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What are Ceramides? Everything You Need to Know

By Alex Bryson - 1 year ago | Updated

If you're even partially acquainted with the world of skin care, you'll have heard of ceramides. In fact, they're often bandied around as a silver bullet for any issue relating to dehydration.

Eczema? Ceramides.

Atopic dermatitis? Ceramides.

Stranded in the desert with little or no hope of rescue? Well, ceramides couldn't exactly hurt.

But what is it about these molecules that makes them so very effective at tackling dry, uncomfortable skin?

What are ceramides?

In practice, ceramides act as one of your skin's essential building blocks, linking together your skin cells in much the same way that mortar holds a wall in place. It follows that a reduction in ceramides means a reduction in the integrity of your skin.

Not that their functions are purely structural. While this was once thought to be the case, more recent studies have proven that ceremides also fulfil a number of different signalling functions, allowing them to exert some control over the differentiation and death of cells.

As for what they actually are, that's altogether more simple. Ceramides are essentially lipids or, in layman's terms, fats. Not only do they naturally occur in the skin, the body's largest organ, they actually make up a full 50% of it.

Ceramides in skin

What are the benefits of ceramides?

You may be left wondering why anyone would supplement their body with something it already has in such abundance. The sad truth is that all kinds of factors, from ageing to sun damage, can cause levels to dip below an optimum amount. This can then manifest as redness, wrinkles, roughness or a whole host of other symptoms.

By keeping your ceramide levels topped up, you can help your skin retain its youthful characteristics, leaving it firmer, suppler and more comfortable. The more structurally 'sound' your skin, the less likely moisture is to escape. By that same token, harmful external factors also find it harder to penetrate the outer layer.

The simplest way to think about this is as looking after the quality and quantity of the 'mortar'. That way, you're protecting your skin both inside and out.

Where can we find ceramides?

You can boost your body's ceramides levels with such health-hack favourites as wheat germ, brown rice, spinach and beetroots. If, on the other hand, you're looking for more potent, targeted and immediate means of tackling a skin condition, then there's a wide variety of different formulas we'd happily recommend.

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser

This cleanser is developed by expert dermatologists and is enriched with three essential ceramides, which get to work quickly to remove dirt and build-up. Made for people with dry, sensitive skin this award-winning lotion boots moisture, while never irritating dryness or eczema.

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Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Flawless Future Night Cream

Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Flawless Future Night Cream

Eradicate the visible signs of stress with Elizabeth Arden's fantastically hydrating moisturiser. Unique and exclusive fragrance technology brings about a sensation of relation, even as the ceramide-imbued formula works to replace roughness and fine lines with a more even, flawless complexion.

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Holika Holika Good Cera Super Ceramide Toner

Holika Holika Good Cera Super Ceramide Toner

In this moisturising toner, Holika Holika have produced a wonderfully effective answer to the problem of dry and sensitive skin. Not only does it tone, soothe and nourish your complexion, the formula also helps enhance elasticity, remove cleansing agents and create a layer of defence against harmful UV rays.

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One last thing...

You open your mouth to recommend or ask after an ingredient... and suddenly realise you have no idea how to pronounce it. To avoid squawking strange syllables at complete strangers, together with the very English embarrassment this provokes, it's a good idea to clue yourself up on the correct vocalisation.

Luckily, Ceramides is not a word that contains any verbal trapdoors – that means no lurking silent letters or inexplicable lurches in overseas articulation. And it's not 'Keramids', which evokes images of deep space exploration and ravenous sand people. In actual fact, it's aurally very similar to 'Sarah Mides'. Just think of her as your own at-home dermatologist.

And, with that, we hope that ceramides have become a little less of a mystery. It's very common for contemporary skin care to dazzle with scientific terminology when, in actual fact, the benefits of an ingredient can often be explained in plain English. Check out our beauty glossary to discover more detailed explanations of popular ingredients, or else search our skin care range to discover the ceramide-infused formula that could transform the look of your own skin.

Alex Bryson

Written by Alex Bryson

I write about everything and anything grooming or fragrance-related. If it smells expensive or has ‘for men’ tagged on the end, I’ve probably got an opinion on it.