Ceramides in Skincare - meaning, benefits, how to use it for dry skin and fine lines

If the word “ceramide” makes you think of pottery, you’re not the only one. Rest assured, the skin-fortifying miracle worker has nothing to do with ceramics. So what are ceramides? Simply put, ceramides are the most dominant lipids (fats), which ultimately comprise 50% of total lipid mass in the stratum corneumthe outer layer of the skin (epidermis) and is largely responsible for the skin acting as a barrier.

Ceramides hold skin cells together, in the top layers of the skin, forming a protective layer that helps plump the skin. (Think of skin cells as the brick and ceramides as the mortar). We all need the “mortar” to keep out the bad stuff (pollution, microbes) and seal in the good (water).

It’s no wonder ceramides play a crucial role in protecting your skin against harm from foreign elements.

Sadly, the skin content of ceramides substantially decreases with age, and the health of our skin goes haywire. Result? Dry, rough, dehydrated skin. But wait, there’s more! The good news is that you can manually put back what is lost from the skin by way of topical skincare. Ceramides in skincare products can help replenish the ceramides in your skin.

And since they occur naturally in the skin, it makes them an ideal ingredient for all skin types, even sensitive, acne-prone, and oily skin.

If you want the ceramides to work optimally, make sure the product you choose is also formulated with other fatty acids (Omega 3, 6 and 9), or anti-oxidants (vitamin C, E), or skin-restoring ingredients (retinol, peptides, niacinamide).


Ceramides-skin care-diagram-meaning-how-do-they-work

Some times on a product label, the chemical name of the ceramide is used (which doesn’t include the word ceramide at all.)

There are nine types of ceramides, conveniently named ceramide 1 through ceramide 9. Here’s what to look for on the product label:

  • Ceramide 1 = Ceramide EOS
  • Ceramide 2 = Cermamide NS = N-stearoyl sphinganine
  • Ceramide 3 = Ceramide NP = N-stearoyl phytosphingosine
  • Ceramide 4 = Ceramide EOH
  • Ceramide 5 = Ceramide AS
  • Ceramide 6 = Ceramide AP = α-hydroxy-N-stearoylphytosphingosine
  • Ceramide 6 II = Caproyl sphingosine
  • Ceramide 7 = Ceramide AH
  • Ceramide 8 = Ceramide NH
  • Ceramide 9 = Ceramide EOP
  • Ceramide E = Cetyl-PG Hydroxyethyl Palmitamide and Hexadecanamide

By the time you’re in your 30s, you have lost about 40% of your skin’s ceramides, and by your 40s, you have lost 60% of your skin’s natural ceramides. This decrease is accompanied by the appearance of wrinkles, uneven skin tone as well as dryness, dullness and loss of firmness.

Combining Ceramides and AHAs/BHAs

AHAs/BHAs are basically chemical exfoliants which help remove a layer of dead skin cells, which makes it easier for the ceramides to be absorbed by the skin. Try Mario Badescu’s A.H.A. & Ceramide Moisturizer, $20.

Combining Ceramides and Retinol

The Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules, $84, combine the sought-after retinol molecule with skin barrier strengthening ceramides, to help skin to maintain a healthy moisture balance and prevent the potentially drying effect of retinol.

Combining Ceramides and Hyaluronic Acid

It’s a common misconception that ceramides and hyaluronic acid perform the same function. Yes, they both moisturize the skin, but work in fundamentally different ways. 

Moisturizers come in three categories: humectant, emollient, and occlusive. Humectants draw moisture from either deeper layers of your skin or from the air around you. Emollients smooth over the surface of your skin by filling in gaps with small molecules of itself. Occlusives are barriers on your skin that keeps the bad stuff out, and seal in the good..

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, whereas ceramide is an occlusive.  The hyaluronic acid brings in the moisture and the ceramide prevents it from escaping. So if you have dehydrated skin, opt for a Hyaluronic acid rich skincare product.

is your skin dry or dehydrated, Dry vs dehydrated skin, skin type, how to know, dry skincare routine

Products to try:

•  CeraVe Moisturizing Cream with Ceramides and Hyaluronic Acid. Buy It: $19, amazon.com

•  Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster with Ceramides. Buy It: $44.20, paulaschoice.com

•  Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin™ Cream. Buy It: $48, sephora.com

•  COSRX Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream. Buy It: $25, sokoglam.com

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