It’s funny how we desperately look for skincare ingredients that “penetrate” the skin barrier and then look for ingredients to repair that barrier. Skincare products that contain ceramides are of great use for the latter. The skin barrier is your skin’s first line of defense against all that is damaging. But it needs certain compounds present at all times to remain intact and effective. And ceramides are a big part of those compounds. The best ceramide skincare products mimic your skin’s natural lipid content. We’ve answered all your ceramide questions to help you better understand how they work and how to find the right product for your skin.
What are Ceramides?
Ceramides are lipids that are already present in the outer layer of the skin, aka stratum corneum (1). The main function of ceramides is to keep the skin moisturized and keep your skin barrier intact.
The outer layer of the skin is mainly composed of 3 elements (2); dead skin cells, proteins that connect those cells, and lipids. And about half of those lipids are ceramides.
The rest consists of fatty acids and cholesterol. As having a properly functioning skin barrier is crucial to having healthy skin, ceramides play an important role in having and maintaining healthy skin.
How Do Ceramides Work in Skincare?
Ceramides are used in skincare products to replace lipid loss. Your body produces ceramides as well as the other important components of the skin barrier.
However, chronic irritation, seasons, dryness, or even aging (3) can negatively affect this process, resulting in a decrease in ceramides found readily in the top layer of the skin.
When the skin lacks ceramides and other important lipids, the skin barrier cannot function properly. This causes further problems like redness, irritation, itchiness, flakiness, dehydration, and just overall unhealthy skin that’s prone to all kinds of skin stressors.
For that reason, ceramides are used in skincare products to repair the damaged skin barrier (4). You can find ceramides in skincare products under different names like ceramide NP, ceramide EOP, or sphingolipids.
Ceramides don’t hydrate the skin. They increase the skin’s hydration simply by preventing dehydration. Hydration requires water. And ceramides are not water; they’re emollients.
Benefits of Ceramides in Skincare
The benefits of using skincare products that contain ceramides can all be boiled down to repairing the compromised skin barrier. By repairing the damaged skin barrier, ceramides,
- Prevent transepidermal water loss.
- Prevent bacteria and other pathogens from making their way into the skin.
- Stimulate the skin to produce its own ceramides.
- Help the skin retain moisture.
- Reduce itchiness and irritation.
- Keep the skin soft and smooth.
Who Should Use Ceramide Skincare Products?
Anyone can benefit from using ceramide products as they’re mostly about enhancing moisture.
People with very dry skin or rosacea can take advantage of this ingredient to strengthen the skin barrier, keep the skin moisturized, and reduce inflammation.
Also, all skin types tend to dry a bit during colder months. You can look for ceramides in your winter moisturizer for some extra help.
And lastly, if you’re following an anti-aging routine, you can use retinol creams that contain ceramides to minimize dryness. Similarly, you can use a ceramide cream on top of your retinol serum to prevent dryness.
How to Choose the Best Ceramide Product For Your Skin?
Ceramides come in different forms like creams, oils, and serums. If you have very dry skin, definitely use ceramides in the form of a daily moisturizer. Because they tend to have additional barrier-enhancing ingredients.
Oily skin types can also suffer from dryness. But a heavily emollient cream can be comedogenic and can even cause breakouts on oily and acne-prone skin.
If you have oily or combination skin, you can look for more lightweight products like serums or oil-free ceramide moisturizers to support the skin barrier without the heavy occlusives.
Ceramides are not comedogenic. But ceramide creams formulated with additional oils usually are.
The Best Ceramide Skincare Products
From creams to treatments, below are the best ceramide skincare products.
If you have dehydrated skin, it means that your skin primarily lacks water. In skincare, that translates to humectants like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or panthenol. And you need emollients like ceramides or squalane to prevent that water from evaporating. This formula has both! That’s why this nightly treatment is the best ceramide product to hydrate the skin and increase moisture. It replenishes with hyaluronic acid and keeps the skin moisturized with ceramides. The super-affordable treatment gives you softer and smoother skin by morning.
This ceramide cream is ideal for aging skin that’s prone to dryness. It’s a multi-tasker that also has sun protection as well as a good amount of antioxidants. The daily moisturizer utilizes ceramides and vitamins A and E to nourish the skin and treat free radical damage as well.
This ceramide cream is oil-free, making it the best ceramide product for oily and acne-prone skin. The cream increases moisture with ceramides and niacinamide, which is also helpful in stimulating lipid production. You can use the cream to get rid of dehydration and flakiness on oily skin without worrying about clogged pores or acne.
This one packs barrier-restoring ingredients without the heavy feel of a thick moisturizer. Ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol lubricate the skin and give you a more energized and healthy complexion. The serum also packs cucumber seed oil and sea buckthorn oil, which are all restorative for the skin.
This is an amazingly nourishing ceramide-enriched face oil. If your skin is parched, you’re going to love this one. The oil packs evening primrose oil, which is rich in fatty acids to keep the outer layer of the skin nice and soft. By locking moisture in, the face oil eliminates transepidermal water loss, which is super handy during winter.
This one is great for very dry, sensitive, and irritated skin. The fragrance-free formula has squalane and ceramides for lightweight moisture. And it has soothing oatmeal, allantoin, and feverfew to eliminate redness and itchiness. The cream traps moisture in with its skin-softening base made with shea butter.
This one enhances the skin’s ability to retain moisture by mimicking its composition. The serum infuses the skin with elastin, collagen, and ceramides to moisturize the skin and improve the skin barrier. Additionally, the serum contains plum seed extract, which contains restorative fatty acids as well as antioxidant-rich vitamin E.
This ceramide cream is a lifesaver to get your skin to bounce back from severe dryness, over-exfoliation, or a retinol overdose. The treatment packs multiple ceramides as well as niacinamide, squalane, and vitamin E to rebuild the compromised skin barrier. As a result, the skin becomes stronger against damaging elements like free radicals.
The eye area could use ceramides. Because moisture will plump up the skin around the eyes and reduce the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles. This ceramide eye cream does exactly that. It also binds water to the skin with hyaluronic acid and improves moisture retention with niacinamide. The fragrance-free ceramide eye cream is suitable for sensitive eyes as well.
This is a hydrating toner that’s perfect for when you need all the moisture you can get. The ceramide-packed toner also has vitamin B5 to hydrate and soothe the skin and Centella Asiatica to calm inflammation and reduce redness. It’s an instant relief to calm dry, red, and itchy skin. The Korean formula is absolutely one of the best ceramide skincare products to effectively repair the skin’s barrier function.
Read Next: The Best Products with Ferulic Acid
- Spada, F., Barnes, T. M., & Greive, K. A. (2018). Skin hydration is significantly increased by a cream formulated to mimic the skin’s own natural moisturizing systems. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 11, 491–497. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S177697
- Berkers, T., Visscher, D., Gooris, G. S., & Bouwstra, J. A. (2018). Topically Applied Ceramides Interact with the Stratum Corneum Lipid Matrix in Compromised Ex Vivo Skin. Pharmaceutical research, 35(3), 48. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11095-017-2288-y
- Rogers, J., Harding, C., Mayo, A., Banks, J., & Rawlings, A. (1996). Stratum corneum lipids: the effect of ageing and the seasons. Archives of dermatological research, 288(12), 765–770. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02505294
- Coderch, L., López, O., de la Maza, A. et al. Ceramides and Skin Function. Am J Clin Dermatol 4, 107–129 (2003). https://doi.org/10.2165/00128071-200304020-00004