Everything you need to know about ceramides

They’re vital when it comes to protecting your skin barrier, but what exactly are ceramides and how do they work? Here’s the low-down…

The battle against dehydrated or dry skin can often feel never-ending.

While we’re told that drinking plenty of water and loading up on moisturiser is the key to plump, hydrated skin, that’s not actually the be all and end all.

It’s also about swotting up on the key ingredients that will help nourish your skin and make it the healthiest it can be – and one of those key ingredients are ceramides.

Despite being one of the key building blocks of skin, ceramides aren’t spoken about quite as often as say, hyaluronic acid, and therefore their benefits largely remain a mystery.

But we’re here to spill the secrets and explain exactly why ceramides should be a key part of your everyday skincare routine – especially now the weather is colder and winter is approaching.

What exactly are ceramides?

Often referred to as the building blocks of skin, ceramides are a naturally-occurring lipid (a type of fat) and they form the protective, outermost layer, known as the skin barrier.

The skin barrier is the first line of defence against the outside world, and it works to fight off environmental aggressors – like free radicals, pollution and other irritants – while helping skin to retain that all-important moisture.

If the right ratio of ceramides isn’t present in skin, that barrier can be compromised, resulting in dryness, irritation and itchiness.

Thinning skin is a direct result of declining ceramides levels, and it’s also worth pointing out that people with skin conditions like eczema and rosacea have lower levels to begin with, thus making it even more important that they nourish and feed their skin with plenty of barrier-building ceramides. 

Where can I find them?

Products packed with ceramides come in all shapes and sizes, meaning you can incorporate them into almost every step of your skin and body care routine if you so wish.

Some of our favourites include CeraVe AM Facial Moisturising Lotion SPF 25, which is a lightweight moisturiser that protects against the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays.

It sits well under make-up and works to hydrate and nourish skin.

Then, when it comes to cleansing your skin morning and evening, CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser is a gentle but effective blend of essential ceramides and hyaluronic acid. It’s non-foaming, so it won’t strip skin or leave it feeling dry or tight.

Finally, it’s important not to forget to nourish your body just as much as you do your face. That’s where CeraVe Moisturising Cream comes in. 

It’s fragrance-free, non-greasy and fast-absorbing, so you can slather it on when you get out of the shower without having to wait around for ages while it sinks in.

As well as being packed with moisture-boosting, skin barrier-saving ingredients, it also locks them all in for 24 hours thanks to clever patented technology. 

How do ceramides work? 

Ceramides are naturally occurring in the skin and their main purpose is to keep it healthy.

They work to protect the skin’s natural barrier, by sealing in that much-needed moisture.

Ceramides form a waterproof seal right at the surface of skin which helps to protect against trans-epidermal water loss (which is basically when all the moisture and hydration in your skin just evaporates into thin air), while also working to prevent damage caused by external, environmental aggressors.

Experts tend to explain ceramides as the grout between tiles – so if you imagine your skin cells are the tiles, the ceramides are responsible for helping keep that structure.

That’s why if your skin barrier is compromised, that ‘grout’ breaks down, thus leaving your skin a whole lot more vulnerable. 

What are the benefits?

Unlike some skincare ingredients, ceramides are suitable for all skin types.

That’s because they’re naturally occurring, but – as with all good things – levels of them start to decrease as we get older, much like our levels of collagen and elastin.

Factors including sun exposure, change in seasons and even nondescript everyday habits, like hand washing (something we’re all doing a lot more of nowadays) – things that we do without thinking – can have a detrimental impact on ceramide levels, too.

The result is itchy, irritated and visibly dry skin – but incorporating the right ceramide-rich products can help not only relieve that irritation and inject moisture, but will also nourish and comfort distressed skin while working to make the barrier much stronger and more resilient.

The other great thing about incorporating ceramides is that, unlike retinols and other potent acids, it’s really not possible to go overboard when using them.

There’s no such thing as too much, which, as far as we’re concerned, is a win/win situation. 

Fully clued-up on ceramides, and keen to add them into your routine? CeraVe’s skincare collection has been developed with dermatologists to replenish the vital ceramides healthy skin needs. Shop the collection here.