Skin Care Ingredient Focus: Ceramides

Written by Jennifer Gordon, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on January 20, 2023 No Comments

woman skin care

Ceramides are an effective anti-aging skin care ingredient that can protect your skin from fine lines and wrinkles by helping it retain moisture and plumpness. Ceramides also strengthen skin’s natural protective barrier, preventing redness and inflammation. If you’re looking for a great non-prescription skin care ingredient with the ability to simultaneously boost hydration and fight aging, here’s why you should consider adding ceramides to your skin care regimen.

What Are Ceramides?

Ceramides are a type of fatty acid that naturally occurs in the epidermis, the top-most layer of your skin. When you’re young, ceramides account for nearly 50% of your skin’s outermost layer. These small lipids act as a binding agent, holding skin cells together.

These natural fats help hold moisture against your skin and serve as a protective barrier, keeping harmful, irritating pollutants out. They play an important role in hydration and overall skin health.

In skin care, natural or synthetic ceramides are available in several types of products. They keep skin healthy and plump, youthful and smooth.

How Do Ceramides Benefit the Skin?

Both sun damage and the aging process deplete skin’s natural ceramides over time. This leaves your skin vulnerable to dryness and more exposed to environmental irritants. Most people start losing ceramides in their 30’s. Over time, the continued loss of ceramides results in skin can become drier, and more likely to show wrinkles, redness or irritation.

Adding ceramides to your skin care routine can replenish what’s been lost to help reverse the signs of aging.

How Do Ceramides Work?

Ceramides are often described as the mortar in a brick-and-mortar structure. They work by binding skin cells together, forming a layer of protection against moisture loss and environmental stressors. Adding ceramides to your skin care routine can help reinforce this protective barrier and improve your skin’s hydration.

When skin is well moisturized, fine lines and wrinkles are minimized. Skin that’s plump is smoother. What’s more, protecting skin from irritants prevents redness and inflammation, making skin appear healthier and younger.

Who Can Benefit from Using Ceramides?

Anyone who has dry or rough skin, including those with eczema or dermatitis can benefit from ceramides. Ceramides can also help anyone who is interested in combating the signs of aging. The benefits of ceramides in skin care include the following:

  • Increased protection from environmental pollutants and irritants
  • Improved moisture retention for less dryness
  • Improved smoothness and fewer visible wrinkles
  • Decreased risk of infection and improved skin cell health

What Types of Skin Care Products Contain Ceramides?

Because they are hydrating, ceramides are most often found in moisturizers, night creams or eye creams. Ceramides are also available in cleansers, toners and serums. Most products containing ceramides are advertised as such. If not, look for the following ingredients:

  • Ceramides
  • Ceramide AP
  • Ceramide EOP
  • Ceramide NG
  • Ceramide NP
  • Ceramide NS

Speaking with a dermatologist can help you choose which specific ceramide is best for you. Some are more effective as moisturizers, while others build protection.

Sometimes, ceramides are combined with exfoliating ingredients such as glycolic acid or retinoids, to help them penetrate more deeply into the skin.

The most effective ceramide skin care products are packaged in opaque, air-tight containers. This prevents the active ingredients from degrading or expiring with exposure to light or air.

How And When to Use Ceramides

Ceramides are non-irritating, so it’s safe to use them twice daily. If you’re using them as a moisturizer, apply just after showering or washing your face when your skin is still slightly damp. This helps lock moisture in.

Otherwise, when to use your ceramides depends on the product. Cleansers should be used first, followed by your toner or serum, and topped with a moisturizer. You might also find ceramides in your sunscreen, which you should apply last.

What Other Ingredients Work Well with Ceramides? 

Ceramides work well with nearly every other skin care ingredient. It’s common to find them combined with other ‘skin-replenishers.’ These are substances that naturally occur in your skin, but may be lacking as you age. Skin-replenishers include lipids such as cholesterol, glycerin and other fatty acids.

Ceramides are also frequently packaged with other protective, anti-aging products such as antioxidants, peptides, niacinamide, linoleic acid or retinol.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Ceramides have no known negative interactions with other skin care ingredients and no known side effects. More often, added non-active ingredients such as fragrance or coloring are what makes a product irritating, so look for ceramides without this.

If you’re unsure about how your skin will react to a new product, apply a small amount or use it every-other-day until you feel confident it’s safe.

Are Ceramides Good for All Skin Types?

Ceramides are gentle and safe for all skin types. They may be especially helpful for those with dry skin or sensitive skin, as they lock in moisture and protect skin from sensitivities. Even those with oily skin or people prone to breakouts can benefit from ceramides. In fact, they may protect against acne by keeping bacteria out.

Jennifer Gordon, MD

Dr. Gordon is Board Certified by the American Board of Dermatology and is a member of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), the American Academy of Dermatology, the Dermatology Foundation, the Texas Medical Association and the Travis County Medical Society. Currently, Dr. Gordon oversees our South Austin location.

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