Why Ceramides Are The Gold Standard For Skin Barrier Support

They’re an essential part of a good beauty regimen.

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If your skin care routine feels like it's missing something, it could very well be a ceramide. This hero ingredient isn’t as flashy as hyaluronic acid or niacinamide, but it does all the behind-the-scenes work when it comes to giving you glowy, hydrated skin.

Ceramides are fatty molecules that play a vital role in the health of your skin, especially when it comes to protecting the all-important moisture barrier. “If you think of the skin’s moisture barrier as a brick wall with the skin cells being the bricks, ceramides are the glue or the mortar that holds the skin cells together,” says Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist.

These naturally occurring fats, or lipids, are found in the outermost layer of your epidermis. Apart from holding skin cells together, they also help to seal in moisture so your face and body stay protected from the elements, says Dr. Divya Shokeen, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist.

You’ll know you need to boost your ceramides if you experience signs of skin barrier disruption, like dryness, breakouts, itching, redness, or dullness in your skin texture, Shirazi tells Bustle.

Luckily, ceramides can be found in countless moisturizers for the face and body, so it’s easier than ever to add them to your beauty regimen. Here’s everything to know about using ceramides, straight from dermatologists.

What Do Ceramides Do For The Skin?

Ceramides are the main character when it comes to protecting your skin, which is why they’re a must-have in cooler weather. According to Shokeen, ceramide-rich products help reduce moisture loss on cold days by trapping hydration in, so your skin feels more comfortable.

The fatty molecules strengthen your skin barrier and keep the good stuff — like moisture — in, while they also help keep the bad stuff out, says Shirazi. Think irritants, allergens, and pollution.

Ceramide-rich products also increase hydration so that your skin looks shiny, smooth, and supple, notes Shokeen. On top of that, they’re MVPs at calming your complexion. “Ceramides aid in reducing inflammation, soothing irritated or red skin, and can potentially help improve conditions like rosacea and eczema,” Shokeen says.

Are Ceramides Safe To Use?

According to Dr. Brendan Camp, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist with MDCS Dermatology, anyone can benefit from using ceramides, as they’re a natural component of skin — and are generally safe for all skin types to use. He’s also a big fan of how they help skin tolerate other active ingredients, like retinol, by helping to boost moisture.

While too much of anything is never a good idea, Shirazi says it’s hard to overdo it with ceramides. They’re typically found in moisturizers and other hydrating formulas, which are typically safe to smooth on all day as needed.

Shop Ceramide-Infused Skin Care

For Your Daily Face Wash

This hydrating, skin-barrier-strengthening cleanser is perfect for all skin types. Besides ceramides, it also contains pre- and postbiotics, colloidal oatmeal, and avocado oil to balance your skin barrier and visibly reduce redness.

For A Dose Of SPF

This everyday face lotion offers SPF 30 sun protection, all while providing a dose of hydration. It’s formulated with three essential ceramides as well as hyaluronic acid to help your skin retain moisture — without feeling oily.

For Extra Skin Protection

Shokeen is a fan of this rich cream from SkinCeuticals. “It contains ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids, which provide a thick barrier and hydrating properties,” she says. The formula also contains vitamin E and other antioxidants to protect your skin from free-radical damage.

For Dewy Skin

This nutrient-rich essence — courtesy of glazed skin queen Hailey Bieber’s beauty line — contains ceramides to boost your skin barrier so you look gorgeously dewy. Its gentle formula reduces the appearance of redness and irritation, provides lasting hydration, and serves as the perfect prep for other skin care products.

For Softer Lips

To get your lips in on the action, add a ceramide-rich lip butter to your skin care routine. This luxe balm from Mutha contains a blend of ceramides, squalane, and natural oils that soak in to deeply moisturize your pout. Once you slick it on, your lips with look smoother, softer, and more defined.

For Firmer Skin

For firmer-looking skin, opt for this formula from Paula’s Choice. It contains ceramides as well as retinol and vitamin C, a trio that works together to smooth and enhance your complexion. Other ingredients, like grape seed extract and licorice root, will give you a more even, all-over glow.

For Your Under-Eyes

To zero in on the skin around your eyes, try Mario Badescu’s lightweight eye gel. It’s formulated with skin-softening ceramides and nourishing herbal extracts to help quash puffiness so your peepers look more awake.

For Rose-Scented Moisture

This floral-scented cream from Pixi combines ceramides and rose oil to deeply hydrate your face, improve your skin’s texture, and strengthen elasticity. Use it after cleansing and toning — and enjoy the beautiful rose scent.

For Your Whole Bod

If you have extra dry skin, treat yourself to a ceramide-rich body lotion like this one from Dr. Jart+. The ceramide and hyaluronic acid combo quickly absorbs into the skin to get rid of tight, rough bits. Apply it after a shower for softer, more moisturized limbs.

Studies referenced:

Coderch, L. (2004). Ceramides and skin function. Am J Clin Dermatol. doi: 10.2165/00128071-200304020-00004.

Draelos, ZD. (2018). The Efficacy of a Ceramide-based Cream in Mild-to-moderate Atopic Dermatitis. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. PMID: 29785236; PMCID: PMC5955631.

Huang, HC. (2008). Ceramide 1 and ceramide 3 act synergistically on skin hydration and the transepidermal water loss of sodium lauryl sulfate-irritated skin. Int J Dermatol. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2008.03687.x.

Kono, T. (2021). Clinical significance of the water retention and barrier function-improving capabilities of ceramide-containing formulations: A qualitative review. J Dermatol. doi: 10.1111/1346-8138.16175.

Mukherjee, S. (2006). Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clin Interv Aging. doi: 10.2147/ciia.2006.1.4.327.

Nguyen, KH. (2022). Moisturizing effectiveness of immediate compared with delayed moisturization. J Cosmet Dermatol. doi: 10.1111/jocd.15003.

Parke, MA. (2021). Diet and Skin Barrier: The Role of Dietary Interventions on Skin Barrier Function. Dermatol Pract Concept. doi: 10.5826/dpc.1101a132.

Spada, F. (2018). Skin hydration is significantly increased by a cream formulated to mimic the skin's own natural moisturizing systems. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S177697.

Uchida, Y. (2021). Ceramides in Skin Health and Disease: An Update. Am J Clin Dermatol. doi: 10.1007/s40257-021-00619-2.

Wu, Y. (2021). Compromised Skin Barrier and Sensitive Skin in Diverse Populations. J Drugs Dermatol. doi: 10.36849/JDD.2021.589c.


Dr. Divya Shokeen, M.D., board-certified dermatologist

Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, M.D., board-certified dermatologist

Dr. Brendan Camp, M.D., board-certified dermatologist with MDCS Dermatology

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