You have probably seen ceramides mentioned quite a bit lately, and there is a reason for this…
There is an increasing amount of research out there that points to the many benefits that ceramides can bring to the skin. This is an ingredient that can be used by all skin types, and can bring about some significant skin improvements.
Still not convinced?
Here is everything you need to know about ceramides, as well as why you should be adding them into your skin care routine…
What Are Ceramides?
In order to understand why ceramides are so beneficial, you need to first know more about what they are.
Simply put, ceramides are lipids, which is the same thing as molecules of fat.
These lipids form a major part of your skin’s outer layer, with around 50% of this layer consisting of ceramides. Ceramides also act in a similar way to glue when it comes to holding each of your skin cells together.
As you can see, ceramides are extremely important when it comes to skin health. This is why your skin naturally produces ceramides on its own.
You’re probably thinking…
If my skin produces ceramides itself, why do I need to add them to my skin care routine?
Well, the ceramides that your skin produces while it is young are fantastic, not only in quality but also in quantity.
However, as you (and your skin) age, your skin produces fewer ceramides, and the ones that are produced tend to be lower in quality.
This is why it is so important to support your skin with topical ceramides, especially as you reach the later stages of life.
The Benefits of Adding Ceramides to Your Skin Care
You already know that one of the benefits of adding ceramides to your skin care routine is that you will be able to replenish your skin’s natural supply of these lipids.
But what does this actually do for your skin?
Here are just a few of the benefits that ceramides can bring to your skin…
1) Improved Barrier Function
As mentioned above, ceramides make up 50% of your skin’s outer layer, and this is where your skin’s protective barrier lies.
Your skin’s protective barrier plays a number of roles, but there are two in particular that are extremely important when it comes to the health of your skin:
- Moisture Retention – your skin’s barrier prevents the water from within your skin cells from evaporating into the air, therefore keeping your skin moisturized
- Protection – your skin’s barrier provides a physical block against irritants, bacteria and other foreign particles from entering into your skin
As you can imagine, by improving the way in which this barrier works, you will be helping your skin in several ways…
A stronger barrier means that your skin will be able to retain even more moisture. This extra hydration will keep your skin cells plump and healthy, giving you a clearer, brighter and smoother complexion.
If you have sensitive skin, then the improved barrier function that ceramides bring about can help with all of the negative reactions that your skin likely experiences. The extra protection your skin receives will prevent irritants from causing these reactions in the first place.
2) Smoother Skin with Fewer Wrinkles and Fine Lines
While fine lines and wrinkles may be unavoidable to a certain extent, there are definitely many ways in which you can minimize them, while also delaying their onset.
One of these ways is through the use of ceramides….
As mentioned above, ceramides help to keep the skin better moisturized and hydrated. While hydrated skin can still develop wrinkles, these don’t tend to be as deep and severe as they appear on dry skin.
3) Ceramides Are Skin-Identical
So many skin care ingredients are touted as must-haves, but many of these do not actually penetrate into the skin, and therefore cannot bring about significant changes.
This is where ceramides are different…
The ceramides that you apply to your skin are identical to the ceramides that your skin naturally produces. This means that your skin immediately recognizes and accepts them, allowing them to be absorbed into the deeper layers of your skin.
Synthetic Vs Natural Ceramides
There are two types of ceramides used in skin care; synthetic and natural.
What’s the difference between the two?
Well, both of them work in similar ways when it comes to hydrating the skin and strengthening the skin’s natural barrier.
When it comes to natural ceramides, there are two main sources:
- Plant-based – the main downside to these is that, while they do hydrate the skin, they are not able to bring about deeper changes in how skin cells function
- Animal and human skin – while these ceramides are more powerful than plant-based ceramides, there are always going to be ethical concerns with using ingredients derived from animals or humans
On the other hand, synthetic ceramides do all of the above. Plus, since they are made synthetically, they are much more stable than their natural alternatives, meaning that they can be formulated into a wider range of skin care products.
In the past, synthetic ceramides got quite a bad reputation because the skin was not able to absorb them properly. Fortunately, this has all changed thanks to developments in technology, and the synthetic ceramides that are now produced are able to penetrate deep into the skin’s layers.
Choosing Ceramide Skin Care Products
Ready to add ceramides into your skin care routine?
If so, you need to know how to go about choosing the best ceramide skin care products.
Firstly, it goes without saying that you need to make sure that the product you are considering actually contains ceramides.
While some brands may advertise this on their packaging, the only way to be sure is by checking out the ingredients list. Ceramides are usually listed as “ceramides”, and will sometimes have a few letters after them, such as Ceramide AP or Ceramide NS. These signify the type of ceramides that have been used.
