Read The Label: All Of Your Ceramide Questions Answered
Feel like you need a dictionary every time you look at the ingredient list of a beauty product? Still unsure of the difference between retinol and retinoids? What about the unique benefits of vitamins B, C, and E? Are alpha and beta hydroxy acids the same thing? The skincare aisle can be overwhelming, but you don’t need a PhD in cosmetic chemistry to navigate it. With expert help, The AEDITION is demystifying and simplifying the beauty industry — one label at a time.
Ceramides are found in everything from facial moisturizers and body creams to soaps and shampoos, but many people don’t know that the family of waxy lipids are also naturally found in/on our skin from the womb — they make up the vernix, the waxy white substance that protects and hydrates the skin of newborns. Unfortunately, our bodies decrease ceramide production as we age, but the good news is it’s easy to incorporate the ingredient in your skincare routine. To find out more about the versatile role of ceramides in our bodies and our skincare, The AEDITION talked to three experts.
What Are Ceramides?
“Ceramides are a class of complex lipid-like molecules, found naturally in the skin or hair,” says Valerie George, cosmetic chemist and co-host of The Beauty Brains podcast. “In skin, ceramides are typically found in the outermost layer of skin, contributing to skin-barrier properties and keeping the skin hydrated.” As she explains, ceramides rose to beauty industry fame in the 1990s when L'Oreal patented the use of ceramide-like molecules in products for skin and hair.
What Are the Benefits of Ceramides in Skincare?
It’s easy to understand how ceramides became a calling card for skincare brands when you list all of its benefits:
- Increases hydration
- Reinforces the skin barrier
- Reduces free radicals in the skin
- Gives skin a plumper appearance
- Helps with the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
The multifaceted nature of ceramides as both a hydrating and age-defying ingredient makes their benefits far-reaching. They have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties and also shield against water loss and assist in protecting our bodies from foreign antigens and bacteria, explains Amanda Doyle, MD, a board certified dermatologist in New York City. Ceramides pull double-duty in haircare, too. They act as a glue to help hold the cuticles of your strands together.
Who Are Ceramides Best For?
Whether your skin is generally healthy or you are dealing with dry patches or oiliness, ceramides are great for just about everyone. Needless to say, the gentle nature makes them particularly beneficial for soothing chronic skin conditions like acne, eczema, and rosacea. “People who have eczema have an intrinsic lack of ceramides in the skin which leads to the skin cracking open and becoming inflamed,” explains Adriana Lombardi, MD, a board certified dermatologist and co-director at Advanced Laser and Skin Cancer Center of New Jersey. “Patients with acne and rosacea may also have a depletion of ceramides which may cause excess sensitivity and irritation.”
How to Find the Right Ceramides Product
Your skin concerns will determine what type of ceramide product is best for you. “The vehicle in which ceramides are applied is important,” Dr. Lombardi notes. For example, in patients prone to acne, using a non-comedogenic vehicle to deliver ceramides into the skin is important to ensure the pores do not get clogged. Those looking for anti-aging benefits, meanwhile, may want a thicker vehicle, she says.
Additionally, it’s important to make sure ceramides are actually present in the products you are considering. “Ceramides are a little challenging to find on an ingredient label because not all ceramides have the word ‘ceramide’ in the ingredient name,” George says. Some common names ceramides appear under:
- Ceramide NG
- Ceramide NP
- Ceramide AP
But that’s not all. “There are many functional ceramide-like molecules that aren't ceramides themselves, but have ceramide chemistry,” George notes. “Check the marketing language on the product to see if the brand is talking about ceramides in the product.” And don’t be surprised if you see ceramides coupled with ingredients like glycerin, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and peptides.
Moisturizers are the easiest and most effective way to add ceramides to your face or body care routine. CeraVe’s Daily Moisturizing Lotion is great for a variety of skin types, and it’s also been certified by the National Eczema Association. For dry skin, try the thick Ultra-Rich Moisturizer by Paula’s Choice. Oily skin types will prefer the Mario Badescu AHA & Ceramide Moisturizer.
Ceramides can also be found in cleansers and serums. The CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum is great for those who want to hydrate and protect their skin barrier while also diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. And you can wash the day away with the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Cleanser.
When to Use Ceramides
Ceramides are gentle enough to use twice a day. Dr. Doyle personally uses ceramide products both morning and night, and she recommends the same for her patients. People with oily skin may opt for once-a-day use, but the right formula can be lightweight enough for more frequent application (especially in the drier winter months).
Ceramides are naturally occurring in the body, but the gradual slowdown in production means most people will benefit from adding the ever-versatile ingredient to their skincare routine to aid with hydration and protect the skin’s barrier. Ceramides can be used day and night on all skin types, and it plays well with other active ingredients. Sounds perfect to us.
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