Lab notes > Ingredients > What are ceramides and how do they work in skincare?

What are ceramides and how do they work in skincare?

Here we deep dive into what ceramides are and whether you might need them in your skincare routine

Here at Renude, we are ingredients-obsessed. One ingredient type which makes its way into a lot of our members' routines, but is perhaps lesser known than it's super-active cousins, is ceramides. But what are they? And what do they do for the skin? 

What are ceramides?

Ceramides are a naturally occurring family of lipids found in high concentrations in the outer layers of the skin. Their presence in skincare products, while common, is relatively unexplained, making it hard to know whether they are going to be a worthwhile addition to your skincare routine. Here we are discussing what ceramides are and what skin types can benefit from using them. 

Ceramides provide the skin with structural integrity, filling the space between our skin cells, keeping the skin barrier intact. A healthy skin barrier retains moisture and helps protect the deeper layers from environmental stressors such as UV and pollution. 

In order to understand what role ceramides have in skin hydration, it is important to remember that dryness can come from two different causes. A lack of water intake into the body results in dehydrated skin when our skin cells don’t get the moisture they need - this can be addressed by adding humectants into your routine, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid. A lack of lipids on the skin surface also results in dryness as any moisture we do have is easily lost through the skin (as the lipids are essential to creating a healthy skin barrier.) 

Age-related ceramide depletion is also inevitable – as we age our body becomes slower at producing ceramides. As a result, and in combination with declining collagen and elastin levels, the skin appearance begins to change; it has less bounce and begins to sag, wrinkles form and the skin becomes drier.

What do ceramides do for the skin?

Low lipid levels are one of the causes of dry skin, and because ceramides are lipids, topical application of ceramides can help create an artificial barrier that works to reduce the sensation and texture that accompanies dry skin. Essentially, we are replenishing our lipid levels – giving our skin a helping hand when it cannot create them itself! 

A strong barrier is key for keeping our skin hydrated and resistant to damage that can accelerate the aging process. Smaller molecular weight ceramides (small enough to penetrate deeper layers of the skin) can help support the naturally occurring ceramides in between our skin cells, adding to the structural integrity of the skin. Skin may appear plumper, and fine lines less visible as a result of using ceramides in your skincare routine. 

How do I use ceramides?

Ceramides are added to many moisturisers, serums and masks – any leave-on format is a suitable way to add ceramides to your skincare. These products will generally be deeply hydrating and great for dry or mature skin. For skin that is really dry and flaky, try using a gentle exfoliator as your first step to remove any visible dead skin. This will allow your skincare products to be more effective as they are better able to penetrate into the skin.

How long does it take to see results?

Depending on the product, your skin should appear instantly hydrated and plumped. Long-term use (4-6 weeks) is when you should notice more visible results – including a decrease in fine line appearance, more supple skin and a reduction in dryness. 

Are ceramides right for my skin?

Skin that has an impaired lipid barrier can benefit greatly from ceramide skincare products. This is generally people who suffer from dry skin or those using stronger active ingredients in their routine, such as acids or acne treatments, which can affect the lipid barrier. While in theory these products should also be great for those with eczema and psoriasis, other ingredients in the product may disagree and further irritate the condition so it’s always advised to seek professional help. 

See Renude-Approved Products Containing Ceramides.

 

Ashiana Fraser
Ashiana Fraser
MSc Cosmetic scientist