What are the Benefits of Ceramides for Skin?

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    Ceramides keep your skin moist and protect you from external pollutants and toxins. You may need more of them even if your skin is looking great. Find out now.

    What are ceramides?

    Ceramides are a group of lipid molecules that make up 30 to 40% of the skin’s outer layer, or epidermis. They play a key role in the skin’s barrier function, which is your body’s first line of defense against external pollutants and toxins. They also help prevent the loss of moisture in your skin, promote brain development, and maintain cell function.

    As you age, your skin’s ceramide content tends to decrease, and becomes dehydrated. The result of that may be dry, rough, irritated skin, among other potential skin problems. They’re often found in skin care products such as moisturizers, toners, creams, and serums, all of which aim to keep your skin healthy by raising its ceramide levels.

    Ceramide levels in the skin can be negatively impacted by age, exposure to the sun’s rays, lifestyle choices, medications, and so much more.

    Types of Ceramides

    There are several types of ceramide, each differing in structure and chemical properties. There is also the option of oral supplementation with ceramides and topical application through cosmetic products that contain ceramides, among other ingredients. According to this source, aging and different seasons of the year can impact ceramides. Some of the most common ceramides include:

    • Ceramide 1, also called ceramide EOS
    • Ceramide 2, also called ceramide NS or NG
    • Ceramide 3, also called ceramide NP
    • Ceramide 6-II, also called ceramide AP
    • Ceramide 9, also called ceramide EOP

    Phytosphingosine and Sphingosine are precursors. Letters after ceramides explain the bond type and structure for instance: AP- Alpha-hydroxy fatty acid and Phytosphingosine base.

    How do Ceramides Work?

    The skin's barrier function helps to protect the body from environmental toxins and factors such as pollution, UV radiation, and infection. Ceramides work by forming a layer of protection on the skin's surface, which helps to prevent moisture loss and keep the skin hydrated. This layer also helps to prevent harmful substances from entering the skin, while allowing healthy, beneficial substances to penetrate.

    Benefits of Ceramides for Skin?

    Helps restore skin's barrier

    Ceramides help to restore the skin's barrier. The human stratum corneum is made up of 15-25 layers of dead cells called corneocytes, which serve as protective barriers. The main fats in this layer are ceramides, free fatty acids, and cholesterol. Ceramides makeup more than ⅓ of the fat in the stratum corneum. There are over 15 varieties or subclasses present. All ceramides are based on a sphingoid base, which is typically 18 carbons long.

    UV protection

    The complete application of topical suncare products that contain ceramide will provide photoprotection, which helps to maintain a healthy skin barrier and ceramide quality during daily sun exposure.

    Supporting the skin’s natural barrier is one step in protecting it from sunlight. This kind of protective support, however, should never be employed as a replacement for sunblock. Sunblock should always be used for maximum protection.

    Ceramide can help with hyperpigmentation according to this study, in which the moisturizing and skin conditioning effects of GlcCer derived from torula yeast were studied on a healthy adult population. Researchers concluded that GlcCer is a viable option to ameliorate skin health, through improvement in skin barrier function, reduction of brown spots, and managing chapped skin.

    Helps with hydration

    This 2017 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trial using healthy subjects with dry skin and clinical signs of facial photoaging demonstrated that those who orally ingested glucosylceramide supplements induced a strong and highly significant improvement in skin hydration markers and anti-aging effects when compared to the placebo group.

    Helps with skin aging

    In a randomized, controlled, double-blind, cross-over trial, participants who experienced dryness and skin chapping in the winter were given either 1.8mg of glucosylceramides or a placebo for 4 weeks, then “crossed over” to the opposite protocol. Results from the study identified that daily intake of 1.8 mg of glucosylceramides significantly decreased trans epidermal water loss (TEWL) in the forearm when compared with measures taken pre-ingestion.

    How to Use Ceramides for Skin Care

    Using ceramides in your skincare routine will help to strengthen the skin’s barrier function and retain moisture, giving your skin a healthy appearance. There are a number of fairly easy ways to incorporate ceramides into your daily routine. Try to find skincare products like creams, moisturizers, cleansers, and serums that not only contain ceramides, but list it as one of its main ingredients. Apply ceramide-rich products to damp skin after cleansing in order to help lock in the moisturizer. Using a ceramide mask once a week can help boost your skin’s hydration and barrier function. If you want to target specific areas or issues such as fine lines, wrinkles, or an uneven skin tone, apply ceramide serum on these target areas before you moisturize.

    Potential Side Effects

    Before you apply a product containing ceramides, you should try a skin patch test to check for potential allergies or sensitivities.

    Although ceramides are generally considered to be safe, there have been some fairly minor side effects associated with their use. Ingestion of oral supplements containing ceramides did not result in any reported side effects in studies. Some people experience redness, itching, or a burning sensation when using topical cosmetic products that contain ceramides. There have also been reports of allergic reactions to ceramides that resulted in a rash, hives, or other allergy-related symptoms. Present acne has gotten worse on some people, while new acne emerged on others as a result of using topical ceramides. Occasionally, someone using a moisturizer that contains ceramides reported experiencing dryness and itching. In some people, using ceramides may increase their skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, which could lead to sunburn or further skin damage. If you experience any of these side effects when using ceramides, stop using the product and consult a dermatologist.

    Are Ceramides safe during pregnancy?

    There is insufficient information regarding the safety of using ceramides when pregnant or lactating. Consult with your physician for recommendations on both its safety and efficacy for you to use.

    The Bottom Line

    As you age, your skin’s ceramide content begins to decrease and your skin becomes dehydrated. Dry, rough, itchy, flaky, irritated skin is not a rite of passage anyone wants to experience as they get older. Much of the damage to your skin’s barrier function is due to externals such as pollutants, toxins, and exposure to the sun’s UV rays. The good news is there’s something you can do about it. Whether it’s moisturizers, serums, sunblock, or supplements, products containing ceramides are easily available and often quite effective. Before you buy or try, you might want to check out Care/of’s excellent article What Exactly are Ceramides to get more information. If you notice that you are experiencing dark spots after 50, Care/of also has an article about the best vitamins to be taking. And finally, if you decide you want to take a ceramide supplement, Care/of has a high-quality, premium oral supplement called Ceramides The Great Barrier.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.