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  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

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How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

Ingredient spotlight: Ceramides

Ceramides help reduce the signs of aging and prevent inflammatory skin conditions.

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Curology Team
Nov 07, 2022 · 7 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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 Does it ever seem like you’re constantly applying moisturizer to your face but still feeling dry? Well, it may be because of the ingredients in the product you're using, or more specifically, one ingredient you’re possibly not using—ceramides.

Ceramides are a natural part of your lipid skin barrier, working to help protect it from water loss. But as you age, so does the production of naturally occurring ceramides. And with that can come dry, cracked skin that's more vulnerable to environmental damage. Enter: skincare products containing ceramides.

Here we’ll tell you all about how ceramides work on (and in!) your skin to provide their moisturizing-power benefits. Plus, we’ll take a look at the proper ways to use skincare products with ceramides and how to choose the right ones for your unique skin. 

What are ceramides?

Ceramides are lipids (fats) that naturally exist in your body to help maintain the health and integrity of your skin’s natural protective barrier. In short, they help rebuild and restore your skin barrier to help retain moisture, improve visible signs of aging, and block environmental damage. But ceramides naturally diminish over time. That’s why skincare with ceramides is so important. 

We know what you may be thinking—this all sounds a bit too much like biology class. But think of it this way: Understanding how to maintain a healthy skin barrier is important because it seals in moisture and protects your skin from harmful external factors and moisture loss. 

Without enough moisture, your skin is more susceptible to conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and atopic dermatitis., You’re also more likely to experience negative effects (like dry skin and worsening wrinkles/lines) from sun damage, harsh climates, and age. When your skin barrier is compromised, your skin can effectively dry up and cracks like desert sand.

cracked ground close up

If you’re wondering how to increase ceramides in your skin, we’ll get to that in a bit. First, here are some benefits of using skincare with ceramides:

Some benefits of ceramides

By now, we all know that our skin naturally produces ceramides and that, over time, production slows down. This slowdown in production leaves your skin vulnerable, which is why it’s important to restore natural skin balance using the right moisturizers and skin care products—including ceramide lotions. A moisturizing lotion can help maintain skin health and skin barrier function. To break it down, ceramides help:

  • Rebuild and restore the protective layer of your skin. Factors such as harsh products, and extreme weather can strip away the natural oils in your skin, leaving it vulnerable to the outside environment. Moisturizing creams with ceramides may help rebuild what’s lost.

  • Improve visible signs of aging. The skin barrier is more than a shield from the external environment. It seals in moisture and helps prevent water loss. Ceramides protect against transepidermal water loss (TEWL), can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and improve skin texture.

  • Block external factors that may damage our skin. Ceramides work together with other essential skin barrier components to maintain skin health and vitality. Healthy skin protects against pollutants and other environmental damage.

  • Prevent inflammatory skin conditions. An impaired skin barrier may be one of the factors leading to certain inflammatory skin conditions, i.e., psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. Adding ceramides to the skin helps keep the stratum corneum working properly, which may help prevent inflammatory skin conditions. 

Do ceramides have side effects?

There are no known side effects of ceramides. However, some people may be allergic or sensitive to other skincare ingredients in products that contain ceramides. You might consider doing a patch test when trying out any new product if you have particularly sensitive skin.

Who should use ceramides?

In short, anyone—regardless of their skin type! Ceramides are especially beneficial for those with dry skin or anti-aging concerns because it is a powerful moisturizer that softens and smoothes the skin. As you age, using products fortified with ceramides provides benefits and begins to restore the stratum corneum, allowing you to age even more gracefully.

How to use it

Ceramides are found in moisturizers, which are best applied directly following cleanser or as part of your daily skincare routine. Your daily skincare routine can be as simple as three steps: cleanse, moisturize, and apply sunscreen or treat, depending on whether it’s morning or night. 

Either way, choose a moisturizer that will do some “heavy lifting” (figuratively speaking)—one with ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acids, niacinamide, and glycerin.  Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 and an essential nutrient for skin health. It helps strengthen and maintain the skin barrier. Hyaluronic acid brings in water from the outside environment and from deeper layers of the skin. 

If you still want more but also keep it simple, pair your ceramide moisturizer with a treatment cream using one of these active ingredients: 

  • Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). AHAs are water-soluble. They work on the surface of the skin to remove dead skin cells and improve the appearance of photoaged skin. They may also reduce the appearance of enlarged pores. Glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, and malic acid are common over-the-counter AHAs.

  • Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). BHAs are oil-soluble. They penetrate deeper into the pores to remove dead skin cells and excess oil (sebum). Salicylic acid is a popular over-the-counter BHA used to treat acne.

  • Retinoids like tretinoin. This ingredient increases skin cell turnover to improve signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. It can also boost collagen production. It’s a great partner to ceramides, which deeply hydrate the skin and help strengthen the skin barrier. 

Choosing the right one for you

At Curology, our members often join because they want a skincare routine that works for acne-prone skin or signs of aging. That’s not to say we don’t have plenty of members with rosacea or other skin concerns—all of which benefit from ceramides! 

The link between ceramides and skin disorders has been difficult to prove; however, studies have shown that many skin disorders with diminished skin barrier function have a decrease in the number of ceramides present. It goes something like this: When your skin barrier isn’t working properly, that can translate to irritated skin. Irritated skin can lead to breakouts or other skin conditions. Treatment often causes dryness or further irritation, especially as your skin is getting used to a new treatment. This just continues to aggravate barrier dysfunction. And so, the cycle continues! 

So, if you’re on the hunt for a good moisturizer with ceramides, check the list of ceramides in a product’s ingredients. To make it easy, here are a few of our faves: 

  • EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex. This moisturizer is loaded with ceramides and is designed to moisturize and improve dry skin. The ceramides were selected to strengthen and restore the natural hydration of the skin. 

  • Agency Weightless Whipped Moisturizer. Packed with hyaluronic acid, shea butter, and ceramides, this ultra-hydrating moisturizer was designed by dermatologists to help visibly plump and soften skin while fortifying the moisture barrier. If that wasn’t enough, it’s non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, dye-free, paraben-free, and hypoallergenic. 

  • Paula’s Choice Ceramide-Enriched Firming Moisturizer. Ceramide-enriched to visibly smooth wrinkles and restore moisture balance, this moisturizer also uses vitamin C and retinol to further benefit the skin and improve its protective barrier. 

  • Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Eye Cream. This rich, non-greasy ceramide cream moisturizes and smooths the sensitive skin around your eyes. It’s a perfect addition to your nighttime routine, especially when the area around your eyes needs a hydration boost. 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Subject to consultation. 30-day trial. Just cover $4.95 in S&H.
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At Curology, we’re here to help. We’re experts at designing personalized prescription formulas for our members to address their unique skincare concerns, and we’ll always be honest with you and offer the best advice—even when that means suggesting products we don’t manufacture. We want you to know we’ll only recommend fully vetted products. All the good stuff, all the time!

FAQs

What are ceramides?

Ceramides are lipids (fats) that naturally exist in your body to help maintain the health and integrity of your skin’s natural protective barrier. In short, they help rebuild and restore your skin barrier to help retain moisture, improve visible signs of aging, and block environmental damage.

Do ceramides have side effects?

There are no known side effects of ceramides. However, some people may be allergic or sensitive to other skincare ingredients in products that contain ceramides. You might consider doing a patch test when trying out any new product if you have particularly sensitive skin.

Who should use ceramides?

In short, anyone—regardless of their skin type! Ceramides are especially beneficial for those with dry skin or anti-aging concerns because it is a powerful moisturizer that softens and smoothes the skin.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Sahle, F.F., et al. Skin diseases associated with the depletion of stratum corneum lipids and stratum corneum lipid substitution therapy.Skin Pharmacological Physiology. (2015).

  2. Meckfessel, M.G., et al. The structure, function, and importance of ceramides in skin and their use as therapeutic agents in skin-care products.Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. ibid.

  3. Lueangarun, S., et al. The 24-hr, 28-day, and 7-day post-moisturizing efficacy of ceramides 1, 3, 6-II containing moisturizing cream compared with hydrophilic cream on skin dryness and barrier disruption in senile xeroiss treatment. Dermatology Therapy. (November 2019).

  4. Berkers, T., et al. Topically Applied Ceramides Interact with the Stratum Corneum Lipid Matrix in Compromised Ex Vivo Skin. Pharmaceutical research. (2018).

  5. Coderch, L., et al. Ceramides and skin function. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. (2003).

Kristen Jokela is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Trial is 30 days. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

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