What are ceramides and how do they help skin?

Ceramides are often used as an anti-ageing ingredient in skincare products, but what exactly are they and how do they work? Read on to discover answers to your 10 most frequently asked questions about ceramides.

1. What are ceramides?

Ceramides are, simply put, lipids (fats) that occur naturally in skin. They make up over 50% 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.

2. How do ceramides help skin?

Ceramides have proven anti-ageing properties. If you compare them to bricks and mortar, skin cells are the bricks and ceramides are the mortar. Ceramides hold skin together and form a protective layer to help prevent moisture loss and visible damage from environmental stressors. Ceramides also help to keep your skin supple.

Besides ceramides, there are two other fascinating ingredients: phytosphingosine and sphingolipiden. These are ceramide precursors and help upper layers of skin to produce more ceramide, so that skin can protect itself better.

3. If ceramides already occur naturally in skin, why do I also need them in my skincare?

Young skin produces lots of ceramides. But as you age and through sun damage, the quality and quantity of ceramides reduces. This can lead to a damaged skin barrier, causing dry, rough skin, wrinkles, redness, irritation and dehydration.

Ceramides in skincare can replenish the ceramides in your skin. This helps your skin to look and act like younger skin and keeps it hydrated, firm and supple.

4. What results can I expect from a ceramide-enriched product?

Properly formulated (and correctly packaged) skincare products with ceramides help strengthen your skin’s barrier and improve hydration. This results in smoother and firmer skin, reduced fine lines and wrinkles and less irritation.

5. Why does packaging matter?

The best anti-ageing ingredients are often not stable. This means that their effectiveness reduces when exposed to light and air, similar to what happens when you open a jar. Therefore it’s better to use opaque tubes or bottles or airtight pumps. These will help ingredients to perform at their best.

6. How do I know if a product contains ceramides?

Usually, you’ll find the word ‘ceramide’ in the ingredient list (ceramide AP, EOP, NG, NP, of NS), but not always. Ingredients like phytosphingosine and sphingosine are not instantly recognisable as ceramides, but are ceramide precursors which stimulate skin to produce ceramides. However, as ceramides are such a popular anti-ageing ingredient, most brands will clearly communicate it when they are included.

7. Which is best, synthetic or natural ceramides?

There are two properties that make ceramides an effective anti-ageing ingredient: they hydrate your skin and educate skin to repair itself to a healthy state.

Ceramides can be derived from plants. But the downside of plant-based ceramides is that they are only able to hydrate skin, they can’t teach it to behave younger and healthier. Ceramides can also be derived from animal and human skin - these ceramides contain both properties. As an ethical skincare company, we are not comfortable using these types of ceramides.

Synthetic ceramides are both an efficient and ethical solution. They are stable, they hydrate skin and teach it to act young and healthy. Although they’ve got a bad rap in the past as they were not well absorbed by skin, new variations don’t have this problem.

8. Which skin types benefit from ceramides?

Ceramides are ‘skin-identical’ ingredients, because they occur naturally in skin. This makes them an ideal ingredient for all skin types, even sensitive, breakout-prone or oily skin. Ceramides are also safe to use around the eyes.

9. Which ingredients do ceramides work well with?

Ceramides are most effective when combined with other ‘skin-identical’ ingredients such as amino acids, glycerine and cholesterol. These lipid mixtures are great for improving skin tone and texture and for reducing signs of irritated skin. As there is no single anti-ageing ingredient that does it all, make sure your ceramide-enriched product is also formulated with antioxidants and skin-restoring ingredients such as retinol, niacinamide, linoleic acid and peptides.

10. Can I combine ceramides with my AHA or BHA exfoliant?

You can definitely combine ceramides with your AHA or BHA exfoliant. Actually we recommend it! An exfoliant removes a layer of dead skin cells, which makes it even easier for the ceramides to be absorbed by skin.

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