Everything you need to know about ceramide
We're aware of skincare's heavy hitters (hello, hyaluronic acid) - but this lesser known ingredient could be a game-changer.
When it comes to our skin, we all want the same thing: a smooth, plump and glowing complexion. But drinking plenty of water and religiously applying moisturiser sometimes isn’t enough – you also need know which beauty ingredients will help your skin reach its optimum condition.
One key ingredient that often falls under the radar is ceramides. Despite forming the very building blocks of our skin, even the skincare buffs among us probably know more about retinol, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. But ceramide-rich products are especially noteworthy for anyone suffering with dryness and dehydration, fine lines, irritation, skin damage, chronic dullness, sensitivity and pigmentation. Essentially, they can work wonders for anyone who feels their skin is distressed or lacking in nourishment.
So, what exactly are ceramides and how can they be integrated into your routine? According to Dr Yalda Jamali, founder of the Dr Yalda Clinic, they are natural essential fats normally found in the epidermis, which is the top layer of the skin. “The easiest way to explain what they do is to imagine that your skin cells are bricks and ceramides are the cement that holds everything together,” she says.
The main function of ceramides is to keep the skin healthy. But as we inevitably age and subject our skin to constant UV and pollution exposure, our natural ceramide levels begin to decline. This natural process then weakens our skin’s barrier leading to dry, itchy and irritated skin, which in turn worsens the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Reaching for products containing ceramides will help seal in essential moisture and protect against transepidermal water loss, thus improving your skin’s overall health. Results include a softer and more hydrated complexion with fewer irritations, lines and breakouts. “Adding products that contain ceramides into your daily regime can help hugely if you suffer from redness, irritation, dehydrated or visibly aged skin,” says Dr Jamali.
There’s a variety of ceramide-rich products on the market, including moisturisers, serums, toners, face washes and SPFs. They’re even present in some hand and bodycare products, which can be great for cracked over-washed hands (thanks pandemic) and eczema sufferers. “If you haven’t used a ceramide product before, you could start with a facial cleanser and see how your skin reacts,” recommends Dr Jamali. “Another great way of introducing it into your skincare regime is by getting a moisturiser that contains ceramides. It’s a gentle and non-irritating ingredient so you can’t really go wrong.” There are several types of ceramides used in skincare products and most of the formulas you can buy contain a selection. “Always look at the back of the bottle to check that they’re included,” says Dr Jamali. “Ceramides should be on the ingredients list and may be labelled with two or three additional letters (such as ceramide AP, ceramide EOP or ceramide NP).” You may also find phytosphingosine and sphingosine on the ingredients list, which are also beneficial for the skin: “These aren’t necessarily ceramides, but they can start a positive feedback loop of encouraging your own skin to create ceramides,” Dr Jamali adds.
Experts say ceramides can be used at any age and will benefit young and mature skin alike. “But of course, they will make more of a visible and palpable difference in individuals who have a reduction in ceramide levels, which can happen as soon as our early 30s,” says Dr Jamali.
Ceramides work especially well as a final step in your routine (just before sunscreen if you’re using them during the day) or applied after a shower to really lock in moisture. Plus, unlike some ingredients such as retinol and other potent acids, they are suitable for all skin types. So, if one of your summer goals is to achieve a strong and healthy complexion, ceramides could help elevate your skin to its best condition yet.