SPF, antioxidants, hyaluronic acid—no routine is complete without these well-known skincare superstars. But while those ingredients may steal the limelight, lipids, particularly ceramides, are essential elements that may be the unsung heroes in skincare. Here’s why.
What are ceramides?
“Ceramides are specialized fats, or lipids, found in the outer skin layer, the stratum corneum. They act like grout that sits between the skin cell ‘bricks’ to maintain a healthy barrier and prevent loss of hydration,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. But don’t let their role as a glorified glue fool you.
Ceramides and skin barrier
The underlying cells of the dermis rely on the stratum corneum (aka the skin barrier) above for the whole skin structure to function in harmony. The body’s largest organ, our skin is the ultimate multitasker—simultaneously protecting us from infectious microorganisms, regulating our body temperature, and producing vitamin D, among other important duties. And it only works optimally with a healthy barrier that can defend against everything our modern lives throw at it (UV, pollution, free radicals, etc). Even the smallest crack in this protective outer layer can wreak havoc and lead to a whole host of issues—from dehydrated skin to rosacea. This is where ceramides come in. By binding skin cells together, they create a veritable forcefield that “enhances hydration and provides protection from the environment,” notes Zeichner. In short, they help keep the good stuff in and the bad stuff out.
Why we lose ceramides
The body’s natural production of ceramides significantly decreases with age. In addition, other factors can further deplete their stores—like the change in seasons. “We know that ceramide levels are decreased in conditions where the skin is dry,” says Zeichner. “Be that because of a drop in the temperature, humidity level, or irritation from harsh products or over-scrubbing.”
…And how to get them back
Applying a daily ceramide-infused serum is an easy way to amp up your supply. The ceramides in skincare, like the plant-based versions packed into the Renew Repair Serum, are virtually identical to the ones we produce naturally, so skin treats them as their own. And luckily, Zeichner confirms they’re suitable for all skin types. A study published last year in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, deemed ceramides “non-sensitizing” and “non-irritating,” even when used around the eyes—our most delicate area. And in more great news, one Japanese study found that applying ceramides boosts skin’s moisture content by more than 100 percent, further proof that they restore proper skin barrier function. The result? Well-hydrated, healthy skin that acts younger than its age— the ultimate triple threat.