Our skincare expert explains everything you need to know about the trending ingredient, and why you should be working it into your daily skincare ritual.
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Ingredients, techniques (“slugging,” anyone?) and devices promising to completely transform the health of your skin.
There are a few that spring to mind when I think of more recent beauty buzzwords. Skinimalism, the skin barrier and the microbiome are all buzzy beauty terms that took over my inbox (and, in turn, the content I was producing) throughout the two-ish years we spent indoors (or as I have taken to calling it, “The Great Quiet”).
The difference between these terms and the buzzwords of the past, however, is that these don’t seem to be leaving us anytime soon, perhaps moving them beyond a fast trend and instead sending them into the realm of widely accepted beauty habits.
Another thing I find interesting about these particular terms is that there is one ingredient that, in my mind, links them all together - ceramides.
Ceramides were first brought to my attention in early 2019 when a dermatologist I was interviewing suggested that I work them into my skincare routine.
Until that moment, I had never heard of them. A few months passed without me paying these mythical “ceramides” much attention (they weren’t trending yet! They were hard to find!) and then… bang.
The ceramide movement.
By late 2019, thanks largely to the “minimalism” trend and the push towards simple, pharmacy-available skincare formulas that came with it, ceramides were everywhere. From window displays to social campaigns, I couldn’t turn my head without seeing a new ceramide-spiked product emerge.
So - what are ceramides?
We know they have some link to the skin barrier, and they’re often lumped in with hyaluronic acid when we hear of their top level benefits, but what are ceramides, what can ceramides do for the skin, and are they more than just another beauty buzzword?
Often referred to as the building blocks or cement of healthy skin, ceramides are found within the stratum corneum of the skin, which is the outermost layer of the epidermis.
Ceramides themselves are a chain of lipid molecules that comprise around 50% of the skin barrier.
As you know (and if you don’t, no judgement! Find out more about the skin barrier in this article), the skin barrier (or lipid barrier) is what protects the skin from environmental stressors and aggressors like pollution, free radical damage and bacteria, and allows the skin to really lock in moisture.
Ceramides are naturally found in the skin, but we begin to produce less and less from the age of 30 and, given that they’re our skin’s first line of defence against the environment, it’s important to supplement them in our topical skincare.
A healthy skin barrier is what really allows the skin to function at its healthiest, so ceramides are essential (a word I don’t use lightly in beauty) when it comes to the overall health of the skin.
In a preventative sense, working ceramides into your skincare routine to strengthen the skin’s barrier function can help you slow down the visible signs of skin ageing, as many of these are the result of free radical damage and pollutants.
Ceramides also allow your skin to better retain moisture, which is why they’re so beneficial as part of a winter skincare routine. They’re incredibly soothing, so a wonderful ingredient for those with sensitised or easily irritated skin, as irritation is often a sign of a compromised skin barrier.
On more of a surface level (this pun was not intentional, but I’ll admit that I am thrilled by it), working ceramides into your routine can give the skin a more youthful, plump appearance and a beautiful glow, thanks again to their ability to help the skin hold onto water.
Personally, the biggest change I’ve seen in my own skin since working ceramides into my routine has been in inflammation - keeping in mind there are many, many skin ailments that fall under the inflammation umbrella.
Perhaps the most obvious is redness, which is something I am slightly prone to in the winter months. I have learned that this redness in the winter is a sign of a compromised skin barrier, due almost entirely to the lack of humidity in the air, and adding ceramides into my routine has completely eradicated this.
The most surprising benefit, for me, has been the effect ceramides have had on breakouts - which also fall within the inflammation category.
I am fortunate in that my skin isn’t particularly acne prone, however when I do experience a pimple, it’s often quite dry.
My instinct for many years had been to dry any breakouts out further, attacking them with acids in an attempt to unblock the pore. Over the last few years I have changed my approach, instead upping my ceramide applications to almost give back to the skin.
I’ve found this has allowed my spots to heal in half the time they once were, with ceramides working to soothe them and clear the inflammation at the source.
My most frequently asked question around ceramides has been “At what point do I fit ceramides into my skincare routine?” The answer is a fun one - ceramides can be added into your routine at any step!
The real beauty (again, an unintentional yet pleasing pun) of ceramides is that they play well with every other ingredient and, in my experience, they don’t really play a significant part in a product’s texture, which means you can use ceramides at any step in your routine.
Unlike many active skincare ingredients, there’s also no such thing as “too much” when it comes to ceramides. This in mind, I’ll often use a ceramide-rich cleanser, a serum with ceramides in it, and a moisturiser packed with ceramides all at once.
Similarly, there’s really no skin type that can’t benefit from the topical application of ceramides.
Dry skin types will benefit from its ability to improve the skin’s ability to lock in moisture, oily skin types will appreciate its ability to reduce inflammation and protect the skin from bacteria and pollution, mature skins will find their exposure to free radical damage is reduced, and sensitive skins will find ceramide-rich skincare can help to soothe existing and reduce future irritations.
My opinion? Ceramides are so much more than a beauty buzzword- they’re the building blocks of healthy skin.
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