What are ceramides? Are they good anti-aging ingredients? Are they good at repairing skin? I’ve seen them in facial creams ‘n they all seem pretty expensive… are ceramides worth the pricetag?
I’ve had quite a few questions about ceramide skincare recently. I love, love, love receiving your emails because they give me a little insight into your world and the skincare questions that are baffling you. If you have any, do not be afraid to ping me an email (at this address).
Let’s get to this…
What Are Ceramides?
There are a crazy amount of skincare ingredients to choose from…ceramides, niacinamide, panthenol, glycerin, ubiquinone… *imagine me standing here a week later still reciting – winks*. To really ‘know’ one, to understand whether it’s a good match for your skin type you need to move past the ‘acquaintance’ level friendship status. Once you’ve become better pals, you’ll know just how this guy gets his ‘mojo’ on and whether that’s a good fit for your skin type…
So, what ARE ceramides? Ceramides are a type of waxy, fat. Imagine a cross between candle wax and the rind of fat on a rasher of bacon. While not a glamorous image, those 2 kinds of ingredients bring a lot of benefit to skin. Can you imagine what that might be? I bet you’ve locked onto the key benefit of ceramides already ‘eh!
Ceramides are great ingredients for helping to ‘water-proof’ our skin. While that sounds a tad mundane, it’s very, very important. The waterproofing of our skin, also called the barrier function, is responsible for keeping skin healthy, hydrated and happy.
Ceramides are naturally found in our skin. While our skin cells are young, they are hidden away in the deeper layers of skin where they quietly manufacture ceramide babies! As skin cells mature and ‘debut’ into the seen layers of our skin, they release these ceramides to create our skin-raincoat.
While the deeper layers of our skin are ‘brooding and complicated’ *winks*, the top layers are plain and simple. In fact, dermatologists like to call this layer, ‘bricks and mortar’. Our bodies wall against the world.
This wall is made from tightly packed dead skin cells, held together by mortar made from ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol.
Which Skin Types & Conditions are Ceramides Best For?
Ceramides are a really interesting skincare ingredient because firstly, our skin obviously needs them as it already has its own supply and secondly there’s a lot of studies that prove they really do work!
While some skincare ingredients multi-task skills like brightening and acne-fighting, ceramides stick to just the one – increasing the health of skins barrier function. Ceramides don’t multi-task, but they do have superhero worthy barrier function skills!
That means cermaides are superbly-fabulous ingredients for skin that is…
- Suffering from eczema or dermatitis
- Suffering from psoriasis
You’ll also see ceramides used in anti-aging skincare. Ceramides will protect skin from pre-mature aging, because they help to keep stuff that ‘stresses’ the skin out and good stuff like hydration in. While they are great at defending, they are unlikely to ‘rewind’ signs of aging that’ve already developed. That’s why a good anti-aging skincare pick would team ceramides up with a ‘rewind’ ingredient like niacinamide (vitamin B3) or peptides like Matrixyl 3000 (palmitoyl-tripeptide and palmitoyl-oligopeptide).
Why are Ceramides Perfect For Dry and Sensitive Skin?
Remember that bit where I mentioned ceramides had superhero worthy skin protecting skills? Well I’m not the kind to leave a claim like that un-backed *winks*. Ceramides should be your, ‘go-to’ ingredient for dry and sensitive skin because…
1. Ceramides are Skin Identical
There’s nothing dry and sensitive skin likes more than a skin identical hero! Ceramides aren’t just similar to the make-up of our skin, they are the, ‘splitting image’ of the ceramides our skin makes itself. When skin is dry and sensitive, it acts like a parent who’s been kept awake 3 nights straight… it’s ready to snap at the smallest thing. That means skin that is sensitive will ‘throw a tantrum’ at the tiniest quantity of an ingredient it sees as a foreign invader, whereas dry skin will let any darn thing in, which then causes extra irritation and dryness.
When you give you skin something it already knows how to use, you don’t have to send it for ‘training’. There’s no ‘purging’ phase, you’re just topping up your skins already existing reserves.
