Rodan + Fields / Blog / Science of Skincare

What Are Ceramides and Why Do You Need Them?

Ceramides are lipids (fats) that hold your skin cells together.

Ceramide texture swatches

You’ve probably heard the word “ceramides” by now, or at least seen it on labels for skin care products at the drugstore. Sure, they certainly sound good, but what are ceramides, exactly, and what do they do for your skin?

The “scientific” definition of ceramides states[1] that they’re epidermal lipids that are important for skin barrier function — and when you dig into the research, it’s clear how important they are for our skin. Here’s everything you need to know about ceramides and their benefits.

What Do Ceramides Do for Skin?

According to cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, ceramides are fatty acid lipids that make up over half of our natural skin barrier. “They are essential in sealing in moisture and keeping out harmful contaminants,” she explains. “As we age and as we encounter environmental stressors like sun damage and pollution, some of these fatty acids are lost, resulting in dull and dry skin.”

Benefits of ceramides

Green notes that ceramides are a good ingredient for skin because they counter the effects of aging by minimizing ceramide loss and further locking in moisture. “Over time, these may have anti-aging effects and give you a more youthful, hydrated, and glowing complexion.”

 What happens if it’s not enough

So, what happens if you don’t get enough ceramides? “If you don’t have enough ceramides, your skin may be more vulnerable to sun damage, dryness, and aging,” notes Green. “Research has also shown that those with lower levels of ceramides in their skin are more prone to skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.”

She adds that if you suffer from any of these skin conditions, adding ceramides to your skincare routine can make a big difference in your skin by soothing irritation and preventing dry skin.

Where Can You Find Ceramides?

If you’re looking to add ceramides to your skin care routine, Green says you should look for them in topical skin care products, like ceramide creams and serums. “They can be found in cleansers, moisturizers, body washes, ceramide serums, and more. Ceramides can also be naturally found in small quantities in certain foods like sweet potatoes and rice” she says. “When purchasing a ceramide-containing product, make sure it is in an opaque, airtight tube. Ceramides are sensitive to the light and air and contact with either can cause them to become ineffective.”

Why do you need beauty products that contain ceramides?

Stocking up on beauty products that contain ceramides is a great idea if you’re looking to improve your complexion and protect it against further damage. “Many environmental factors such as pollution and ultraviolet radiation from the sun can deplete your body’s natural ceramide stores,” says Green. “Some individuals also have lower levels of ceramides in their skin barrier. Adding beauty products with ceramides to your skincare routine can replenish lost ceramides and rejuvenate your skin, giving your skin a smoother, softer, and healthier appearance.”

How to check if a product contains ceramides

If you want to make sure your skin care products contain ceramides, start by looking at the ingredients list. “Ceramides will often be labeled as ceramide but can also be written as phytosphingosine or sphingosine, two precursors to ceramide,” Green says. “For most products, it will be relatively easy to tell if they contain ceramides. Ceramides have become increasingly popular in recent years as people seek to rejuvenate their skin.”

Which Skin Types are Ceramides Best For?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a skin type that won’t benefit from ceramides, because they’re naturally found in your skin’s barrier. “Although ceramides themselves are great for all skin, cosmetic products may contain other ingredients that are not ideal for all skin types,” Green notes. “For example, some products contain both ceramides and retinoids. Retinoids may be too strong for those with sensitive skin and may not be ideal for anyone with dry skin since retinoids tend to be drying.”

She adds that it’s important to always make sure to research all ingredients and to do a patch test prior to introducing a new product to your skincare regimen.

Whether you’re looking to minimize the appearance of signs of aging or you want to protect your skin’s barrier and prevent damage, ceramides are an excellent ingredient to add to your skin care regimen — and luckily, they’re found in tons of products. Just make sure to read your labels carefully!


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