Can Ceramides Improve Your Skin?

Ease eczema and shield your skin from signs of aging

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Ceramides are a type of naturally occurring fat molecule found in the outermost layer of your skin. Essential to the healthy functioning of the skin's barrier layer, ceramides play a key role in helping your skin retain moisture.

Ceramide levels in the skin decline as we age, starting in the early 30s. Together with cholesterol and free fatty acids  (the two other types of fats found naturally in your skin), ceramides help hold skin cells together.

As levels drop with normal aging, the skin barrier can be impaired, which can lead to redness, dryness, and skin irritation.

When applied directly to the skin through the use of skincare products, ceramides are said to help restore the skin's barrier, aid in the treatment of certain skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, improve dry skin, and reduce signs of aging in the skin like fine lines and wrinkles.

Let's take a look at some key study findings on the use of ceramides for skin problems:

Scientific Findings

Eczema

Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is a skin condition that causes itching, inflammation, and scaly skin. Research suggests that people with eczema may have low levels of ceramides in the top layer of the skin. Some studies show that the use of skincare products containing ceramides may improve eczema symptoms.

In a study published in the journal Cutis, for instance, researchers found that ceramides may help improve symptoms and reduce the duration of flare-ups in people with mild to moderate eczema.

The study tested the use of a liquid cleanser and moisturizing cream containing ceramides.

Aging Skin

Ceramides may help protect against aging-associated xerosis, a condition marked by abnormal skin dryness, according to a study published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology.

In tests on 20 healthy women, the study's authors determined that applying a cream containing ceramides helped improve skin barrier function and increase resistance to aging-related xerosis.

Skin Irritation

Ceramides may help shield the skin from certain irritants, a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology suggests. In an experiment involving 15 women with healthy skin, researchers found that applying a ceramide-containing emulsion to the skin helped improve skin barrier function, increase skin hydration, and protect irritation induced by exposure to sodium lauryl sulfate, a synthetic chemical found in many personal-care products.

Purchasing Ceramides

Many skincare experts recommend choosing ceramide-containing products that also include cholesterol and free fatty acids in a certain ratio. Research suggests that there must be a balance of all three fats in order for a ceramide-containing product to be effective in healing the skin.

Moisturizers, creams, lotions, cleansers, and skin care formulas containing ceramides are sold in many drugstores and stores carrying skincare products. Some ceramide creams and moisturizers are available by prescription.

Ceramide Supplements

Dietary supplements containing plant sources of ceramides, such as konjac, are purported to improve skin barrier function and help treat certain skin conditions.

However, there is currently a lack of research supporting the claim that ceramides can heal the skin when consumed in oral supplement form.

Safety

While ceramides are widely available in skin care products, we don't know enough about the safety of ceramide supplements taken by mouth. High blood levels of ceramides have been linked to numerous diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Also, keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but until we know more, oral ceramide supplements should be avoided.

A Word From Verywell

While ceramides are available in a number of moisturizers and skincare products, more research is needed on their healing effect. If you're thinking of trying them, consult your dermatologist to see if they are a good fit for your skin type and for help choosing a product that has ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids in the correct ratio. In addition to ceramides, a number of natural products, such as neem oil and argan oil, may also protect against dry skin and promote healing of certain skin conditions.

Sources:

Di Marzio L, Cinque B, Cupelli F, De Simone C, Cifone MG, Giuliani M. Increase of skin-ceramide levels in aged subjects following a short-term topical application of bacterial sphingomyelinase from Streptococcus thermophilus. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2008 Jan-Mar;21(1):137-43.

Draelos ZD. The effect of ceramide-containing skin care products on eczema resolution duration. Cutis. 2008 Jan;81(1):87-91.

Huang HC, Chang TM. Ceramide 1 and ceramide 3 act synergistically on skin hydration and the transepidermal water loss of sodium lauryl sulfate-irritated skin. Int J Dermatol. 2008 Aug;47(8):812-9.

Mutanu Jungersted J, Hellgren LI, Høgh JK, Drachmann T, Jemec GB, Agner T. Ceramides and barrier function in healthy skin. Acta Derm Venereol. 2010 Jul;90(4):350-3.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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