However, there are also a couple of other ceramide-related ingredients you can look out for…
These are known as:
What do they do?
Both of those ingredients are basically what a ceramide is actually made up of. Although they are not ceramides themselves, adding more of these into your skin enables your skin to naturally increase its own ceramide production.
Now that you know how to choose a ceramide skin care product, you are probably wondering which other ingredients are most beneficial when used alongside ceramides…
Well, with ceramides being skin-identical, you would be best off using them alongside other skin-identical ingredients. This means that your skin will recognize and accept the whole lot, absorbing everything deep into its different layers.
What are some other skin-identical ingredients to look out for?
Here are some of the most beneficial:
- Amino Acids – these support the natural functions of your skin cells, in particular the production of collagen and elastin. This not only increases skin firmness and smoothness, but also means that the skin is able to store a greater amount of water
- Glycerine – can be used by all skin types to increase skin elasticity, while also improving the rate at which the skin is able to absorb other ingredients
- Cholesterol – helps to regulate skin cell activity and maintain moisture levels
- Jojoba Oil – contains potent anti-inflammatory properties, while also being a great source of vitamin E and the B vitamins. Since this is a skin-identical oil, it can be used by all skin types, even oily skin
- Hyaluronic Acid – a humectant that draws moisture to the skin and keeps it hydrated. However, only low molecular weight hyaluronic acid is skin-identical
- Urea – another humectant that has been proven to strengthen the skin’s barrier
- Squalane – balances the skin’s oil production while providing the skin with anti-aging properties too. Squalane is also a strong anti-inflammatory ingredient and can treat inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema and acne
Taking Ceramides Orally
Convinced that ceramides could benefit your skin?
Well, you can double up on their effects by taking them orally, in addition to applying them topically.
How does this work when it comes to your skin?
When you consume ceramides, their molecules are absorbed into your bloodstream. After this, your blood carries them around and delivers them to the skin cells that lie in your innermost layer of skin. From here, they slowly seep into your outer layers of skin, rejuvenating the skin from inside out.
Keep in mind that when it comes to oral ceramide supplements, there is only a small amount of research out there that proves their benefits. While this may be the case, ceramides are safe to consume, and there are an increasing number of ceramide supplements now available.
Protecting Your Skin’s Natural Ceramides
As mentioned earlier, your skin naturally produces its own ceramides, but the rate at which it does this declines with age.
Not only that, but your skin’s ceramide levels can be depleted by a number of different factors, and this causes your skin to lose even more ceramides than necessary.
Fortunately, there are a couple of steps that you can take to protect your skin’s natural ceramides and prevent this supply from being destroyed.
What do you need to do?
Begin by taking a look at your skin care routine. Harsh ingredients that strip away your skin’s natural oils will also be stripping away your skin’s ceramides.
The cold and dry air that comes with winter is another problem. The best way to protect your skin from this is by making use of a thick and rich moisturizer, as this will form an additional layer of protection over the ceramides in your skin’s outer layer. Of course, make sure that the moisturizer is a gentle one that does not contain harsh ingredients.
The other major step that you can take to protect your skin is improving your diet.
Your diet has a direct impact on the health and appearance of your skin. A healthy diet will encourage your skin to naturally produce more ceramides, while an unhealthy diet will block this from happening.
What does a healthy diet consist of?
Plenty of fresh, whole foods, and a minimal amount of sugar.
Make sure that you are including enough dietary fats in your meals, as these are so important for ceramide production in the skin.
Which foods contain dietary fats?
The following tend to be the best sources:
- Nuts and seeds
- Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring
- Dark chocolate
- Whole eggs
- Coconuts and coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
While many people try to stay away from fats in their diet, the above fat sources are extremely beneficial to your overall health, as well as your skin.
Wondering if there are any food sources that contain ceramides themselves?
Yes, there are a few, such as wheat and rice. However, the quantity of ceramides within them is extremely small, and is not enough for those ceramides to actually make a difference when it comes to your skin. This is why ceramide supplements are the way to go if you want to nourish your skin with ceramides from within.
One other thing to be aware of…
Certain medications can also have an effect on your skin’s production of ceramides. In particular, medications that are designed to lower cholesterol levels can end up also lowering the lipid levels in your skin’s outer layer.
Even if you are not able to switch medications, simply knowing that your medication is the cause of your skin changes will enable you to use a more protective moisturizer, along with other beneficial skin care products.
When it comes to the health and appearance of your skin, ceramides are extremely important. They are key when it comes to keeping your skin hydrated, smooth and supple, and definitely deserve a prime spot in your skin care routine.