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Ceramides

What Should I Know About It?

By

Updated May 15, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Ceramides are a type of fat molecule found naturally in the top layer of your skin. Essential to healthy functioning of the skin barrier, ceramides play a key role in helping your skin retain moisture.

Uses for Ceramides in Skin Care

When applied directly to the skin through use of skin-care products, ceramides are said to aid in treatment of certain skin conditions (such as eczema and psoriasis), improve dry skin, and reduce signs of aging in the skin (such as fine lines and wrinkles).

Benefits of Ceramides

Here's a look at some key study findings on the use of ceramides for skin problems:

1) Eczema

Research indicates that people with eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) often have low levels of ceramides in the top layer of the skin. Some studies show that use of ceramide-containing skin-care products may help treat eczema.

In a 2008 study published in the journal Cutis, for instance, researchers found that ceramides may help improve symptoms and reduce the duration of flare-ups in patients with mild to moderate eczema. The study tested the use of a liquid cleanser and moisturizing cream containing ceramides.

2) Aging Skin

Ceramides may help protect against aging-associated xerosis (a condition marked by abnormal skin dryness), according to a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology. In tests on 20 healthy females, the study's authors determined that applying a cream containing ceramides helped improve skin barrier function and increase resistance to aging-related xerosis.

3) Skin Irritation

Ceramides may help shield the skin from certain irritants, a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Dermatology suggests. In an experiment involving 15 women with healthy skin, researchers found that applying a ceramide-containing emulsion to the skin helped improve skin barrier function, increase skin hydration, and protect irritation induced by exposure to sodium lauryl sulfate (a synthetic chemical found in many personal-care products).

What You Need To Know Before Buying Ceramides

Many skin-care experts recommend choosing ceramide-containing products that also include cholesterol and free fatty acids (the two other types of fats found naturally in your skin). Research suggests that there must be a balance of all three fats in order for a ceramide-containing product to be effective in healing the skin.

Ceramide Supplements

Dietary supplements containing plant sources of ceramides (such as konjac) are purported to improve skin barrier function and help treat certain skin conditions. However, there is currently a lack of research supporting the claim that ceramides can heal the skin when consumed in supplement form.

Alternatives to Ceramides

A number of natural products may also protect against dry skin and promote healing of certain skin conditions. These products include neem oil, argan oil, calendula, and sea buckthorn.

Learn more about natural skin care.

Where To Find Ceramides

Moisturizers, creams, lotions, cleansers, and skin-care formulas containing ceramides are sold in many drugstores and stores specializing in skin-care products. Ceramide-containing products are also widely available for purchase online.

Sources

Asai S, Miyachi H. "Evaluation of skin-moisturizing effects of oral or percutaneous use of plant ceramides." Rinsho Byori. 2007 Mar;55(3):209-15.

Choi MJ, Maibach HI. "Role of ceramides in barrier function of healthy and diseased skin." Am J Clin Dermatol. 2005;6(4):215-23.

Coderch L, López O, de la Maza A, Parra JL. "Ceramides and skin function." Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003;4(2):107-29.

Di Marzio L, Cinque B, Cupelli F, De Simone C, Cifone MG, Giuliani M. "Increase of skin-ceramide levels in aged subjects following a short-term topical application of bacterial sphingomyelinase from Streptococcus thermophilus." Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2008 Jan-Mar;21(1):137-43.

Di Nardo A, Wertz P, Giannetti A, Seidenari S. "Ceramide and cholesterol composition of the skin of patients with atopic dermatitis." Acta Derm Venereol. 1998 Jan;78(1):27-30.

Draelos ZD. "The effect of ceramide-containing skin care products on eczema resolution duration." Cutis. 2008 Jan;81(1):87-91.

Huang HC, Chang TM. "Ceramide 1 and ceramide 3 act synergistically on skin hydration and the transepidermal water loss of sodium lauryl sulfate-irritated skin." Int J Dermatol. 2008 Aug;47(8):812-9.

Mutanu Jungersted J, Hellgren LI, Høgh JK, Drachmann T, Jemec GB, Agner T. "Ceramides and barrier function in healthy skin." Acta Derm Venereol. 2010 Jul;90(4):350-3.

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