Ceramides are waxy lipid molecules found naturally in the skin, together with other lipids, the ceramides help to make up the skin’s protective barrier.There are 12 different types of ceramide found in our skin.
A lipid is a fat-soluble naturally occurring molecule – fats, oils, waxes, cholesterol, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K)
If we imagine our skin cells to be like bricks, ceramides are the mortar keeping them together in a strong stucture. They are essential for maintaining a healthy skin barrier. Ceramides help to lock in moisture and keep skin plump and dare I say it ‘youthful’, they are also help to keep ‘invaders’ out.
To keep the barrier strong, ceramides need to make up a high proportion of the lipid composition found in the stratum corneum (the very top layer of skin), however this is not the case for all skins.Eczema prone skins have lower levels of ceramides which can make them prone to dryness and irritation. Skins of colour also have lower ceramide levels, again making them prone to dryness.
One of the many functions of the skin is to provide a barrier against water loss. If the barrier is compromised, in this instance through low ceramide levels, then the skin can lose water quite quickly. This is called Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL) and skin can become dehydrated. This can leave it open to irritation and inflammation.
The ageing process will also affect ceramide levels, as we get older we produce less of them. Dehydration can be a sign of this. Other changes we might notice can be a change in texture; skin can become rougher. It can become more sensitive, feel thinner and lack radiance.
As well as naturally decreasing levels of ceramides, there are many other factors that can affect the integrity of the skin’s barrier. One such factor is the products we use. The daily use of acids has become increasingly popular as so many of us desire that perfectly smooth glossy skin. I’m all for a little exfoliation, however we can definitely over do it. The initial results can feel quite pleasing, but as we continue to slough off more and more skin cells before they are ready, we actually weaken the barrier and the top structure of the skin, including the ceramides. It can become over exposed and damaged leading to water loss, irritation and sensitivity – much like when we lose ceramides naturally.
We can often get caught in a vicious circle, our skin feels rough due to a compromised barrier, we reach for the exfoliator to smooth it, and our skin becomes even more inflamed. I’ve been there for sure. This constant inflammation leaves the skin vulnerable to more issues.
How can skincare help?
There are many skincare products boasting ceramides in their formulas, but do they actually do anything and where do they come from?
Ceramides can be synthesised using biotechnology or they can be extracted from animals and plants – usually the latter. Rice, wheat, soy and konjac are popular sources. On the INCI list you might see them as Ceramide NP, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP or Glycosphingolipids.
When applied to the skin, they are broken down and help stimulate the skin to produce its own, therefore helping to repair the top layer of skin and thus support and restore the function of the skin’s barrier. This will help with water loss, which in turn helps with irritation and sensitivity. By helping to calm inflammation, the barrier is even more supported which helps everything!
Ceramides in skincare can help to mimic the composition of the skin’s natural lipids so bring comfort to the skin. They can help skin feel and look more hydrated and radiant.
Who can benefit from using skincare with ceramides?
All skins can benefit from using these but particularly stressed and sensitive skins. Anyone who has a compromised barrier whether that is through natural circumstance such as eczema, or through external damage, will feel comfort using products rich in ceramides. They are a really great addition to anyone who is noticing the changes I mentioned above.
My skin is definitely changing. I’ve always been prone to dehydration and seen a good difference when I’ve added a hyaluronic acid, but lately that doesn’t seem to be enough. I’ve had more redness, irritation and itching which suggests to me that something is disrupting my skin’s barrier. I stripped back my routine – which is a great thing to do when trying to figure out what is going on, and then added some ceramides in which have bought comfort. My skin seems to be settling down – of course internal factors will be at play here too; my system in general feels irritated with spring allergies. This low grade inflammation could show itself on my skin which might explain the irritation so I am tackling it from the inside too.
Some of my favourites at the moment
All of these are vegan formulations.
Nourish Ceramide Moisture Boost Essence is a brilliant product that slips easily into any routine. It feels like a silky very liquid serum which you apply with your hands, gently pressing into cleansed skin. It also contains hyaluronic acid, trehalose which mimics the skin’s Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF) and probiotic minerals so a real treat for any skin that needs that extra calming moisture boost. Apply your serum after this.
I bought this Ceramide Barrier Booster from Balance Me in my local Waitrose and my skin has loved it. It is a cross between a gel and a cream and it disappears into skin beautifully, just making it feel better – I felt an instant calming and comfort on my skin. Use it after your serum and before your moisturiser, although I’ve been using just this and a moisturiser to keep things simple. Great after swimming when the chlorine has stripped skin even more!
Another favourite is the Evolve Blue Velvet Ceramide Serum. It also contains squalane and camellia oils, and blue tansy (hence the beautiful blue colour) to help repair, restore and calm redness and irritation. Use this after your (water based) serum but before your moisturiser. The texture is great for a gentle massage and it leaves skin feeling nourished and calm.
When trying any new skincare, try one product at a time so that you know how it is working for you, especially if your skin is feeling sensitive or reactive.
Have you tried any of these? What are your favourite ceramide skincare products – I’d love to know!
Repairing your skin’s barrier from the inside..
Skin is two sided – yes we can definitely help it by using great skincare but we also need to feed it from the inside too. I asked nutritionist Michaella Mazzoni for some tips on boosting our ceramides from the inside and she came back with a surprising answer..
As with so much information available online it is a bit confusing when it comes to ceramides. While ceramides are great for the skin, internally they are very much problematic if you have too much of them (similar to cholesterol).
When working on skin I like to focus on the cell membrane. The outside of your skin cells are made of fats so when it comes to fats and skincare you really are what you eat! If your diet mostly has damaged fats (fried foods or processed foods like crisps) you can start to see that reflected in the skin surface.
Some transfats are okay in moderation but if your aim is glowy, supple skin, try to increase your unsaturated fats. These fats are nice and fluid in their structure, meaning the outside of your cells are made up of these lovely, silky, fluid fats.
My favourite unsaturated fats are extra virgin olive oil, salmon, anchovies, chia seeds and walnuts.
Love this – thank you Michaella! I definitely feel a difference in my skin when I have lots of these good fats in my diet.
How about you? How to you boost your skin? Are you a fan of ceramides in your skincare?
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