Anyone who suffers from dry skin conditions like eczema has probably seen the word “ceramides” on some of their skincare products, but what are they?

Simply put, ceramides are lipids that make up over 50% of the upper layers of your skin. They are naturally-occurring in the skin but as we age, the amount your skin produces drops and as such it needs an external supply of ceramides to maintain the quantity it needs.

They have one important function which spirals into many benefits for your skin and that is: they help form your skin barrier which is a protective layer that limits moisture loss and protects against visible damage from pollution and other environmental stressors like extreme temperatures.

Everyone needs ceramides in their routine because age and sun damage reduces the effectiveness of your skin’s natural ceramides, which in turn weakens your skin barrier. A weak skin barrier means dry rough skin, wrinkles, irritation and dullness.

Skincare products containing ceramides will help reinforce your skin’s barrier and increase hydration — giving you plumper, firmer-feeling skin with fewer fine lines and wrinkles, as well as fewer signs of sensitivity.

Because they’re naturally occurring, ceramides are ideal for all skin types even sensitive, breakout-prone, or oily skin. They’re also safe to use around the eyes, as long as the product is fragrance- and irritant-free.

Of course, no single ingredient can do everything to combat the visible signs of aging so be sure your ceramide-enriched product also contains antioxidants and “skin-restoring” ingredients eg retinol, niacinamide, linoleic acid, and peptides.

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