Ceramides: a term that’s been buzzing in the beauty sphere, intriguing and yet somewhat elusive. These powerhouse molecules are often lauded as the cornerstone of a transformative skincare regime. But what lies beneath this buzzword? What magic do ceramides really hold for your skin?
Ceramides are naturally occurring lipids in the skin that play a pivotal role in maintaining its barrier and retaining moisture. Think of them as the mortar between the bricks; they hold skin cells together, forming a protective layer that plumps the skin and locks in moisture. This barrier not only keeps skin hydrated but also shields it from environmental aggressors, such as pollution and irritants.
As we age, our skin’s natural ceramide levels decrease, leading to dryness, irritation, and the visible signs of aging. Replenishing these vital lipids through skincare can help restore the skin’s barrier, enhance hydration, and give the skin a smoother, firmer, and more youthful appearance.
How do ceramides contribute to maintaining the skin’s barrier function and preventing dehydration?
Ceramides are about 50% of the oil content in your skin, and they have a big job to do. Your body is something like 60% water. Ideally you want to keep that water in you. Oil and water typically do not mix, and so the ceramide lipids in your skin act as a wall to prevent the evaporation of the water in your tissues, and also help prevent irritants from the outside from getting in. A healthy skin barrier means you are less likely to experience skin problems like dryness, eczema, inflammation, acne, and environmental stress.
What should we look for in skincare products containing ceramides? Are there particular formulations or product types where ceramides are most effective?
Ceramides in skincare products are typically synthetically made in a lab. They are generally preservative free and don’t require a lot of carriers, so they are a very safe addition to personal care products. Your skin makes and contains at least 8 types of ceramides, so no one synthetic ceramide can completely replace what your skin can make naturally. In studies barrier repair was most effective when a blend of ceramides was used vs just one alone. This makes sense because your skin is not relying on having just one, and it’s the natural blend of them that allows skin to be healthiest.
What is actually ideal is to help your skin produce more of its own ceramides. Herbal ingredients, nutrients, and the right fatty acids can actually stimulate ceramide synthesis and provide building block compounds so your skin is properly equipped to make its own. Calming any inflammation present in the skin is also a fantastic strategy to encourage production of quality ceramides, and plants again excel for this purpose. Helichrysum essential oil, gentian root extract, and astragalus extract have all been shown to increase ceramide production in skin. Niacinamide can also boost your own ceramide levels naturally.
Linoleic fatty acid is a major building block for some ceramides, and a deficiency will cause improper formation of Ceramide EOS, so using facial oils like blackberry seed and hemp seed oil that provide it can help skin get back on track. Blissoma’s Flawless Clear Condition Facial Oil provides these oils while being super lightweight and ideal for acne prone skin.
How do ceramides benefit different skin types, especially sensitive or problematic skin? Are there any considerations for using ceramides on acne-prone or oily skin?
The skin’s natural protection and repair abilities can be impaired anytime skin is not protected well with the right lipids and hydration. When the skin experiences chronic dryness and irritation there is ongoing inflammation. That chronic inflammation can prevent the proper repair and protection of your cells. This can cause damage to build up more quickly, making your skin look stressed, and age skin at a faster rate than healthy skin.
Your own ceramide production could suffer if you deal with chronic inflammation in your skin from eczema, psoriasis, acne, or if you are over the age of 40.
Ceramides made by skin that has psoriasis, eczema, and acne were found to be altered in their structure, types, and quantities. This contributes to the skin barrier not functioning well.
People with acne tend to have lower ceramide levels overall and seasonal weather changes can cause additional drops in specific types. Ceramides AH, NH, EOS, and EOH were lower in people with acne. Lower levels of ceramides in skin can contribute to hyperkeratinization and worsening of acne. Ironically many acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin cause extremely dry skin, and people have the unfortunate misunderstanding that they need to reduce their skin oils. This can worsen one of the conditions that actually causes acne, making it even more difficult to achieve clear skin! Ceramides can be useful to help soothe and repair the skin barrier and will not clog skin or increase acne. What people with acne actually need to watch out for is acnegenic and comedogenic ingredients.
Blissoma’s Smooth A+ Correcting Serum contains 4% niacinamide, balancing herbs like goldenrod, licorice, and heather flowers plus hydrating aloe and jojoba. The niacinamide content helps boost ceramide levels naturally, and unlike many conventional treatments it avoids irritation and is safe for use during pregnancy and nursing.
Are there any recent advancements or emerging trends in the use of ceramides in beauty products?
To me, the most exciting emerging research is into how and which natural ingredients can help support skin’s ceramide levels. The existing research on ceramides clearly points to the fact that adding just one synthetic ceramide is just not as effective as a synergy. Through my career reading hundreds of research papers I continue to come back to the idea that the human body’s own systems are smarter than what we devise synthetically, and the complexity of our systems just isn’t served by thinking we can outsmart them. When we can encourage the body to regulate itself that is the best path. Anytime you have the chance to support your own natural ceramide production that will give the best outcome.