What Are Ceramides in Skin Care? An Expert Explains

Close up studio shot of a beautiful woman with perfect skin, she touching her face

Like Y2K beauty trends, brown Gap hoodies, and DIY french manicures, ceramides are currently getting a lot of attention on TikTok. The skin-care ingredient has long been revered as a staple for healthy skin, but prior to its TikTok fame, not many people knew what they were or what they did for the skin (and no shame if you still don’t).

Ceramides can be found in a variety of skin-care products, from cleansers to serums, eye creams, moisturizers, and more, and they pack a lot of benefits for your complexion. To help explain exactly what ceramides are in skin care, we tapped a dermatologist to answer all your burning questions.

What Are Ceramides?

Ceramides are lipids, and lipids are molecules that make up the function of living cells. “[They] make up to 50 percent of the skin composition to form the natural skin barrier,” DiAnne Davis, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and CeraVe brand partner, told POPSUGAR. “They are naturally found in skin.”

What Are the Skin-Care Benefits of Ceramides?

When a product contains ceramides, it’s often called out right on the packaging. That’s because the ingredient is so beneficial for the skin, specifically your skin barrier. “Ceramides are essentially the glue that holds skin cells together to keep the skin barrier healthy and intact,” Dr. Davis said. “A healthy skin barrier, with the help of ceramides, helps to seal in moisture and keep out impurities.”

When your skin’s moisture barrier is damaged, it can lead to redness, irritation, dehydration, flakiness, and overall discomfort. Damage to the skin barrier can occur due to a number of different factors, including overexposure to the sun, harsh climate conditions, and overuse of exfoliants.

But that’s not all ceramides are good for: “In addition to the hydration benefits, ceramides also make your complexion look brighter and younger and help to keep the skin soft and smooth,” Dr. Davis said.

How to Use Ceramides in Your Skin-Care Routine

Ceramides mix well with all other skin-care ingredients so you don’t have to worry about conflicts when incorporating a new product into your routine. Dr. Davis explained if you have dry, irritated, or tight-feeling skin, despite following a skin-care routine and moisturizing often, that’s a sign your skin isn’t getting enough hydration and could benefit from a ceramide-packed moisturizer. “If your skin feels extremely oily, it could also be because of a lack of moisturizing in your skin-care regimen, which will cause the oil glands to kick into overdrive and produce more oil because the skin is dry and dehydrated.”

Still, whether you suspect your skin’s moisture barrier is damaged or not, everyone can benefit from incorporating ceramides into their skin-care regimen. Like peptides, ceramides are safe for all skin types. “Every skin type needs a good moisturizer that can help to trap water in the skin,” she said.

What’s more, Dr. Davis added: “We now have evidence that using both a sunscreen and moisturizer with essential ceramides incorporated into the product can help to promote a healthy skin barrier and protect against UV-induced skin-barrier damage, so making sure that you are using both sunscreen and moisturizers with SPF can have long-lasting benefits on the skin barrier.”

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