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Simple Skincare Science: Ceramides

When it comes to skincare ingredients, you’ve probably heard plenty about ceramides and how amazing they are for your skin.

The fact is that some ingredients can seem mysterious. And with so many benefits, ceramides certainly fall into that category. A miracle item when it comes to moisture, protecting the skin’s barrier, and even anti-ageing, it’s hard not to be baffled by its many uses.

So, we’ve done the research, cleared up the confusing science parts, and gathered it all in one place.


What are ceramides?

To put it as simply as possible, ceramides are fats (lipids) that are already present in your skin. Alongside other fatty acids and cholesterol, ceramides make up the bilayer that supports your skin cells. You could compare their role in the skin barrier to the mortar that holds bricks together (with the other cells being the bricks in this analogy.)

Much like hyaluronic acid and collagen, ceramides are popular ingredients in skincare products because they’re naturally occurring in the skin. When a skin concern compromises the skin’s barrier, the addition of extra ceramides from products can help restore normality.

Ageing and sun damage can cause the natural ceramides in your skin to suffer and deplete, which leads to a weakening of the skin’s barrier. This is why your skin gets drier, feels rougher and looks generally more wrinkly and dehydrated as you get older.


model with healthy skin treated with ceramides looks over her shoulder at the camera, holding her shoulder, yellow background

What are the benefits of ceramides?

Quality skincare products containing ceramides are great for helping to reinforce your skin’s natural barrier and improve its hydration. As you can imagine, this results in smoother, firmer and plumper looking skin, with less visible fine lines and wrinkles.


Stability in the Skin Barrier

The skin barrier is made up of ceramides (50%), fatty acids (15%), cholesterol (25%) and a few other things that aren’t relevant here.

When the balance of these crucial chemicals is off, your entire skin barrier (and how it functions) becomes compromised. Adding ceramides into your skincare routine is the best way to prevent this and ensure your skin functions exactly as it should. Yes, even as you get older and lose your natural ceramides.



One of the functions of ceramides is to hold water. Research has found that they help to improve Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL) in the skin, which improves how the skin holds onto hydration.


Acne Treatment

Many facial cleansers and treatments formulated for acne contain ceramides. This is because ceramides help to reduce irritation and inflammation, as well as repair disease and damage to the skin.

They’re also handy for balancing the skin’s moisture levels – good news for those of you prone to acne or anyone with oily skin.


Reducing Inflammation

From dermatitis to eczema, inflammation is associated with several skin conditions. Most of the products designed to treat such conditions contain ceramides, as they have anti-inflammatory qualities that work to:

  • reduce sensitivity, itching and burning
  • restore the normality of the skin barrier



The anti-ageing properties of ceramides are two-fold, as there are several factors that contribute to the signs of ageing in your skin.

As you get older, your ceramide levels naturally decrease. This leads to fine lines and wrinkles on the surface of your skin, which can quickly deepen. By moisturising with ceramide-laden products, you can restore this ceramide. The result is firmer, plumper skin, with fewer lines and wrinkles.

However, it’s not just time that contributes to ageing.

Sun damage, pollutants, changes in climate and various other environmental stressors can have a significant impact on your youthfulness. The damage from such influences can cause your skin to age before its time, particularly if you’re regularly exposed to the sun without protection.

Ceramides help with this because they strengthen and normalise the functioning of the skin barrier, which is the layer of skin that is exposed to the elements. By allowing the barrier to work as it should, and keeping your levels of ceramides in check, they can prevent the visible signs of ageing from creeping up too soon.


person holding skincare bottle next to face, smiling at camera, how to tell if products have ceramides

How do you know if a product contains ceramides?

Unfortunately, most skincare products don’t declare their ceramides on the front of the packaging.

Next time you’re holding your favourite formulas, spare some time for a look at the ingredients. If you see any of the following on your skin products, you’ll know they contain ceramides (or at least encourage the skin’s production of ceramides):

  • Sphingosine
  • Phytosphingosine
  • Ceramide (labelled as ceramide AP / EOP / NG / NP / NS – each one counts!)


Ceramides & Skin Type

Like several other amazing skincare ingredients, ceramides are suitable for all skin types because they’re a form of a naturally occurring lipid. These are known as ‘skin-replenishing’ or ‘skin-identical’ ingredients, and can be beneficial for dry, oily, sensitive and combination skin.

They’re also ideal for acne-prone skin, and (if they’re irritant and fragrance-free) you can even use them around the delicate under-eye area.


How to Use Ceramides

The most common types of skincare products that use ceramides are moisturisers and cleansers, though we prefer the former.

The best time to apply moisturisers like this is after you’ve cleansed your face and applied your serums, and they’ve had a little bit of time to soak in. This is the ideal time to help them lock in as much moisture as possible.

Generally, you should apply ceramide-containing products twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Make them a part of your daily routine. This will, of course, depend on your choice of products, however.


Best Ceramides on a Budget

The Daily Moisturising Lotion from CeraVe is a great choice that’s as good for your body as it is for your face. Lightweight and free from oil, this product absorbs quickly into the skin. And it contains hyaluronic acid as well as ceramides for improved hydration.


Best Ceramides to Splurge On

Paula’s Choice Clinical Ceramide-Enriched Moisturiser is a luxury moisturiser designed for use before bed, when your skin is doing its best restoration work. In addition to ceramides, this product contains vitamin C and retinol, both of which contribute to its excellent anti-ageing effects.