Ceramides may not come with a lot of fanfare but they’re an essential skincare ingredient to look for in moisturisers – especially if you’re a hyaluronic acid fan
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They may not be particularly sexy, but ceramides are the building blocks of well-hydrated skin. If you imagine your skin as being like a wall, your skin cells would be the bricks and ceramides would be the mortar or ‘glue’ that holds them together.
Your skin is blessed by having a fatty outer layer made up of ceramides, as well as cholesterol and amino acids, that keep irritants – including harsh chemicals and pollution particles – out, while locking in the water and electrolytes that keep skin dewy and plump. In fact, the more we become 'skintellectuals' and research ingredients, the more popular ceramides are becoming. So much so, the Whole Foods Trend Council named it a trending ingredient for 2022.
Here's why your skin can benefit from a ceramide-rich moisturiser and how it will strengthen your skin barrier.
What are ceramides?
Ceramides are lipids (also known good fats) that occur naturally in skin. "Ceramides make up over 50 per cent of the skin’s composition, so it’s no wonder they play such an important role in protecting your skin against environmental threats and helping it look younger," says Paula Begoun, founder of Paula's Choice Skincare.
When used in skincare, most ceramides are synthetic and created in a laboratory but it's also possible to find plant-derived versions in formula. According to Begoun, synthetic ceramides – which appear on the ingredients lists as ceramide AP, EOP, NG, NP, of NS – are superior. "The downside of plant-based ceramides is that they are only able to hydrate skin," she says. "Synthetic ceramides are stable, they hydrate skin and teach it to act young and healthy."
What are the benefits of ceramides for skin?
Ceramides form a protective layer to help prevent moisture loss, especially in the face of modern skincare routines that can strip away the skin's natural oils through over-cleansing or overzealous exfoliation.
Stress is another culprit that saps the skin of its natural ceramides, says Dana Nel, skin therapist at Björk and Berries. “Too much cortisol depletes the skin of water, lipids and ceramides in its outermost layer,” she says. “This leads to an impaired skin barrier and dry, rough, thin and sensitised skin,” she adds.
However, leaning on "hydrating, nourishing and barrier-repairing ingredients such as ceramides," says Emma Wiklund, founder of Swedish beauty brand Emma S, can bring skin back into balance.
What skin types benefit most from using ceramides?
Given ceramides are naturally occurring in the skin, they're considered skin-identical ingredients in skincare. This makes them ideal for all skin types, especially sensitive skin, where the barrier is typically weaker. Laid down on easily riled skin, ceramides will make it harder for irritants to penetrate and cause inflammation. They also go a long way to restoring the skin's outer layer, making sensitive types feel less itchy.
Ceramides also become more essential with age as the lipid barrier renews itself less frequently. "Young skin produces lots of ceramides," Begoun explains. "But with age, and through sun damage, the quality and quantity of ceramides reduces."
How should you use ceramides?
"Ceramides are most effective when combined with other ‘skin-identical’ ingredients such as amino acids, glycerine and cholesterol," advises Begoun.
It is also crucial to use a ceramide-rich moisturiser over the top of your hyaluronic acid serum. Hyaluronic acid pulls water to the top layers of skin, hydrating, smoothing and plumping dehydrated complexions. But there's always the danger that this moisture will evaporate if it's not locked in. That's where ceramides can make a big difference – whether you want to age gracefully or simply give your skin barrier a much-needed helping hand.
The best skincare with ceramides
BioCalm Ultra Rich Repair Cream
Estelle & Thild
Lala Retro Whipped Cream
Björk and Berries
Ceramide-Enriched Firming Eye Cream
Retinol Facial Oil
Avocado Ceramide Redness Relief Serum
Ceramide Night Treatment
The Inkey List