Beauty Dictionary: C for Ceramides

Understanding whether skincare ingredients truly works requires a deep understanding of skin biology and chemistry. For the layman, there are certain buzzwords that trigger an automatic assumption that the product is good for us and ceramide is probably one of them.

In simple terms, ceramides are lipids (fats) that exists in high concentration in cell membranes found in the stratum corneum (uppermost layer of skin) – they work to form a protective moisture barrier that also retains water in skin. Unlike some skincare ingredients that normally works fine on their own, ceramides are best combined with other oily ingredients like cholesterol and fatty acids, forming what is chemically known as crystalline lamellar structures, which have moisture retention properties.

So what do all these information entail then? First, when you’re looking out for ceramides in the ingredients list, they are usually listed as “ceramide” along with three letters which represent their chemical make up. For example, Ceramide EOS means it’s an Ester linked fatty acid that has Omega hydroxy fatty acid linked to a Sphinogsine base. However, there can be instances where they have a number tagged to the back (eg, Ceramide 5) or even their chemical name (eg, N-stearoyl sphinganine)

Secondly, the ideal ratio of ceramide to cholesterol to fatty acid in skin is 3.6 to 1.2 to 1 and while we won’t ever be able to tell if ingredients are the right ratio in skincare products, it does help to look out for accompanying ingredients like Phytosphingosine (a type of fatty acid), Linolenic Acid (fatty acid), Phospolipid ( a combination of glycerol, fatty acids, and phosphate) and Cholesterol.

Those with dry skin or suffer from eczema should consider adding skincare ingredients containing ceramide (along with cholesterol and fatty acids like we mentioned earlier) to maintain a healthy moisture barrier and prevent skin dryness.

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