Ceramides are mentioned a lot in skincare, particularly when talking about moisturizers and barrier health, so let’s spend some time understanding what exactly they are, why they’re important and how you might benefit from them in your routine.
What are ceramides?
Ceramides make up about 50% of the lipids in your skin and are part of the lipid profile that makes up your skin barrier. For a refresher on lipids and your skin barrier, check this out. They are naturally occurring in our skin, but like all good things, their production and retention slows down with age and environmental stressors, like sun exposure.
What do ceramides do?
As part of our skin barrier, ceramides help to strengthen, seal and protect, preventing water loss, filling in cracks and protecting against external irritants from entering. This keeps skin plump, smooth and soft and reduces the visible signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles.
As ceramides are naturally occurring, they are necessary for all skin, but particularly for drier skin types or those with a damaged barrier. Loss of ceramides can result in dry, flaky skin. Ceramides also have the ability to reduce inflammation and dehydration (by strengthening the barrier), which can overall help with acne and soothe irritation. In fact, having low levels of ceramides are thought to contribute to inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and acne.
What are types of ceramides?
As mentioned before, ceramides are found naturally in the skin, though their supply and production slows down with age. Ceramides are very commonly found in moisturizers, often prominently marketed on packaging.
There are different types you may see on ingredient lists, such as Ceramide NP, AP, EOP, NG or NS. You might also look for ceramide precursors (that can stimulate the production of ceramides), like phytosphingosine and sphingosine. Unless you’re a chemist or have been advised to look for a certain type of ceramide, don’t worry too much about the differences. They are generally all safe for all skin types.
Another great thing about ceramides is that they play well with pretty much all other ingredients, and even increase their efficacy by supporting barrier strength.
How to incorporate ceramides into your routine
The easiest way to incorporate ceramides is via a moisturizer or barrier supporting product with ceramides. Best if formulated with cholesterol and fatty acids for skin barrier repair.