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Upkeep Explains: What Are Ceramides In Skincare?

You're about to find out what they can do for your skin.

June 9, 2022

Are you applying moisturizer consistently but still feeling as dry as a raisin….

With a hangover…

In the desert…

In a sandstorm? 

Ok, that was a little dramatic. But seriously: is your skin easily irritated? Does it feel dry and tight no matter what you do? You might need help from an unsung hero of the skincare world: ceramides. They’re just starting to have their moment, but there are still a lot of questions out there about ceramides. Today we’re answering your questions about this crucial skin care ingredient. 

What are ceramides and why are they important?

Ceramides are fat molecules in your skin that prevent moisture loss. They form a “moisture barrier” that keeps your skin from getting dehydrated. Ceramides also defend your skin from environmental stressors like pollution and dry air. Without the moisture barrier from ceramides, conditions like eczema and psoriasis can flare up, or your skin can generally feel irritated and chronically dry. This can happen all over your body, not just your face and hands.

Why do ceramide levels go down?

Unfortunately there are a lot of different reasons why ceramide levels drop. The first, you’ve probably already guessed at: good ol’ aging, the culprit for so many skin care woes. Just as our body produces less collagen and hyaluronic acid as we age, it also makes less ceramides as we age, and the decline starts around age twenty. (Could Mother Nature not give us a couple more years?!) 

The second reason ceramide levels go down is from exposure to harsh detergents and over-exfoliation. Soaps and exfoliants can strip the skin of ceramides, damaging the moisture barrier and leaving us vulnerable to irritation and dehydration. We’ve all been using hand sanitizer more often than normal lately–overuse of that type of product also wears away at our skin’s moisture barrier. Third, a poor diet can also play a role–if you aren’t getting enough leafy greens or healthy fats, your body doesn’t have the building blocks it needs for ceramides. Finally, environmental factors like cold weather can also play a role in diminishing our moisture barrier. That’s a lot of variables to keep track of, right?! 

So how can we keep our moisture barrier intact? 

Of course, some of these issues we just mentioned are unavoidable. We can’t stop aging, and we can’t change the weather or our exposure to pollution in our environments; these things are out of our control. But here are some ways we can improve our skin’s moisture barrier: 

  • We can switch our cleansing products to ones that aren’t overly stripping. If you’re currently using a foaming cleanser on your face and bar soap on your body, switch to cleansing products that have an oil base or a creamy texture. And if you’re using AHAs or other exfoliating products daily, and noticing irritation, scale back to once or twice a week. We love AHAs for their glow-boosting properties (read all about them here)--but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. 
  • We can make improvements to our diet and include sources of healthy fats: think avocado, nuts and seeds, nut butters, olives, and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel.
  • We can use products that contain ceramides to restore our skin’s condition. There are moisturizers, masks, lotions, and cleansing products with ceramides. CeraVe, Dr Jart, Farmacy, Drunk Elephant, First Aid Beauty, Sunday Riley, Paula’s Choice, and Amlactin are all brands with ceramide products–just to name a few! So no matter your beauty preferences–budget, luxury, eco-conscious, fragrance free, etc–you can find products to repair your moisture barrier and give you soft, hydrated skin.  

We hope this helped you understand why ceramides are so important. The next time your skin feels dry or irritated, they might just be the thing you’re missing. So stay glowing and add a ceramide-rich product into your routine!

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