What Are Ceramides and How Do They Work?

Ceramides comprise approximately 50% of the skin’s lipids that form the natural skin barrier. When your skin barrier is healthy, it seals in moisture and keeps out any harmful elements and pollutants. Your skin naturally makes ceramides; however, as we age, they decline significantly, which is why using products containing synthetic ceramides is essential. Here, we break down the basics of ceramides and how they work.

Importance of Ceramides

When your body no longer produces the amount of ceramides it once did, the skin barrier weakens and is at risk of the harmful effects of pollutants, ultraviolet rays, toxins, and infections. Plus, it becomes more prone to dehydration and irritation.

Topical Ceramides

Thankfully, studies show that topical application of ceramides helps restore the skin barrier. There are 12 types of synthetic ceramides found in skincare products. Also known as pseudo-ceramides, they are free of contaminants and more stable than natural ceramides. They are composed of sphingosine, a chain of carbon atoms with amino acids attached.

The Benefits of Ceramides in Skincare

The main function of ceramides is to restore the skin barrier function; however, they have added benefits, including:

Skin Barrier Stability

The skin barrier is composed of three lipids: 50% ceramides, 25% cholesterol, and 15% free fatty acids. When these levels are off-balance, the skin barrier loses its stability. Using products with ceramides promotes skin barrier health and soundness.


Ceramides are half of the gel-like lipids that hold skin cells. When they decrease, so does skin hydration. Ceramides improve transepidermal water loss (TEWL), the amount of water that passively evaporates from the skin because of water vapor pressure on each side of the skin barrier. The amount lost daily is about 300 to 400 milliliters per day but can be affected by environmental factors, such as humidity.

Preventing and Treating Skin Diseases

In addition to feeling like your skin is healthy and smooth, ceramides allow it to stay healthy and repair itself. When skin conditions such as psoriasis, genetic disorders, and dermatitis are treated with topical ceramide creams, overall skin health improves.


Damaged skin from skin conditions or injury is typically paired with inflammation presented as swelling, irritation, itchiness, burning, and sensitivity. Not only do ceramides help heal and repair, but they also have anti-inflammatory properties helping relieve and improve these sensitivities.

Protection Against Aging

When we age, the ceramide levels in our skin decline, thinning our uppermost skin layer thinner and making fine lines deeper and more noticeable. When ceramides are replenished, the skin appears firmer and plumper, allowing fine lines and wrinkles to fill in.

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