Skincare tips & advice
What Are Ceramides?
Whether it's your favorite facial cleanser, daily moisturizer, or hydrating eye cream, you may have noticed that all CeraVe products contain three essential ceramides. Ceramides make up about 50% of your skin’s lipids and help keep your skin barrier healthy and balanced. Ahead, we’re exploring the essential functions, benefits, and frequently asked questions surrounding ceramides—as well as how to incorporate them into your skincare routine—with the help of board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jenny Liu.
Ceramides play a crucial role in your skin’s health and overall appearance. However, there is often a great deal of confusion surrounding how they function in your skincare products. To help you better understand the importance of ceramides, we called on Dr. Jenny Liu to help explain how ceramides function in skincare, as well as how CeraVe’s three essential ceramides help support skin that looks and feels healthy, hydrated, and balanced.
The Facts About Ceramides
- Ceramides make up about 50% of the skin’s lipids that help form your skin’s natural barrier to help keep vital moisture in and harmful irritants out.
- When ceramides become depleted, the skin can become dull, dry, agitated, or cracked over time.
- All skin types can benefit from including ceramide-containing products in their daily skincare routine—including oily, dry, normal, combination, and sensitive skin.
- All CeraVe products contain three skin-identical ceramides to help keep the skin’s natural barrier healthy and balanced.
What Is Your Skin Barrier?
The outermost layer of your skin is known as the skin barrier. Also sometimes referred to as your “skin’s moisture barrier,” it is composed of approximately 50% ceramides, 25% cholesterol, and 10-25% fatty acids.
So, why is this barrier so important to maintaining healthy skin? Your skin’s natural barrier functions as the primary gatekeeper between your skin and your external environment. “This lipid bilayer is an essential layer that contributes to the function of our skin: keeping bad things out and water in,” says Dr. Liu. In other words, your skin barrier is crucial for protecting your skin against environmental stressors and moisture loss. “It also helps to make our skin waterproof,” adds Dr. Liu.
What Are Ceramides?
According to Dr. Liu, “ceramides are essential lipids found naturally in skin and [they] play a crucial role in forming a healthy skin barrier.” They make up approximately 50% of the skin’s lipids that help form your natural skin barrier, to be exact. Composed of fatty acid and sphingosine, “ceramides are the most abundant lipid found in the top layer of skin,” says Dr. Liu.
What Do Ceramides Do For Your Skin?
Ceramides are like the glue that holds your skin cells together —like mortar is to bricks, with the bricks being your skin cells. Like we just learned above, they help keep your skin barrier balanced and intact—sealing moisture in and keeping harmful irritants out. Your skin naturally contains ceramides to help improvethe skin barrier, however, certain factors—such as sun damage and the natural aging process—can deplete your skin’s ceramides over time.
When the skin barrier becomes compromised (and deficient in ceramides) it can result in dry, dull, irritated, or cracked skin. “When there’s deficiency, water evaporates from skin, known as transepidermal water loss, leading to dry skin,” says Dr. Liu. This may play a role in a number of skin concerns and conditions over time—including eczema (atopic dermatitis), psoriasis, and more. Research also shows that a weakened skin barrier may be associated with acne.1
Choosing the right skincare products can help support the balance of ceramides and optimal barrier function for more comfortable, healthy-looking skin.
What Are the Benefits of Ceramides?
Ceramides have a number of benefits for promoting healthy-looking skin when used as part of a consistent skincare regimen. Dr. Liu recommends using skincare products formulated with ceramides, such as moisturizers or serums, because that they’re great for “helping to repair dry and irritated skin by replenishing ceramide levels in our skin barrier.”
To learn more, let’s break down the key reasons why including ceramides in your skincare routine can be highly beneficial for supporting a strong skin barrier in all types of skin.
Improve the Skin’s Natural Barrier
Ceramides are an essential component of your skin’s natural barrier, which makes them key for maintaining healthy-looking skin in all skin types. By helping to support a strong skin barrier, ceramides help seal in moisture and block out impurities. This is one benefit that is highly important for anyone looking to support healthy, hydrated skin.
Discover more on the science of ceramides and their role in restoring and maintaining the skin’s barrier here: The Ceramides Difference.
Protect Your Skin From Environmental Damage
Because they help maintain the skin’s natural barrier, ceramides play an important role in supporting healthy-looking skin and protecting your skin from external toxins. By supporting a strong skin barrier, ceramides help shield your skin from the damaging effects of external irritants and other environmental aggressors. This means that essential moisture remains in your skin.
