Skin Sleuth: What Are Ceramides?
During the winter months when your skin is at its driest, incorporating ceramides into your daily skincare routine via moisturizers, scrubs and sometimes even serums is oh-so important. These lipid-filled additives are actually naturally produced in your own skin, but they need to be constantly replenished so that they’re doing the best job they can to help restore your skin’s barrier function. Ahead, we consulted with board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entiere Dermatology, Melissa Levin M.D, to learn more about ceramides and their skin benefits.
What Are Ceramides?
“Ceramides are naturally found in your skin and are a crucial component of the outer protective layer of the skin,” says Dr. Levin. To use a brick-and-mortar analogy, your skin cells are the bricks, and the lipids (or fats) in between each brick are the ceramides. Cholesterol and fatty acids are the mortar, she says.
As long as the outermost layer of your skin — your brick and mortar as a whole — is intact, it keeps hydration in and helps protect the skin’s surface. But when it’s not working properly, that’s when you’re going to suffer from water loss. “When this wall breaks, the skin can become more dry, inflamed and potentially more at risk for inflammatory skin conditions,” Dr. Levin notes. It’s ceramides that keep your skin’s wall — or barrier, in this case — strong.
What Do Ceramides Do in Skin Care?
Because your skin might be lacking in ceramides, replenishing them often helps keep your skin moisturized. According to Dr. Levin, you can typically find ceramides in moisturizers, but you might also see them combined with other skin-care ingredients. “Topical ceramides might be combined with certain active ingredients like retinol or glycolic acid,” she says. A great example of this is the Pixi Beauty Retinol Jasmine Cleanser, which contains retinol encased in a shell of ceramides, to make your post-wash skin feel sleek and soft.
Ceramides Are Also Anti-Agers
It’s also important to note that ceramides keep your skin looking young. “As we age, ceramide levels in our skin drop, and by your 30s, you’ve lost about 40% of your skin’s ceramides and 60% by your 40s!” Dr. Levin adds. When your skin gets thinner as you age, it’s not only due to loss of collagen or elastin, it’s also due to the loss of ceramides. “Restoring your skin barrier function with the help of ceramides can also help keep your skin’s surface protected from pollutants, infrared, heat and more.”
How to Incorporate Ceramides Into Your Routine
In order to restore your skin barrier function with the ceramides it needs, it’s key to moisturize with products formulated with ceramides twice daily. Dr. Levin suggests going for “restorative moisturizers,” like the Alastin Restorative Skin Complex. “The blend of peptides, ceramides and antioxidants in this formula work to plump and protect the skin with hydration, even skin tone and smooth texture from visible fine lines and wrinkles,” she says. For drugstore ceramide options, we like the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream for Normal to Dry Skin, or the CeraVe Healing Ointment, if you have dry, cracked and chafed skin. Both are formulated with three different types of skin-protecting ceramides, are non-greasy and accepted by the National Eczema Association.
How Do I Know the Ceramides Are Working?
Once you’ve incorporated ceramides into your routine twice a day, you should be able to tell that they’re working almost immediately. “Your skin should feel moisturized and hydrated due to a restored skin barrier,” says Dr. Levin.