There are a lot of buzzy skincare terms and ingredients floating around out there, and it can all start to get a little confusing. The key is to take things one step, or one ingredient, at a time. Our focus for the day is ceramides, which are arguably one of the most in-demand ingredients in the skincare market right now. With a little help from an esteemed esthetician, we’re teaching you all about what ceramides are, how they benefit your skin, and our fave formulas.
The DL on Ceramides
“Ceramides are molecules present in the skin along with fatty acids, cholesterol and a variety of lipids. They must be in the right proportions to keep your skin watertight,” says Melissa Lekus, a Los Angeles based esthetician. “Without that, skin tends toward dryness and sensitivity.”
Let’s draw an analogy. Think of your skin cells as chocolate cake in a multi-tiered masterpiece (yummm!). Ceramides (along with fatty acids, cholesterol, and lipids) are like the frosting, there to hold everything together and create a protective barrier around that chocolatey goodness. Another way to frame it (that won’t make you quite as hungry) is to think of your skin cells as bricks in a brick wall, and ceramides as the mortar. Subpar frosting application or damaged mortar means the entire structure is compromised.
“If one’s skin is naturally dry or has become dehydrated as a result of lifestyle or environmental conditions, often this could mean that your skin’s main barrier is impaired,” explains Lekus. “The skin barrier needs to have the perfect combination of ceramides along with fatty acids and cholesterol to not lose moisture.”
Some signs that your skin’s barrier has been compromised include a tight or dry feeling, flaking, increased sensitivity, and even dullness. This becomes a cyclical issue, because the more damaged your skin’s barrier is, the more susceptible it is to further damage. By bolstering your barrier with topical ceramides, skin can look and feel more hydrated, bouncy, and vibrant.
Does Everyone Need Ceramides?
Many skin types can benefit from using ceramides, but they’re particularly ideal for anyone approaching their 30s and older. In our early youth, ceramides make up about half of our skin’s composition, but as we get older those ceramides start ghosting on us.
It’s estimated that 40% of our skin’s ceramides are gone once we hit our early 30s, and at 40 years old it’s a whopping 60% decrease. Ouch! Incorporating topical ceramides into your regimen can help counteract this problem.
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All that said, some skin types may decide they’re better off without ceramides. Lekus says, “Oily or breakout-prone skin may find the additional hydration exacerbates the condition. But, if an oily or breakout-prone skin has over-exfoliated or used topicals that have compromised their barrier, it could be necessary to introduce ceramides to help heal the ‘mortar’ that protects the skin’s barrier.”
On that note, anyone with damaged or sensitized skin will benefit from ceramides since they help to heal and repair the top protective layers of our skin.
The Best Ceramide-Rich Products:
You can apply ceramide-infused products at any time of the day and as often as you please. Masks, creams, serums, and oils are usually best, and research demonstrates that ceramide products are best when formulated with both cholesterol and fatty acids. (Remember, those are the three things that make up the “frosting” or “mortar.”) You can start with these goodies:
Skin Script Ageless Skin Hydrating Serum, $30: “This serum addresses dryness since it replaces the much-needed missing lipids and ceramides. It also binds hyaluronic acid to the skin,” says Lekus.
Too Cool For School Coconut Ceramide Mask, $6: Coconut water, ceramides, niacinamide, and ginger root extract come together in this hydrating K-Beauty sheet mask.
Hale & Hush Vital Lipid Lotion Barrier Repair & Defend, $39.50: “It contains ingredients that mimic the essential components found in the lipid matrix, therefore strengthening the skin’s barrier by providing hydration and supporting ceramide vitality.
Jart+ Ceramidin Cream, $48: Recently, Dr. Jart+ revamped and relaunched their ceramide line, which includes this thick, ultra-hydrating cream. The product is formulated with their “5-Cera complex” to help improve the skin barrier and function.
If you have any questions on ceramides or want to share your favorite ceramide product, reach out in the comments below.