Complexion feeling tight and dry despite the many hydrating serums or creams you slather on? Battling skin inflammation, redness or increased sensitivity? Or is your skin just looking constantly dull and lacklustre? If any of these scenarios sound familiar, then chances are you’re lacking the C-word. We’re talking about ceramides. This unassuming ingredient might not sound as exotic as bakuchiol, or as sexy as AHA, but it’s absolutely essential to achieving great skin. Not convinced? Let us break it down for you.
SO WHAT EXACTLY ARE CERAMIDES?
“Ceramides are fat that form an important component of our skin barrier. They occur naturally in our skin and make up over 50 per cent of its composition,” explains Dr Melvin Tan, founder and medical director of Epion Clinic. They create a protective barrier to retain moisture and prevent dehydration, keeping your complexion looking and feeling soft, supple and free of lines, while also protecting it against environmental aggressors.
In other words, ceramides basically keep the good things in and the bad stuff out. And because they make up about half of our outer skin, ceramides are essential to maintaining overall skin health. A weakened or impaired barrier often results in dry, scaly and rough textures. In more severe cases, they can also lead to inflammatory skin diseases such as dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis.
“Most skin disorders with diminished barrier function have been found to be associated with a decrease in total ceramide content,” says Dr Gladys Teo, head of research and development at ést.lab, “and formulations consisting of ceramides could improve disturbed skin conditions.”
So basically, sufficient ceramides equals to supple, healthy and happy skin. A lack of them, however, can cause your complexion to go out of whack.
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WHERE DID THEY ALL GO?
So now you must be thinking, if ceramides are naturally occurring, then why do I still need to replenish them? Sadly, as with most things associated with our skin, they start to deplete with age. From the age of 20, to be exact.
Ceramides are constantly undergoing turnover in our skin. As part of the ageing process, we produce approximately 1 per cent less ceramides each year in our skin, which contributes to its declining presence, shares Dr Tan.
However, ageing isn’t the only thing that causes ceramide levels to decrease. Environmental factors like sun exposure, cold weather and low humidity can all exacerbate the situation. Using harsh cleansers or exfoliants can also damage our ceramide content. Basically, anything that affects our skin’s pH levels or strips it of essential oils can cause our ceramide content to take a hit.
SO WHAT’S A GIRL GOT TO DO?
The good news is, there are solutions. To replenish diminishing levels of ceramides in your skin, Dr Tan Siak Khim, medical director of IDS, recommends using topical products with ceramides, as they can “mimic skin’s composition and is able to repair damaged skin and prevent further trans epidermal water loss.” And Dr Tan concurs, explaining that the ceramides in skincare, even the synthetic and plant-based versions, are “skin-identical.”
The results of incorporating ceramides into your beauty regime are impressive. It will stimulate skin renewal, improve elasticity, soothe discomfort and strengthen your barrier function. You can expect a better-hydrated, smoother and firmer complexion, with fewer lines and wrinkles, as well as less easily irritated skin.
Your diet can also help to slow down the depletion of ceramides. Food like soybeans, eggs, dairy, wheat germ and brown rice are all good dietary sources of ceramides. Oil-rich fruits like avocados and coconuts are also recommended.
Avoiding sudden changes in temperature can also help as well, though that might be difficult in Singapore as we’re constantly moving in and out of air-conditioned buildings and modes of transport. Using sunscreen to prevent UV damage is another way to help maintain your ceramide levels.
Even if you can’t relate to any of the problems we listed at the start, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need ceramides. They are pretty much essential to keeping your skin’s structure healthy, balanced and strong.
When we asked Dr Teo who should use skincare infused with ceramides, her answer was pretty succinct: “Everyone who would like to have a youthful and healthy functioning skin.” Sign us up!