derived.
Synthetic ceramides (known as pseudoceramides) are created in a laboratory using chemical processes to mimic the structure and function of skin-identical ceramides. They offer a more stable source of ceramides that can be used in skincare products. Pseudoceramides are also free from contaminants and impurities and have a longer shelf life.
On the other hand, plant-derived ceramides (phytoceramide) are extracted from natural sources, such as rice bran or wheat germ, through a fermentation process. While they can provide hydration, plant-derived ceramides don’t have the same molecular structure as skin-identical ceramides. That means they have no effects on the skin barrier function.
How to reduce ceramides loss?
To induce more production of skin-identical ceramides, consider adding healthy fats to your meals, such as avocados. Also, wheat, soy, and eggs contain vast amounts of sphingolipids (precursors of ceramides), which can help boost the natural production of ceramides in the body. Moreover, skip long hot baths, and always apply your ceramide moisturizer after bathing.
Other than that, over-exfoliation and even using the wrong type of soap and face wash or exposing the skin to extreme temperatures can lead to rapid loss of ceramides. Other habits that cause ceramides depletion are smoking, excessive alcohol, and sleep deprivation.
Side effects and other concerns
Topical products with ceramides are totally safe for your skin. They have no known side effects and are easily tolerable by most, including those dealing with sensitive skin or other conditions such as eczema.
Ceramides are also non-comedogenic and won’t aggravate acne breakouts. As a matter of fact, they actually help improve acne-prone skin by maintaining optimal moisture levels and reducing bacteria.
How to incorporate ceramides into your skincare routine
As a versatile ingredient, ceramides can easily be added to most beauty routines. It provides the most benefits in creams and serums and when applied after cleansing and toning the skin.
For example, one of the best ways to reap the skincare benefits of ceramides is to apply a ceramide-infused cream after a hyaluronic acid serum. The hyaluronic acid will pull water into your skin, and then the ceramides will seal that moisture for long-lasting hydration.
Ceramides are also ideal to use after retinol or chemical exfoliants since they will help with the skin regeneration process.
Moreover, you can combine ceramides with skin-replenishing ingredients like fatty acids, squalane, and cholesterol.
And yes, ceramides can be used on the eye area, too; actually, ceramides are one of the best ingredients to look for in your eye cream.
Women’s Concepts uses reliable sources, including dermatologists’ insights, clinical trials, and scientific journals, to find accurate information and support all the facts shared in our articles. All statements and claims have clear and legit references. Read our editorial policy to learn more about our sources of information, our process of researching and fact-checking the content, and how our team strives to keep all articles updated, completed, and trustworthy.
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