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What Are Ceramides And What’s Their Role in Skincare

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Most young people never have to think of moisturizing skin ingredients because your skin is naturally at its best when you are young. However, as you age and with seasonal changes, your skin moisture begins to deplete, and you may start to experience breakouts, dull, flaky, or dry skin. This happens because your skin barrier (a combination of different lipids) has been compromised. Thankfully, you don’t need to fret too much. With the right care, you can still rescue your skin and get back glowing and healthy skin. In this article, we present to you ceramides, a moisturizing agent that can improve your skin.

What are ceramides?

Ceramides are naturally found lipid substances on the skin’s epidermal layer and are necessary for skin barrier function, and they make up 50% of the outer layer of skin. The epidermis is divided into layers of cells such as the stratum corneum, stratum germinativum, and stratum granulosum. The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of the epidermis, and it’s composed of dead cells that frequently flake away. It consists of a mixture of ceramides, free fatty acids, and cholesterol. Thus, it is essential for beautiful and healthy skin. Research shows that this layer of the epidermis maintains skin integrity by using some natural systems to ensure that the skin retains water. One way the stratum corneum helps retain water on the skin is through its natural moisturizing properties, whose components (lactic acid, urea, urocanic acid, free amino acids) are humectants. Humectants attract and bind water from the air and draw it into the cells of the stratum corneum. 

Ceramides are like concrete between two blocks, which in this case, are your skin cells. They help to hold the skin cells together like the blocks and form a protective sheet that prevents moisture loss. Ceramides also prevent the damage caused to the skin by environmental factors like pollution or lifestyle factors like stress. 

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Ceramides’ role in skincare

Here is what Brendan Camp, M.D, a double board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in New York City says, “Ceramides are a type of fat, or lipid, that contribute to the mortar that holds skin cells in the epidermis together. Ceramides make up the lipids in the top layer of skin alongside cholesterol and free fatty acids, the stratum corneum. They help keep the skin hydrated by sealing in moisture, which can help the skin appear smooth and plump and even out fine lines.” Also, hear from Joshua Zeichner, M.D, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, as he illustrates and talks about the actions of ceramides on the skin. “Think of them like grout between your skin cell tiles. Ceramides help form a waterproof seal on the surface of the skin, preventing loss of hydration, maintaining a healthy skin barrier, and preventing environmental irritation.” 

From the above, it’s easy to see the enormous role ceramides play in retaining water on the skin. They have been found to help create a barrier that would prevent moisture permeability through the skin, prevent dryness, itching, or irritation, and inhibit the epidermis from environmental damage.

But the benefits of ceramides are not restricted to locking in moisture. They are also noted to have anti-aging effects. This is very logical because wrinkles and lines are usually more prominent when the skin is dry. More than retinol, niacinamide, and peptides, ceramides are like an ocean spring of youthful looks that supports the skin’s nature. So, the moisture-retaining effects of ceramides explain how ceramides help the skin to look younger. 

Natural ceramides vs. those formulated in skincare products

Ceramides have two precursors, which are Phytosphingosine and Sphingolipids. They help the skin produce more ceramides. Even though human skins are naturally made up of ceramides, they are lost over time due to age and sun damage. The effectiveness of naturally produced ceramides diminishes as you age, which weakens the skin’s protective barrier. As a result, the skin becomes drier, rougher, wrinkled, easily irritated, red, and with conspicuous dehydration signs. This is why it becomes necessary to supplement the naturally produced ceramides with well-formulated skincare products to replenish and make up for the loss. 

Besides, ceramides can only be called natural ceramides when they are found on the skin. The ceramides used in skincare products are synthetically made or plant-based. Even with this, there is no much of a difference in terms of quality and efficacy. The skin will always benefit from either naturally produced ceramides or synthetically produced ceramides. 

How to prevent ceramide loss?

To induce more production of natural ceramides, you can consider adding healthy fats to your meals. Other sources of ceramides include sweet potatoes, soy, rice, wheat, and corn. Ceramide loss can also be reduced by taking precautions in some habits and lifestyle choices such as drinking and smoking.  On the other hand, over scrubbing and even using the wrong type of soap or exposing the skin to extreme temperatures can lead to rapid loss of ceramides from the skin. Try not to stay too long in the shower for more than ten minutes, and apply a ceramide rich moisturizer immediately after bathing.

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How to use ceramides?

Ceramides can be used in combination with other skincare products to achieve the desired results. In fact, using them together with other ingredients can improve the outcome. Ceramides would yield great results when used with skin-replenishing ingredients like fatty acids, glycerin, cholesterol. To get the bests benefits, you can combine ceramide products with ingredients like antioxidants, skin-restoring ingredients like peptides, niacinamide, linoleic acid, and retinol. This is necessary because a single component cannot perform the anti-aging function and produce the best result. Gentle leave-on exfoliants would also be of great use as they would help remove layers of dead cells, which may prevent the skin from absorbing the vital ingredients.

What’s more, ceramides can be used for all skin types because they are found naturally on the skin in the first place. They can replenish all skin types, including the most sensitive skins, such as oily skins and skins that have tendencies for breakouts. Ceramide products can also be used around the eyes if the product is free from irritants.

Are ceramides safe for everyone?

Thankfully, there is less need for concerns when it comes to the side effects of ceramide products. Ceramide products are generally considered safe, especially when used topically. However, you can do a patch test to determine how your skin will react to the ceramide product. Rub a pea-sized amount of the product on your forearm and wait for 24 hours. Any itching or redness would indicate irritation, and you should wash and discontinue using the product. Without any of these signs, it is safe to conclude that you can conveniently use the ceramide product. However, if you are still in doubt, you can consult a dermatologist to determine safe usage and interactions. Although ceramides are generally safe for use, it’s necessary to be careful about the product’s packaging. Products in opaque and airtight bottles or tubes can be used conveniently. Containers like jars may expose the product to sunlight and air with use. This may damage the product over time. 


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