You see ceramides more and more as one of the ingredients in skin care products. It is a good addition to take extra care of the skin. Ceramides are lipids (fats) and are part of your sebaceous gland. 30% to 40% of the lipids in your sebum consist of ceramides, the other lipids are cholesterol and free fatty acids. Ceramides sit between the intercellular spaces of the stratum corneum (epidermis). For better understanding, see it like a wall. Ceramides are the cement and skin cells (corneocytes) are the brick. They thus form a skin barrier against infections and moisture loss from the skin.
Types of Ceramides
Ceramides are made of a substance called sphingosine. Sphingosine is a precursor, a building block of ceramides and together with a fatty acid they form ceramide. There are now 15 different types of ceramides.
Ceramides can be made synthetically and also obtained from natural sources. Ceramide in skin care does not come from animal products. Natural sources of ceramides are: oats, wheat, but also Jojoba, safflower, grape seed, poppy seed and sunflower oil.
Useful to know names of ceramide in skin care products:
Ceramide EOS on skincare package label = Ceramide 1
Ceramide NS or NG = Ceramide 2
Ceramide NP – Ceramide 3
Ceramide AP = Ceramide 6-II
Ceramide EOP = Ceramide 9
Effect of ceramide on the skin
Over time, the ceramides in particular types 1 to 6 decrease in the skin, making the skin drier. Dry skin causes skin flakes, then it itches and if it continues, eczema can develop, also called asteatotic eczema. More about dry skin
Ceramides can prevent dryness and skin irritation by improving your skin hydration, it is one of the first line of defense against skin infections. And there is evidence that ceramide has an anti-aging effect for your skin.
In an interesting study from 2018, they examined ceramide concentrations in the stratum corneum of people with normal skin and people who suffer from acne for a year. The researchers noticed that the ceramide values were lower in people with acne in the winter period. The lowered ceramide skin values cause a reduced skin barrier and therefore more acne problems.
The researchers made a link that acne gets worse in the winter. The latter is controversial, one study did not see an unequivocal worsening of acne patients in the summer or winter period. Another study saw an aggravation of acne in the summer period. But if you suffer more from acne during the winter period, low skin ceramide can be one of the causes.
Increasing ceramide from food
This is possible in the form of sphingolipids, the building block of ceramide. Animal products in particular contain a lot of sphingolipids, such as eggs, meat (in decreasing amount—most in chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, and pork), dairy and fish. Soy is one of the few highly concentrated vegetable sources of sphingolipids, in lower concentrations are found in peanuts, bananas, and oranges.
Dermatology consultation questions:
Can ceramide clog your pores? Ceramides in will not clog the skin, but take into account the composition of a care product. Skin prone to acne and clogged pores will benefit from a light ceramide cream, serum or lotion rather than a thicker cream, ointment, or petroleum jelly.
Is ceramide suitable for sensitive skin? Ceramide is a good and safe part of daily skin care. It is a suitable skin care ingredient for all skin types, even sensitive skin. But also for people with eczema, acne and psoriasis.
I am vegan, can I use ceramide? Yes, ceramide is vegan. Natural ceramides do not come from animal products, often they come from plant products. Today, ceramides are also manufactured synthetically.
As a dermatologist, would you put ceramide on the skin? Yes, it has many benefits, especially if you have sensitive skin, prone to eczema. Asians in particular are more likely to suffer from sensitive skin. A fun fact, an in vitro study indicates that vitamin C supplement stimulates skin ceramide even more.
So apply ceramide from skin care, also eat a kiwi daily!
Can Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) Boost Skin Ceramide? Niacinamide not only stimulates your skin’s own ceramide, but also free fatty acid (2.3 x) and cholesterol synthesis (1.5 x). These are parts of your skin barrier. Topical application of nicotinamide increased the levels of ceramide and free fatty acids in the stratum corneum and decreased transepidermal water loss in dry skin. More about niacinamide