What are ceramides, anyway?
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The Fix for Irritated Skin is an Underrated Ingredient You Probably Haven’t Heard Of
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When your complexion seems to stay irritated no matter what, the problem could lie within your skin's barrier, aka the outermost layer of your skin. It prevents moisture and water from escaping, though depending on the environment and how aggressive you are with exfoliating treatments, it gets exposed to a lot of external aggressors.

However, there are several things you can do keep your skin barrier healthy. Case in point: ceramides. These under-the-radar skincare heroes moisturize the skin, reduce inflammation, and repair irritated barriers.

What Are Ceramides?

"Ceramides are lipid molecules found naturally in the skin," explains Bernard Kim, CEO of SkinRx Lab. Hope Mitchell, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist adds that ceramides make up about half of the skin barrier and, as such, help decrease transepidermal water loss in the skin to maintain healthy and hydrated skin.

"They're basically the mortar between skin cells that holds cells together to make up the skin barrier," she says.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Ceramides If Our Skin Already Produces Them?

Although your skin does create its own ceramides, Kim explains that environmental factors and aging can lower your skin's natural production, so boosting your levels with a ceramide cream is essential. "When skin is low in ceramides, it's more prone to redness and dryness," he says.

Dr. Mitchell adds that as we age, our ceramide load decreases, which adds to dehydration of the skin and potentially exacerbates fine lines and wrinkles. Plus, she says that topical ceramides protect the natural skin barrier and help to heal it, especially in those with compromised skin barriers, such as people with eczema. "Ceramides minimize skin irritation from environmental stressors, soothe symptoms such as itching, and retain moisture in the skin," she says.

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What Skincare Ingredients Work Well With Ceramides?

Ceramides work well with other skin-replenishing ingredients, such as glycerin and antioxidants like vitamins C and E. Dr. Hope says she likes to pair ceramides with retinol, peptides, and niacinamide, especially.

"Ceramides work well with retinol because they help minimize irritation, which in turn, promotes consistent use. Niacinamide may enhance skin-soothing benefits and skin barrier protection. Exfoliation or promotion of cellular turnover with alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), like glycolic or lactic acid, will enhance the penetration of products that contain ceramides, making these ingredients a wonderful and effective pair," she explains.

What Should You Take Into Account When Looking For a Ceramide Skincare Product?

Kim recommends looking for products with a high concentration of ceramides. "If they are listed at the bottom, the product probably contains a very small concentration," he warns. If you're experiencing irritation, also look for fragrance-free products that are marketed toward sensitive skin. A good option is the cult-classic CeraVe Moisturizing Cream that can be used on both the body and face.

By Marianne Mychaskiw and Pia Velasco