The best way to think about ceramides are as the bouncers for your epidermis — a natural protection layer that keeps your skin safe from all the intentioned guys in line outside while helping to maintain a fun, safe party inside. Read on to understand the science behind these powerful components of the skin!
So what is a ceramide, anyway? Big, waxy lipid (aka fat) molecules, ceramides band together with cholesterols and fatty acids to create the stratum corneum (lipid layer) of the skin. This water-impermeable surface layer of the skin prevents excess water loss and microbial invasion. The lipid molecules themselves are formed when sphingosine (an amino alcohol) and a fatty acid bond together. They maintain regulatory function, help to increase cell function, and make sure that cells are functioning properly. Ceramides will also speed up apoptosis (cell death) when cells are damaged irreparably. As a result, these fatty molecules can actually suppress the formation of tumors when inducing this type of cell death, and are often found in parts of the body that need repair.
What do ceramides do when applied topically? Ceramides help to replenish the skin’s stratum corneum layer, assist in impeding water loss, maintain hydration, and prevent the wrong types of bacteria from bypassing the lipid layer to reach the epidermis.
Who benefits most from the inclusion of ceramides in their products? Everyone! The world is pretty unkind to our stratum corneum, whether it’s being depleted by stress, weather conditions, or incorrect skincare practices; ceramides can help ensure our skin is protected as best as possible. Ceramides are, however, particularly important to those with a dehydrated or dry skin, as their lipid layer needs more significant replenishment, and are especially beneficial for those with dry-oily skin, as they help to balance the stratum corneum and prevent excessive oil production.