There Are Over 13 Million Searches for Ceramides—Here’s Why

This ingredient prevents moisture loss, soothes inflammation, and keeps skin looking healthy, youthful, and plump. If this was a game of Jeopardy, the correct answer would be: What are ceramides?

Ceramides are a class of fatty acids that basically hold the skin together. And just like other proteins and molecules that are naturally found in the skin (we’re talking essentials like collagen, hyaluronic acid, and elastin), our supply of ceramides can become depleted over time. Read our deep dive on these ingredients below, including what fatty acids and ceramides do, their skin benefits, and how to incorporate them into your skincare routine.

What Are Ceramides and Fatty Acids?

Ceramides are a type of fatty acid known as lipids. While fatty acids make up the fat in our bodies (and our food), they play an important role as the building blocks of the outermost layer of our skin known as the stratum corneum. There are two types: natural fatty acids (produced by our bodies, this is the category ceramides fall under) and essential fatty acids (not naturally produced by our bodies, such as omega-3 and omega-6, which must be imbibed through diet and supplements or applied topically as skincare). Both types of fatty acids consist of long chains that latch onto other molecules and skin cells in order to create a protective skin barrier. Think of them as Legos stacked together to create a strong fort, keeping the good stuff in and the bad guys out. 

The stratum corneum consists of 15-20 layers of skin, protecting us from losing an excessive amount of moisture. (Fun fact: Our bodies are nearly 60% water.) It also helps protect our body from environmental factors that could potentially harm our skin—things like ultraviolet rays, climate changes, and acne-causing bacteria. For a good source of fatty acids, smooth on squalane—which hydrates and softens skin—found in our Rich Moisture Cream

How Do Ceramides Benefit the Skin?

Ceramides make up roughly 50% of the fatty acids found in the stratum corneum, but their production rate decreases as we age, diminishing over time. Once we reach our 20s, fewer ceramides are produced at a loss of 1% per year. Besides aging, there are a few other reasons why our skin may be in low supply. Over-exfoliating the skin, forgetting to remove makeup before bed, using artificial fragrances, skipping daily sunscreen, and using a low-pH soap cleanser all deplete the skin of its natural ceramides and damage its barrier. That’s why we recommend using a soap-free, non-stripping face wash like the Antioxidant Cleanser.

When your ceramide levels are low, the skin can appear flaky, droopy, excessively dry, irritated, and red. It can exacerbate signs of aging too; a lack of fatty tissue causes the skin to thin out, making a crepey texture and fine lines more noticeable. Healthy skin with regular production of ceramides typically looks youthful and feels soft, plump, and elastic. 

Besides avoiding the habits mentioned above, many turn to skincare products to replenish the skin’s fatty acid and ceramide inventory. 

How to Use Ceramides in Your Skincare Regimen

You’ll find ceramides in pretty much every kind of skincare product, from cleansers and serums to masks and moisturizers. Check the back of the ingredient label for Ceramide NP, Ceramide NS, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP, or Ceramide EOS. 

Ceramides can be used AM and/or PM and are especially effective when mixed with other fatty acids, amino acids, and peptides. If you’re focused on fine lines or preventing premature aging, pair ceramides with our Smoothing Eye Cream. It uses peptides and moisturizing olive oil to soften crow’s feet and brighten the under eyes. You can also get your peptide fix during the daytime with polyglutamic acid, found in our Luminizing Glow Drops. As an alternative to face makeup, a few drops avoid stripping your skin while adding a soft-focus glow. 

Humectants, like hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate, also pair well within a ceramide-filled routine. Read about the benefits of humectants hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate next.