You may have come across the word ceramides in your skincare research. They've become a bit of a skincare buzzword and for an excellent reason: ceramides work, particularly for those wanting to deeply hydrate their skin .
So, if you see ceramides on a product's ingredient list, it's a good sign that the product is going to be helpful in treating a compromised skin barrier and combatting dryness. But, what exactly does this powerful ingredient do? Let's dive into it.
What are ceramides?
Ceramides play an essential role in both water retention and barrier function in the stratum corneum, which is the outer layer of the skin.
They're, basically, long-chain fatty acids — also known as 'lipids' — that naturally occur in the skin and are found in neural cell membranes. Not only are they instrumental for brain development, but ceramides also make up roughly 50% of the stratum corneum, and they help to create a barrier that prevents permeability, locking moisture into your skin and preventing dryness and irritation .
The skin's surface and its barrier function are often attacked by aggressors such as sun damage, pollutants, and chemicals that erode skin cells, like makeup. When external factors are trying to dry out the skin, ceramides ensure that water loss doesn't happen too quickly.
There's also a growing body of evidence suggesting people prone to eczema or psoriasis are more likely to have fewer ceramides in their skin . If you struggle with either of these skin conditions or irritated, itchy skin, you definitely want to keep an eye out for ceramide skin products.
And it doesn't stop there. Ceramides are so effective for protecting skin cells against water loss, we credit them as one of the most effective anti-ageing products on the market.
Put simply, we need ceramides to keep our skin hydrated and happy. They're a skincare hero that helps you reinforce your skin barrier, giving you firmer, plumper skin with fewer visible signs of ageing.
Finding ceramides in a skincare label
Ceramides are part of a complex family of lipids called sphingolipids, which are involved in lots of cellular processes, including the production of ceramides in the skin's outer layer .
Sometimes on the back of some skincare products, you'll see ceramides listed as "sphingoside" or "phytosphingosine", so look out for these words when reading ingredients.
To complicate things a little more, there are 9 different types of ceramides produced by the skin — so they'll often be numbered — and combining different numbered ceramides will give slightly different outcomes for your skin .
Ceramide 1 is an essential fatty acid with a significant role in the epidermal lipid barrier and it makes up approximately 6.5% of the total ceramide pool in the stratum corneum . It may also be referred to as Ceramide EOS on a product’s ingredient label and is the most effective for replenishing your skin barrier.
Why use ceramide products if they are naturally occurring in the skin?
Synthetic ceramides — also known as pseudo-ceramides — are man-made and they are what you'll find in your skincare products.
They are 100% safe to use on a wide range of skin types, from oily all the way to dry. Still, you always want to patch-test a new skincare product on your arm to make sure it's not going to cause irritation (especially if you have sensitive skin).
Over time, the effectiveness of your skin's natural ceramides will reduce and can, eventually, become depleted . This is proportionate to how much environmental damage you've experienced, what weather conditions you've lived in, and how much you've digested of certain chemicals, like cigarettes and alcohol.
But don't feel too guilty: while living life to the fullest can weaken your skin cells and barrier function, everyone's ceramides erode by their 30s and 40s, regardless of how careful you may have been.
Synthetic ceramides were created to replicate your skin's natural ceramide production and strengthen your skin's barrier function. Anti-ageing is also possible with correctly-packaged ceramides in order to restore and replenish dry skin.
Software's Ceramide Repair Balm was created for this very reason: to hydrate and moisturise skin, reduce redness, and soothe irritation. Our balm is packed with ceramides as well as squalane, hyaluronic acid, and lanosterol esters to inject moisture, protect the skin from environmental stressors, and restore natural skin emollience.
Do ceramides help cure acne?
Yes. Dry skin is a trigger for acne because it causes a buildup of dead skin cells, eventually leading to clogged pores.
On top of this, dry skin makes your pores more likely to break open, allowing acne-causing bacteria deeper into your skin. Oh, and ceramides will not cause acne breakouts, so you can relax about that.
If you're exposed to cold weather, too much sun, wind or some chemicals in the environment, this will draw moisture out of the skin, leading to dryness. Your natural ceramides will take a beating in these situations, which is where synthetic ceramides play an important role in restoring your skin cells.
Ceramides are useful for any skin type as they are already a fundamental part of your skin's makeup. Good, consistent and level skin hydration is vital to having overall healthy skin.
But, your best weapon in fighting acne is a combined skincare routine — and one that is tailored to acne-prone skin and its specific needs.
Usually, an effective routine will include a gentle cleanser to exfoliate skin impurities away and a ceramide-inclusive cream that supports and restores the skin barrier. Software's Acne Kit comes bundled with both of these, plus an acne supplement and pimple patches — everything you need to keep acne breakouts at bay.
Can you use ceramides with retinol?
You absolutely can use ceramides with retinol, and you should.
But, because no single ingredient can do everything to combat the visible signs of ageing, be sure your ceramide-enriched product also contains antioxidants and what we refer to as “skin-restoring” ingredients, like retinol, niacinamide, linoleic acid, and peptides.
Software's Retinol Complex Oil is restorative, lightweight, and can rejuvenate and protect your skin against dark spots, dryness, and loss of elasticity. This, combined with the Ceramide Repair Balm, is a winning formula for restoring skin cells.
Ceramides vs peptides: What's the difference?
Both ceramides and peptides play an important role in repairing your natural skin barrier and improving the appearance of wrinkles, for plump, firm, and hydrated skin. However, there are fairly significant differences between the 2 ingredients.
Where ceramides are made up of fatty acids, peptides are short strings of several amino acids. Each individual peptide can educate the skin to do something distinctive, like:
- Even out the skin tone
- Resist the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Maintain a smooth, healthy-looking surface
- Restore proteins in the skin's moisture barrier
Peptides are incredibly useful, however, they are not as hydrating as ceramides. Using them together will likely give you optimum results, but it will depend on your individual skincare needs and concerns.
If you have very dry skin, for example, an occlusive ceramide balm should be front and centre when it comes to your skincare routine.
Do any foods contain ceramides?
Yes — soybeans, eggs, dairy, wheat germ, sweet potatoes, and brown rice are all great sources of ceramides.
A good diet, avoiding the sun and other harsh environmental damage, and using the right combination of skincare products will make your skin glow and shine as it deserves to. Add ceramides to the equation and you'll be able to revitalise dry skin, replenish the stratum corneum, and promote a healthy skin barrier.