Ceramides are good for your skin!
That’s what the beauty industry is telling us, but what are ceramides, exactly, and how do they make you look younger?
What are Ceramides?
Ceramides are fats (lipids) that are naturally found in the uppermost layers of skin. There, they help maintain the health of the skin barrier while hanging onto moisture and hydration.
Ceramides live in cell membranes and are also part of the sebum or skin oils we secrete. You can think of them as the “mortar” in the brick-and-mortar design of the skin cells, as they help hold the cells and the epidermis together.
Or you can imagine them as the grout between your skin cell tiles. Like grout keeps tiles in place, ceramides help hold cells together, forming a seal on the surface of the skin that prevents water loss.
What Do Ceramides Do?
The main benefit ceramides provide is moisture. They help repair the skin barrier while retaining the moisture that’s in the skin, helping it to stay plump and soft. They are especially important for maintaining long-term hydration and strengthening the surface against environmental assaults.
Ceramides also have anti-aging benefits, mainly tied to their moisture-retaining properties. If your skin is depleted of ceramides, fine lines and wrinkles will be more visible and the skin’s structure may suffer as well, increasing the appearance of sagging and bagging.
What Happens to the Ceramides in Our Skin as We Age?
The skin naturally produces ceramides, but its ability to do so diminishes over time. Just as age can deplete levels of collagen and elastin in the skin, it can do the same to ceramides, which is one of the reasons why your skin may appear drier as you get older.
Several other factors deplete the ceramides in your skin, including:
- Cold, dry weather
- Exposure to hot water
- Sun damage
- Dry heat, particularly during the winter
- Harsh cleansers that strip the skin
- Pollution and other environmental assaults
All of these factors working together can lead to a reduced level of ceramides, which causes dull, dry skin. Indeed, some studies indicate that people who have eczema or psoriasis often have fewer ceramides in their skin than those without these conditions.
Without ceramides, the skin becomes dry and cracked, which in turn, damages the skin exposes the inner layers of the skin to toxins and allergens in the environment, causing it to become inflamed and itchy. The skin barrier is disrupted, which means the skin can’t protect itself as it should, leaving it vulnerable to more issues including acne and rashes.
Why Do We Need Ceramides in Our Skincare Products?
Since we all lose ceramides as we age, getting them in our skincare products can help replace them, which is good for our skin. Since ceramides are naturally found in the skin, they are safe for every skin type, even those with sensitive skin.
People with dry skin should be especially sure that their products contain ceramides, but oily skin types may need them too to create the proper balance in the skin. Ceramides work particularly well for addressing dry, flaky, or broken skin, or for helping to manage dry skin conditions like eczema.
Applying a lotion, cream, or serum with ceramides helps fill in the cracks between the cells to create a smoother, more protective skin barrier. This helps the skin better resist outside assaults and minimizes skin irritation.
Topical ceramides mimic the natural oils in your skin, which makes them very effective when combined with other moisturizers like plant oils, hyaluronic acids, and glycerin. The nice thing about ceramides is that they work well with most other skincare ingredients and can help seal in these other ingredients to provide more lasting moisture.
Ceramides also work well in anti-aging formulas, particularly with retinol and beta- or alpha-hydroxy acids. They help soothe the skin and repair the skin barrier, leading to less irritation and redness.
Ceramides in the Ingredient List is a Good Thing!
So if you see the word “ceramides” in the ingredient list on your skincare product, that’s a good thing. Usually, you’ll find the exact word, but not always. Sometimes manufacturers use ceramide precursors to stimulate the skin to create its own ceramides. Common precursors include phytosphingosine and sphingosine.
You can also help reduce your loss of ceramides with these tips:
- Use lukewarm rather than hot water to wash.
- Apply a moisturizer right after you cleanse.
- Keep a humidifier in your house, particularly in the winter.
- Protect your skin from the sun and harsh winter weather.
Have you noticed benefits from using ceramides?