What is Ceramide?
Ceramide is one of the intercellular lipids that naturally occur in the outer layer of human skin. Together with other lipids in the skin cell membranes ceramide creates a barrier that protects the skin from infection and helps reduce the effects of external pollutants. Reduced epidermal ceramide content is associated with increased dryness and compromised barrier function of the skin.
During earlier stages of life, the ceramides and other lipids present in the cell membranes of the skin are constantly replenished via a biosynthetic mechanism in the internal epidermal layer. With aging, there is a decline in ceramide production and in its levels in the epidermal layers of human skin. Decreased amount of ceramides leads to moisture loss and reduced skin elasticity, which is believed to be major causes of increased wrinkling. Other consequences include dry, rough and itchy skin, dermatitis, circles and dark spots.
Function of Ceramides in the Skin
Skin ceramides make up about 40% of naturally occurring lipids that bind together protective cells in the surface skin structure. Along with other lipids, they are responsible for the healthy functioning of the skin as a protective barrier against external damage and microbial infections.
Ceramide prevents evaporation of the natural moisture and keeps the skin healthy, moist and supple. Its levels decrease with age, causing the skin to lose its ability to protect the underlying skin tissues against external damage and stress. Clinical studies have confirmed that dry and damaged skin is linked to decreased ceramide production in the epidermis.
How to Replenish Lost Ceramides?
Aging causes ceramide levels to decline. This happens due to decreased enzyme activity and ability to deliver ceramide in a usable form to the skin. The moisture content in the outermost skin layer of aging individuals is diminished, and skin becomes thinner and more susceptible to damage and infection. Oral supplementation is a solution for ceramide deficiency in older people and can help to maintain optimal levels of ceramide in the skin.
Fortunately, ceramides from external sources can effectively replenish lost natural ceramides. Formulations containing phytoceramides can be ingested as an oral supplement to rehydrate and plump up the damaged and aging skin. Ceramides for cosmetic application are included in a range of skincare products to increase outer moisture and to promote healthy skin.
Ceramides have been used for topical skin care application since the 1990s. Ceramide containing skin care products applied directly to the skin can benefit skin health and treat dry and aging skin.
Ceramide-based moisturizers are formulated to reduce moisture evaporation and alleviate the discomfort associated with dry skin. These moisturizing creams are often advertised to fight dryness, stimulate collagen production, reduce skin abnormalities and smooth aging and wrinkled skin.
An expert panel of 11 Canadian dermatologists agreed that ceramide-containing moisturizers may offer benefits as an addition to acne treatment.
Ceramides similar to those found in the human body have been found in grains, such as rice, corn, and wheat. These plant-based ceramides can help fight the skin aging process from within. Oral supplements that contain phytoceramides have been shown to improve skin hydration and reduce the discomfort of dry, aging skin. Phytoceramides absorbed via the digestive system are delivered to all layers of the skin via the bloodstream.
Orally ingested ceramides nourish and hydrate the skin from within and rebuild the lipid barrier that becomes depleted with age. The moisturizing effect of phytoceramides has been confirmed in clinical studies. Research has shown that 3-month consumption of phytoceramides derived from wheat, in the form of capsules, lead to a signiﬁcant increase in skin hydration and an improvement in dry skin issues such as itching, roughness, redness, etc.
Regular intake of a certain amount of phytoceramides internally could provide the following benefits:
Ceramide can suppress free radicals and enhance skin protection against harmful external effects.
These lipids possess a great capability to moisturize skin and restore smoothness, softness and skin’s youthful glow.
They support collagen production, which is an important part of wrinkle prevention.
Are Ceramide Supplements Safe?
Ceramide is considered to be a safe product without any known serious side effects. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared that Phytoceramides are completely safe for use as a dietary supplement. A survey of related literature revealed that standard doses of ceramide supplements had no adverse effects. Ceramides are naturally found in foods, like wheat flour, eggs, dairy products, and soybeans. These plant-based supplements are safe long-term use to maintain skin barrier function and to keep the skin hydrated and resilient.