2. Ceramides Improve Your Skin Health
Dry and sensitive skin types and conditions have 1 huge thing in common… they are super ‘reactive’ to the environment and to what you use on them. Any skincare ingredient that improves the overall healthiness of skin is a winner for these skin types. That’s because the healthier your skin is, the more power you have in your skin battery. Imagine being attacked when you were only 25% full ‘eh *winks*.
3. Ceramides Improve Barrier Function
That’s a fancy way of saying they lock the bad-guys out and the good-guys in. Ceramides are a key ingredient in your skins top layers. When you suffer from dry skin, your barrier function is waaaaaay down. So far down you can physically see your skin barrier peeling away. Ceramides add back part of the ‘skin-cell glue’ that dry skin types are missing. It’s similar for sensitive skin. Sensitive skin really doesn’t like it when strangers wonder through it’s front door. That’s why ceramides are perfect, they improve skins barrier function which helps to keep any strange skincare ingredients, or environmental nasties out.
4. Ceramides Waterproof Your Skin
Ever heard the phrase, ‘like water off a ducks back’? Well take the duck outta the equation and that’s exactly what you want your skin to do. See, water sat on top of your skin, dries it out. You read that right, if you put water on your skin, like when you have a shower or a bath, it dries your skin.
Saaaay what? That sounds counter intuitive right? The thing is your skins top layers are oil based and that is fab, because oil keeps water locked in to you skin (remember how oil and water don’t mix?). When water gets left on top of that oil based layer, it starts to ‘eat it’. That gets amped up when you have a hot shower as the heat and power of that waterfall action turn eating into ‘gobbling’.
Ceramides replenish and re-waterproof skin that’s lost its inbuilt raincoat down the plug ‘ol. The result of that is hydration! Just what dry skin needs…
5. Ceramides Make Skin Comfortable
Dealing with dry or sensitive skin is one thing, dealing with the un-comfortable tight, itchy, crawly feelings is another. At times you might start to wonder if people suspect you have fleas ‘eh *winks* #BeenThere. Those uncomfortable skin sensations are usually a result of a compromised skin barrier. It might be a shower gel that ate your skin barrier, it could be a change in water hardness or even a new skincare product. Once that oily, waterproof layer is compromised, skin feels uncomfortable.
Ceramides help to get rid of those tight, itchy, crawly skin feelings because they re-lubricate your skin barrier. Imagine a waterslide with no water – OWCH! Add back the water and you get to wave goodbye to friction burns. Ceramides do the same for your skin.
Which Skincare Ranges Will I Find Ceramides In?
If you want to find ceramides in your skincare, these are the guys to try. I have 3 options which vary on the price tag, so there’s something here for everyone…
1. CeraVe, £
CeraVe is a ‘go-to’ for drugstore skincare with a happily healthy dose of ceramides. Did you notice it’s named after them? I also love their ingredient ethos, they are one of very few brands to be complexly fragrance and parfum free. That is perfect for dry, sensitive skin types. There’s a full range here, from cleansers to moisturisers. Every pick is ceramide rich.
Where you can buy CeraVe: Amazon.
See the full range on the CeraVe website.
2. First Aid Beauty, ££
First aid beauty have all-round fab ingredients for sensitive skin, including ceramides. It’s their ‘Ultra-repair’ range that features ceramides, with their ‘Ultra Repair Face Moisturizer’ and ‘Ultra Repair Cream’ being the go-tos. You’ll also find a nice dose in their SPF 40 mineral sunscreen.
See the full range on the First Aid Beauty website.
3. Elizabeth Arden, £££
You can tell Elizabeth Arden really believe in the power of the humble ceramide… so much that they only went and dedicated an entire collection to it. Aptly named the ‘ceramide’ collection, you’ll be spoilt for choice with everything from night creams to eye treatment and even ceramide capsules!
See the full range on the Elizabeth Arden website.
Have you tried ceramides for your dry or sensitive skin? Tell me your experiences, I’d love to hear…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.