What Are Ceramides? Everything You Need To Know About This Natural Skin Barrier
by elmt Lab on May 04, 2023
Welcome back to elmt Lab’s Ingredient Cabinet - today, we’re talking about a well known ingredient commonly found in the ingredient lists of many moisturizing skincare products. Ceramides! But did you know that ceramides already exist within your skin?
Ceramides are long-chain fatty acids that exist in the stratum corneum, one of the major components of the skin barrier, and helps maintain skin homeostasis. The reason our skin barrier is important is that it serves as the primary defense against various external substances. When the skin barrier is not healthy, our skin becomes more susceptible to moisture loss and sensitivity.
Why we need to apply ceramides
Ceramide can be considered a key element in maintaining the skin barrier. Ceramide accounts for about 50% of our skin’s intercellular lipids, which are substances that “glue” together the tightly packed corneocytes (think of them as the bricks of our skin) in our stratum corneum. If there is insufficient “adhesive”, or ceramides, the skin barrier will inevitably weaken resulting in moisture loss and loss of elasticity. And in severe cases, chronic dry skin and atopic dermatitis.
💡 Types of Ceramides
Ceramides are divided into different types based on their composition. Each type has slightly different functions, so let us break it down for you.
Ceramide 1: This is the most abundant type of ceramide in the skin, composed of a combination of stearic acid and sphingosine. It helps regulate the skin barrier function and prevent moisture loss. This ceramide type includes "Ceramide EOS" and "Ceramide AP".
Ceramide 2: Composed of a combination of stearic acid and omega-hydroxy fatty acid, this type of ceramide helps maintain skin moisture balance.
Ceramide 3: Composed of a combination of stearic acid and sphinganine, this type of ceramide plays a key role in maintaining the skin barrier function and helps prevent moisture loss. This ceramide type includes "Ceramide NP" and "Ceramide EOP".
Ceramide 4: Composed of a combination of linoleic acid and sphingosine, this ceramide helps maintain the skin barrier function and aids in retaining moisture.
Ceramide 5: Composed of a combination of linoleic acid and sphinganine, this ceramide helps maintain the skin barrier function and aids in preventing moisture loss.
Ceramide 6: Composed of a combination of oleic acid and sphingosine, this ceramide helps maintain the skin barrier function and aids in retaining moisture.
There are many other types of ceramides, and research on the different types is ongoing.
The problem is that the natural ceramide in our skin gradually depletes over time. Moreover, since the skin barrier is the outermost layer of the skin, it is constantly exposed to UV rays, chemical substances in makeup, and various atmospheric pollutants. Therefore, continuous care is essential.
So, can applying ceramide really strengthen the skin barrier? Yes! It has been shown that applying a moisturizer that contains ceramide increases the ceramide content in the skin.
According to one study, applying ceramide-containing cream to the skin for four weeks increased both ceramide and cholesterol (one of the main components of the skin barrier) content by 10%. Symptoms such as itching, burning sensation, and stinging also naturally improved.
Effective ways to use ceramide
Now that we know the many benefits it has for our skin, here are some tips to most effectively use ceramide in your daily routine.
Because ceramide is a component that naturally exists in our skin, it has a low risk of causing irritation, making it safe for people with sensitive skin types to use. It is particularly effective for those who often experience dryness.
Here are a few tips:
1. Apply it in the early steps of your skincare routine. To ensure that ceramide is well-absorbed, apply ceramide products before other skincare treatments or moisturizers. We recommend applying it after cleansing and toning.
2. Use it with other ingredients that make up the skin barrier. Ceramide is an important component of the skin barrier, but it is not the only one. Using products that contain other ingredients such as cholesterol and fatty acids can help strengthen the skin barrier even more.
3. Using synergistic ingredients together Experience the synergistic effect by using the following ingredients together:
Retinol: Retinol is a powerful anti-aging ingredient that is well-known. The reason you can expect such effects is because retinol promotes cell turnover, which can increase skin sensitivity. Ceramides help to alleviate skin irritation caused by cell turnover and protect delicate new skin.
AHA/BHA: AHA/BHA promotes the generation of new cells by removing old skin cells on the surface of the skin. Ceramides help to alleviate irritation caused by the removal of dead skin cells and protect delicate new skin.
- Hyaluronic Acid: Like ceramides, hyaluronic acid is a component present in the skin. Hyaluronic acid has the ability to attract water molecules, making the skin moist and firm. Ceramides have a function to protect against moisture loss, so when used together, you can expect a more effective moisturizing effect.
- Panthenol: Panthenol, one of the B vitamins, attracts moisture to the skin while forming a protective barrier to prevent skin moisture loss. It's also effective in soothing UV-induced irritation.
 Zoe D. Draelos MD,a Nada H. Baalbaki PhD,b Shelby Cook MS,b Susana Raab BA MBA b, Gene Colón Esq.c aDermatology Consulting Services, PLLC bL'Oréal Research and Innovation, Clark NJ cL'Oréal USA, Inc. (CeraVe), New York, NY, April 2020