Ceramides: The Winter Soldier

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Well, at least if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter can wreak havoc on all skin types because of the freezing weather and bone-dry air.

That’s why today’s post is about ceramides. These guys are important for all skin types year-round, but they can be especially helpful for saving your sad, winter skin.

storm trooper in the snow
Don’t worry, ceramides are WAY better soldiers.

What Exactly Are Ceramides, Anyway?

I’m glad you asked! ^_^

In the simplest terms possible, ceramides are an important component of the barrier that protects your skin. You can think of them as one of the ingredients that make up the mortar of the brick wall that is your moisture barrier. When you don’t have enough ceramides, all kinds of things can get in and out.

Most skin disorders that have a diminished barrier function present a decrease in total ceramide content with some differences in the ceramide pattern. – Ceramides and Skin Function, AAD

A lack of ceramides means that your skin is more likely to lose water. You might see this referred to as TEWL, or “trans-epidermal water loss.” It just means important moisture is escaping through layers of your skin when it shouldn’t be. This is an especially frustrating problem for people (like me) who have dehydrated skin.

The good news is that ceramides are naturally found in your skin, so if you haven’t been slathering on ceramide-filled products, all is not lost.

The bad news is that aging, sun damage or generally not taking good care of your skin can all reduce how effective your skin’s natural ceramides are. There’s always a catch, isn’t there?

How Do I Know if I Need More Ceramides?

My personal rule is that you always need more. More is more. A healthy moisture barrier is roughly 50 percent ceramides.

But if you want actual, visible signs that you might need to up your ceramide game, look for the following:

  • Rough, sallow skin
  • Dryness
  • Persistent skin irritation
  • Lack of elasticity (e.g. – your skin isn’t bouncy. This is a telltale sign of dehydration.)
  • Persistent redness
  • Increased skin sensitivity

Of course, that list isn’t exhaustive, and simply adding ceramides may not fix all of those problems. Think of that list more as a jumping-off point and less of a Gospel Truth.

So How Do I Add More Ceramides to My Skin?

Good news! Ceramides are fairly easy to find in quality skincare products these days. They’re considered a “powerhouse” ingredient because they’re so effective for anti-aging, barrier support and generally making your skin look and feel better.

In many cases, product packaging and brand info will highlight the addition of ceramides in a product’s formula. However, if they don’t, you can look for the word “ceramide” in the ingredients list. They’re usually numbered (e.g. – “ceramide-3” or “ceramide-6”), but some products may have ceramides with letters after them, like ceramide NP.

If you’re looking for products that don’t have English packaging or ingredient lists, I usually look on CosDNA for translations.

Do You Have Any Product Recommendations?

But of course, dahling.

In a lot of cases, ceramide-heavy products tend to come in a cream form. These can be heavy, which usually isn’t ideal for normal or oily skin types. This is a definite YMMV thing, though, so don’t be afraid to slap on a good, thick cream and see what happens.

Products with donkey milk and goat milk are great sources of ceramides. I’m a big fan of the seaNtree donkey milk toner*, but the entire line is amazing. Their products work particularly well for my skin because they’re lightweight enough to not be greasy or pore-clogging, but they’re still packed with ceramides and other great supporting ingredients that keep me looking hydrated.

donkey carrying packs in the desert
Donkey says, “hallo friend, this is me and my milk working hard for the desert wasteland of your skin.”

I’m also a huge lover of the Kikumasamune Sake High Moist Lotion. “Lotion” = watery toner in Japanese product names, so this is basically a HUGE bottle of watery toner full of ceramides, cholesterol and fermented goodness.

Of course, there is also the entire CeraVe lineup. Ceramides are their specialty, so you can’t go wrong with any of their products if you want something affordable and easily accessible.

Let’s Recap!

I feel like I should point out one more time that ceramides are not the Holy Grail of solving skincare woes. They are super important, and they can do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to achieving The Glow™, but a truly great skincare routine needs several ingredients to share the workload.

  1. Ceramides make up HALF of your entire moisture barrier, so without them, you’re basically walking around with a wall full of crumbly mortar that isn’t keeping anything good in or anything bad out.
  2. Many ceramide products are intentionally formulated as heavy lotions or creams, but it’s totally possible to find light, watery products that are well-suited to daytime use or oily skin types.

Did I leave something out? Do you want to know more? Drop me a comment below and let’s chat!

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