Ceramides in skincare products

A brief overview of ceramides used in cosmetic products and their types.


8/3/20222 min read

Ceramides are lipids found in skin cells and make up approximately 30% to 40% of the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). They are essential in cosmetics to maintain proper skin moisture levels and restore the protective skin barrier (the hydro-lipid barrier). When the level of ceramides in the skin decreases, which often happens as the skin ages, it can become dry, increasing the likelihood of skin problems and various skin irritations. Ceramides are used as active ingredients in skincare products such as creams, serums, and toners.

Cosmetic manufacturers use different types of ceramides, so this post aims to introduce you to the most commonly used ceramides and their effects on the skin. Therefore, ceramides can be classified as natural or synthetic. Natural ceramides are found in the outer layer of the skin, as well as in animals and plants, such as soybeans. Synthetic ceramides (also known as pseudo-ceramides) are synthesized in the laboratory, and one of their most significant advantages is that they are more stable than natural ceramides. For this reason, synthetic ceramides are more frequently used in skin care products and are easier to incorporate into cosmetic formulations.

Ceramides are composed of sphingosine, a chain of carbon atoms attached to an amino acid, also known as an unsaturated amino alcohol. It has different forms that combine with other fatty acids to form ceramides. Depending on the form of sphingosine and the fatty acid it binds to, there are 12 types of ceramides. The following ceramides are most commonly used in skincare products:

  • Ceramide 1, also known as ceramide EOS

  • Ceramide 2, also known as ceramide NS or NG

  • Ceramide 3, also known as ceramide NP

  • Ceramide 6-II, also known as ceramide AP

  • Ceramide 9, also known as ceramide EOP

  • Phytosphingosines

Phytosphingosine and sphingosine are precursors of ceramides that stimulate skin cells to synthesize ceramides. Therefore, ceramides are responsible for the function of the skin's hydro-lipid barrier, helping to reduce transepidermal water loss. By retaining more moisture, the skin becomes more elastic, and the depth of fine wrinkles decreases. As a result, the skin is protected from harmful external factors such as microbes, sun radiation, and others. As the skin ages, the amount of ceramides in it falls, especially ceramides 1-6, and the likelihood of developing conditions such as atopic dermatitis, eczema, and other skin conditions increases.

It is particularly important to choose the right cosmetic product that contains ceramides. For this reason, when dealing with dry skin, sensitivity, or combating skin aging, it is necessary to use cosmetic products that contain ceramides. For owners of dry skin, select a product that contains ceramide 1, 3, and/or 6-II or a product that contains sphingosine or phytosphingosine. Furthermore, cosmetic products that include ceramides and incorporate anti-inflammatory substances, penetration-enhancing active ingredients, amino acids, glycerin, or cholesterol, can help alleviate the condition of irritated and dry skin more quickly. Regarding formulations for mature skin care, combining ceramides with other active ingredients that have antioxidant effects, such as niacinamide, retinol, peptides, or linoleic acid is particularly effective.

-- The LAB