Help Seal in Moisture
Yet another benefit of ceramides for skin is their ability to help seal in moisture through a strong, healthy skin barrier. This ability to help prevent moisture loss is a sought after benefit in many products targeting dry skin, as well as some anti-aging products.
Help Support Healthy-Looking Hair
Since lipids, such as ceramides, also play an important role in the hair’s protective barrier, they may also offer some benefits for promoting healthy-looking hair. Ceramides are sometimes used in hair care products, such as shampoos and conditioners, that are aimed at protecting and repairing damaged hair fibers.
Which Skin Types Should Use Ceramides?
When we asked Dr. Liu who can most benefit from including ceramides in their skincare routine, she replied: “Everyone! But especially those with dry, sensitive, and irritated skin.”
This is because, “when ceramide levels are reduced, it can lead to dry and irritated skin,” says Dr. Liu. So, while all skin types can benefit from including ceramides in their daily routine, these certain types may benefit most.
For example, studies have shown that people with eczema and psoriasis have fewer ceramides in their skin.2 Additionally, dry skin and acne-prone skin have also been associated with lower levels of ceramides. Individuals with mature skin may also be at higher risk for ceramide deficiency since ceramide levels naturally decrease with age.
Why CeraVe Ceramides?
It’s important to always seek out products that contain ceramides that are identical to those found in your skin, as research has found that these may help effectively address various skin conditions.1 CeraVe is the first and only brand to offer a unique blend of three essential ceramides (1, 3, and 6-II) in all of their skincare products that are skin-identical and carefully selected by dermatologists to lock in moisture and help restore your skin’s protective barrier.
What makes CeraVe’s ceramides so powerful is our Multivesicular Emulsion (MVE) technology, which encapsulates ceramides to ensure efficient delivery within the skin’s barrier, and slow release over time. It helps support your protective skin barrier, long after you’ve finished applying.
Can I Use Ceramides With Other Types of Skincare Products?
Although ceramides can be found in a wide variety of skincare solutions, the type of product you choose will largely depend on your skin’s needs and your goals. Here are a few of our recommendations to take into account when incorporating ceramides into your routine.
Ceramides in Facial Products
CeraVe recommends beginning your facial skincare routine with a gentle, hydrating cleanser containing ceramides—such as CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser. This face wash is suitable for dry skin and helps effectively remove dirt, makeup, and other debris without stripping the skin of its natural moisture. Use this face wash as an effective, yet non-irritating way to cleanse and refresh your skin daily.
Following your facial cleanser, CeraVe recommends a ceramide-containing daytime moisturizer with broad-spectrum sunscreen as the next important step in your skincare routine. For best results, apply the AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with Sunscreen in the morning and the PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion in the evening to help keep all skin types hydrated.
Ceramides in Body Care Products
Ceramides can also be found in moisturizing body care products to help support symptoms associated with skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and rough and bumpy skin. When choosing a balm to treat compromised skin, look for one like Cerave Healing Ointment, which contains ceramides and is free of lanolin or fragrance (to avoid any potential irritation from these ingredients).
Seek the help of a dermatologist for the best individualized skincare advice when in doubt, or if symptoms persist, when considering ceramides as a possible option for any existing skin condition.
How Will I Know if My Skincare Products Contain Ceramides?
When searching for skincare products containing ceramides, it’s important to read the label closely and always follow the application instructions. Developed with dermatologists, CeraVe products always contain scientifically-identified essential ceramides to support keeping your skin protected.
CeraVe’s ceramide formulas are enhanced with a revolutionary delivery system—MultiVesicular Emulsion Technology (MVE)—to effectively help restore the skin’s protective barrier. This technology gradually releases our three essential ceramides, allowing them to absorb into your skin over time—repairing and restoring the skin’s natural barrier long after you apply them (up to 24 hours post-application).
To discover more of CeraVe’s top-recommended products containing ceramides, check out this guide to choosing the ideal cleanser for your skin type.
- Coderch L, López O, de la Maza A, Parra JL. Ceramides and skin function. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003;4(2):107-29. doi: 10.2165/00128071-200304020-00004. PMID: 12553851.
- Borodzicz, S., Rudnicka, L., Mirowska-Guzel, D. et al. The role of epidermal sphingolipids in dermatologic diseases. Lipids Health Dis 15, 13 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12944-016-0178-7.
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