Does your skin feel drier than usual lately? The reason could be that your skin’s barrier function may be compromised. What this means is that your skin is unable to retain moisture on its top layers. At the same time, the weakened skin layers have a harder time keeping pollutants and potential irritants out.
Sounds serious? Kinda. So what’s causing all of this? A lack of ceramides at your skin’s lipid barrier. WTF is that, you ask? We break it down for you.
Ceramides Make Up A Large Part Of Our Skin Structure
We all know that our skin is a waterproof layer that covers and protects our body from external irritants and pollutants. And this is made possible only because the top layer of our skin is made of hydrophobic structures, called lipids. Hydrophobic, as the term suggests, means that it is not compatible with moisture and repels it. This also helps explain why our body doesn’t swell up with water every time we go swimming. And as ceramides make up a large part of this top layer of the skin, they play a crucial role in ensuring that skin functions optimally. For example, ceramides help hold skin cells together so as to form a protective barrier. This keeps moisture in and irritants out.
What Causes Ceramides Depletion?
Like many beneficial compounds in our skin, the level of ceramides found in our skin can decrease due to various reasons, including chronological ageing, drastic climate change, sun damage and the use of overly harsh cleansers that can strip the skin of such lipids over time. This can help explain why people who have spent extended periods of time under the sun tend to have dry skin. Similarly, if you’re in your 40s or 50s, you might notice that your skin always seems to feel drier than it did in your younger days. In addition, people dealing with eczema and psoriasis might also be lacking in certain types of ceramides, which is why creams and lotions prescribed for the treatment of such skin conditions often contain ceramides.
Who Needs Ceramides?
Even if your skin might still feel smooth and plump, it helps to include ceramides into your skincare routine as replenishing your skin with ceramides topically can help maintain healthy and supple skin. Another good time to add ceramides into your skincare is when you’re travelling to a wintry climate. The harsh and dry conditions could take a toll on your skin, so treating your skin to a ceramides-enriched face cream could help alleviate any feeling of dry and tightness.
Are Ceramides Different From Humectants Like Glycerin And Hyaluronic Acid?
While ceramides and other ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid might seem like they do the same thing, they actually serve very different functions. Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are humectants, meaning that when applied on the skin, they draw moisture from their surroundings to keep skin plump and supple. However, ceramides work at a cellular level to replenish skin with lipids required to rebuild and strengthen the skin’s barrier layer so that it is able to hold moisture in and keep irritants out.
Try these products that are enriched with ceramides to improve skin’s hydration levels.
Text: Joyce Cheo
Additional text: Zoe Zeng