Ceramides – the latest skincare buzzword

Having dry skin? It’s time you learn all about ceramides.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

If you’re beginning to notice that your skin seems drier than it used to be, its barrier function might be compromised. This disrupts its ability to retain moisture in the top layers. Pollutants and irritants are also more likely to damage skin when this happens. The root cause of it all? A deficiency in ceramides in your skin’s lipid barrier. Keep reading to find out the top facts about ceramides, what you need to know to ensure healthy skin, and the products to use. 

What are ceramides?

Your skin’s waterproof lipid layer covers and protects your body from external factors. Ceramides make up a huge part of this uppermost layer of the skin. In fact, 40 percent of intercellular lipids are ceramides, 25 percent are cholesterol and 25 percent are fatty acids. Hence, ceramides play a crucial role in ensuring that your skin functions optimally.

What causes ceramide depletion?

Like many beneficial compounds in our skin, the level of ceramides can decrease due to various reasons, including aging, drastic climate changes, and sun damage. In fact, people who spend a lot of time in the sun tend to have drier skin because of depleted ceramide levels. Using overly harsh cleansers can have the same effect. Those dealing with eczema and psoriasis might also be lacking in certain types of ceramides, which is why creams and lotions prescribed for the treatment of such skin conditions often contain this ingredient. 

Who needs ceramides?

Everyone benefits from ceramides because, even if your skin is smooth and plump, they help to maintain healthy, supple skin in the long run. Another good reason to include ceramides in your skincare is when you’re travelling to a cold climate. They alleviate feelings of dryness and tightness. 

Are ceramides different from humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid?

While ceramides and ingredients like glycerine and hyaluronic acid might seem like they do the same thing, they actually have very different functions. Glycerine and hyaluronic acid are humectants. When applied, they draw moisture from their surroundings to keep skin plump and supple. Ceramides work at a cellular level to replenish skin with the lipids (natural oils) it needs to rebuild and strengthen its protective barrier so it is able to hold moisture in and keep irritants out. 

What products should I try?

For dry skin, try [1] Curel Moisture Cream ($38.80; 40g) as it effectively penetrates the skin’s stratum corneum to replenish lost lipids while amplifying skin’s natural ability to produce ceramides. If you’re looking for a toner, [2] Lapothicell Ceramide Hydra Fluid ($48; 125ml) is formulated with purified ceramide and hyaluronic acid to balance, replenish and hydrate skin instantly and over time.

[3] Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum ($169 for 90 capsules) is great for travellers because of its packaging. It delivers skin-compatible ceramides to restore a compromised skin barrier to relieve dryness instantly as well as improve skin elasticity.

And if you’re willing to splurge, treat yourself to [4] SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore ($248; 48ml). It contains an optimal ratio of ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids to reinforce skin’s barrier layer and support its natural self-repair mechanism. 

My Reading Room