Ceramides are key for keeping skin hydrated - Here's what you need to know

If you've never heard of ceramides, gather round, because the superpower ingredients hold the power to rejuvenate your skin, especially in winter.

While you might be well versed in the nutritional benefits of eating healthy fats, such as those found in nuts and olive oil, where your skincare is concerned, fats (aka ceramides) hardly get a look in. In fact, research by market analysts Mintel found that while many beauty fans have heard of ceramides, only 7% of you actually know what they are.

Ignoring ceramides in favour of trendier ingredients, such as retinol, acids or niacinamide, does a huge disservice to your dermis because they hold the power to rejuvenate your skin and reinforce the skin's barrier.

Here, cosmetic doctor and founder of Zenii skincare, Dr Johanna Ward, reveals all you need to know about the beauty of these wonder ingredients.

Okay, so what are ceramides?

'Ceramides are fats (also known as lipids)that form over 50% of your skin’s make-up. Yep, you’re basically a walking, talking greaseball. They're most abundant in the top layers of the skin, so it’s no surprise that they play a vital role in determining how your skin looks, ages and responds to environmental stressors,' explains Dr Ward.

Are ceramides good for the skin?

In a word, yes. 'You know the grout that keeps your Pinterest-worthy bathroom tiles in place? Well, ceramides work in much the same way. If there isn't enough grout between the tiles in your shower, then water will start to leak out and cause issues. Ceramides seal the gaps between skin cells and keep vital moisture locked in,' says Dr Ward.

'They also keep your skin cells organised in a dynamic matrix, rather than a hopeless mishmash, which, in turn, helps to prevent hydration from leaking out and, crucially, stopping undesirable elements, such as free-radicals, bacteria and pollution, seeping in,' she adds.

Can you ceramides everyday?

You can indeed. They're so easy to incorporate into your AM and PM skincare routine. Not only that but they also pair well with lots of other ingredients. Using a daily moisturiser with ceramides is a great way to get your daily dose.

Dr Ward adds, 'because they're naturally occurring in the body, applying ceramides topically doesn’t upset sensitive or oily skins. Regular use makes the skin plumper, firmer and more resilient to the signs of ageing and environmental damage.'

What do ceramides do to your skin?

'When your skin barrier doesn't have enough fat, the hydration and moisture that keeps your face plump and bouncy can evaporate into the atmosphere. The scientific name for this is TEWL (transepidermal water loss), and it leaves skin dehydrated.

Without the protective prowess of ceramides, you open the floodgates to all sorts of tricky skincare issues. Skin looks and feels dry, red, rough and weak,' clarifies Dr Ward.

'Women who suffer from dry skin or conditions such as acne, eczema and rosacea have very low ceramide levels in their dermis – this contributes to sensitivity and skin inflammation. The lovely thing about increasing ceramide levels is that all skin types can benefit from them, and all skin types respond well to them,' she adds.

What are the 3 essential ceramides?

In total there are 9 types of ceramides found in your skin, but only 3 really make the cut when it comes to skincare. These are ceramides 1, 3 and 6-II.

The ceramides that have the best clinical data to their name are the most used within skincare, and usually brands will combine a mix of ceramides in their product formulations. Medik8 for example, uses a combination of 1 and 3 in their products, while CeraVe uses a combination of all three.

If ceramides are already in my skin, then why do I need them in my skincare?

'Just like your ability to bat off a hangover or lie in past midday, your ceramide levels start to deplete as you get older. It is estimated that, by the time you’re in your thirties, you’ll have lost about 40% of your skin’s ceramides,' adds Dr Ward.

'Once you’ve hit your forties, you’ll have lost around 60%. The good news is that you can top up by applying serums, creams and masks that contain them. Cleansers containing ceramides are less important, as they’ll just wash off, but they’re still useful if you suffer from sensitive or acne-prone skin,' she adds.

'As with all high-performance skincare ingredients, ceramides work best when they’re part of a team, rather than as a solo act. They can be applied at any time of day, so will slide easily into your routine. Look for smart combinations of ceramides, antioxidants, retinol and peptides for the ultimate boost,' says Dr Ward.

What ceramide products are the best?

Here's our edit of the best products with ceramides for 2023

Enriched with a powerhouse of ingredients–namely ceramides, peptides, niacinamide and squalane–the purpose of this eco-friendly moisturiser is to protect the all-important skin barrier, or stratum corneum.

If you have sensitive skin, it can be hard to find products that don’t inflame or dry it out. Luckily, Japan’s top brand for sensitive skin has hit UK shores. Splash it on to skin before your moisturiser.

Ceramides are just as important for the skin below your chin. This new cleanser by CeraVe is made with three naturally occurring ceramides and squalane to lock in hydration.

Elizabeth Arden is the OG brand when it comes to ceramides. Harnessing 30 years of ceramide tech, this essence will give your skin an extra hit of hydration.

This no-frills formula works incredibly to replicate the naturally occurring ceramides in your skin, amplifying its ability to retain moisture overnight.

For extremely parched skin, this lightweight oil floods skin with nourishing hydration and a hit of ceramides to lock all that goodness in.

Chances are you've heard all about the importance of keeping your skin barrier (the outermost layer of skin) in tip-top shape. Well, thanks to barrier-boosting ceramides, hyaluronic acid, fatty acids and lipids, this hydrating balm does it for you.

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