We need to talk about ceramides. They’re the unsung heroes of the skincare industry—compared to your retinols, vitamin Cs, and hyaluronic acids, ceramides rarely get a look in. And yet, from helping to protect the skin’s barrier and minimising the appearance of wrinkles, to improving the skin’s overall texture, they’re an essential part of any skincare routine. Here, Vogue takes a deep dive into the benefits that make them essential to your beauty routine.
What are the benefits of using ceramides for your skin?
Ceramides are naturally occurring lipids that make up 50 per cent of your skin’s structure. “Think of them as the cement between your skin cells,” says Daniel Isaacs, director of research at Medik8. “They help keep the skin barrier strong and healthy by preventing environmental aggressors from getting in, while simultaneously preventing trans-epidermal water loss.”
While our skin already naturally contains ceramides, the realities of everyday life can deplete them, leading to a whole host of problems. Think: wrinkles, dullness, uneven texture, and dry, flaky skin, as you leave yourself unprotected and open to irritation.
The benefits of using ceramides in your skincare, then, are manifold. “By introducing products containing ceramides, you’ll strengthen your skin barrier, the result of which will be healthier, more hydrated and supple skin,” says Isaacs. “When applied topically they can slip straight into the skin’s protective barrier to reinforce it. This means less water can escape from the skin, and the condition of the complexion is hugely improved.” In other words, swap dull, dry and uneven skin for skin that is resilient, supple and hydrated. And the best news? These products are suited to almost all skin types.
What are the three essential ceramides and which ceramides are best for the skin?
There are nine different ceramides in your skin, some of which are used in skincare. But there are three essential ceramides that work best for the skin. These are ceramides 1, 3 and 6-II. Ceramides that have the most clinical data behind them are the most used within skincare, and often brands will use a combination of ceramides in their products. For example, Medik8 uses a combination of 1 and 3 in their skincare, while cult brand CeraVe uses a combination of all three.
Can you use them everyday and do they work well with hyaluronic acid?
Incorporating ceramides into your everyday skincare routine couldn’t be easier, whether that’s in the morning or at night. “Using ceramides in your everyday moisturiser is a great way to ensure your skin is getting all the nourishment it needs,” says Isaacs. In fact, they’re particularly effective when combined with your morning dose of hyaluronic acid. “Hyaluronic acid and ceramides are both types of moisturisers,” says Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at 55 Harley Street. “Hyaluronic acid is a humectant—these are molecules that attract and bind water from the deeper layers of the skin. Ceramides are lipids or fats which can function as emollients—these are moisturising agents that work by filling in the gaps between skin cells and replacing skin lipids.” Although both act as moisturisers, they function in slightly different ways, so incorporating both can help with creating a healthy skin barrier.
Are ceramides better than retinol?
Although perfectly safe to use during the day, ceramides are particularly effective when used overnight, allowing them to work in conjunction with your skin’s natural restoration processes while you sleep. But that’s not to say you should use them in place of retinol. In fact, ceramides are particularly effective when used in the evening after you apply your retinol.
“Ceramides and retinol complement each other,” says Mahto. “Ceramides help to create a healthy skin barrier, and a healthier skin barrier means your vitamin A serum, in this case retinol, will perform better. Additionally, if your skin barrier is healthy, you’re less likely to experience the irritation and flaking that can sometimes occur with vitamin A use.”
Which foods are high in ceramides?
If you really want to help support your skin you may also wish to start incorporating foods that are rich in ceramides into your diet. After all, what you put into your body is reflected on the outside.
“Ceramides act like glue, helping hold skin cells together, creating a protective barrier in the top layer of skin,” says Lola Biggs, dietitian at Together Health. “Nourishing your skin with ceramide-rich foods means, in turn, that you are helping to boost these healthy cells from the inside out.” Look for foods that are rich in omega-3 and omega-6, like fatty fish and flaxseeds, as these make up part of the cell membrane, allowing for a stronger skin barrier. “I’d also suggest eating more dairy, eggs, wheatgerm, brown rice, spinach, sweet potatoes and soybeans,” says Biggs. “These are all high in ceramides.”
Which ceramide products are the best?
From face, body and eye creams to more general moisturisers and serums, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to ceramide-rich products. You just need to find out which one works best for you. Below, find Vogue’s edit of the best ceramide products to try now.