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Skincare 101

The Complete Guide To Understanding Ceramides For Healthy Skin

If you've been paying attention to the latest trendy ingredients in skin care, you’ve probably heard about ceramides.

You might have even noticed that ceramides are commonly used in many skin care products.

If you’re wondering why ceramides are the talk of the town, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we outline everything you need to know about ceramides and how they can help you achieve optimal skin health.


  • Ceramides are naturally occurring lipids that seal microscopic breaks between skin cells to help retain moisture and keep out damaging substances or skin stressors. 
  • Ceramides can also be made synthetically. Whether natural or synthetic, skincare formules with ceramides can help improve your skin barrier, health, and complexion when applied daily.

What Are Ceramides?

Ceramides are naturally-occurring molecules that make up around 50% of the outermost layer of the skin.

As part of the lipid family, ceramides are instrumental in helping your skin retain essential moisture. They also help keep harmful bacteria from entering the skin to protect against    environmental damage and infection.

Picture it like this: If your skin was a wall, ceramides would be the cement that holds the wall together. They fill and seal any breaks or openings that could make that wall (your skin) vulnerable to damage.

Ceramides prevent water loss and hydrate your complexion by sealing parts of the skin where moisture might evaporate. 

As a result, your skin functions normally–– or optimally.

Ceramides also have a hand in our skin’s natural aging process.

As we get older, our bodies produce fewer ceramides.This leaves our skin more prone to the harmful effects of UV radiation,pollution, and other external stressors. Together, these stressors  contribute to the premature development of fine lines,wrinkles, dark spots, and other tell-tale signs of aging.

Unfortunately, getting older isn’t the only factor that influences the concentration of ceramides in our skin.

Harsh skincare products, environmental factors, stress, and nicotine can also damage and reduce the skin’s natural ceramide supply.

When your complexion has fewer ceramides to protect it, you may be more prone to developing skin conditions like acne, eczema, and rosacea.

While some factors—like aging—are largely unavoidable, there are steps you can take to promote optimal ceramide function.

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Different Types of Ceramides

Before we get into how you can add ceramides to your skincare routine, let's take a closer look at where they can be found.

Naturally-Occurring Ceramides

These ceramides are produced by the body and can be found in the outer layer of the skin. 

Remember, these lipids form a protective barrier in the skin t

o guard against damage and infection. Although our bodies produce ceramides naturally, they are also found in some foods that contain fatty acids.

Foods that contain ceramides include:

  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Soy.
  • Wheat.
  • Corn.
  • Rice.

Because ceramides are found in common food groups, you can help your skin bolster its ceramide supply by following a healthy diet. 

Synthetic Ceramides

Synthetic ceramides are made to mimic the skin’s naturally-occurring ceramides.

This means they can help the skin replenish ceramides lost through the aging process or other factors. Synthetic ceramides are found in skincare products like creams or serums. 

Unlike cleansers, creams and serums stay on your skin rather than being washed away, meaning that ceramides in these formulas can be fully absorbed, delivering greater benefits over an extended period of time.

Synthetic ceramides also work well when combined with other anti-aging ingredients such as:

  • Antioxidants.
  • Peptides.
  • Retinoids.

The ingredients listed above may sometimes cause adverse reactions that can harm the skin.

Ceramides can counterbalance these reactions which minimize the risk of damage and promote healthy skin. 

We'll go into more detail about the benefits of pairing ceramides with these ingredients later in this article. 

What Do Ceramides Do for the Skin?

The main role of ceramides is to keep your skin strong and healthy so that it can combat environmental stressors. 

However, there are many other benefits to adding ceramides to your skincare routine. 

Improves the Appearance of Aging Skin 

As we get older, the skin becomes thin and starts to sag. This is because we lose vital proteins and molecules—like collagen and ceramides—that help keep our skin firm. As this happens, the skin’s natural barrier is compromised and can’t repair damage as quickly and effectively as when we were younger.

This makes fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable.

However, when we replenish lost ceramides, these molecules can help manage visible signs of aging. The result may be a firmer and more youthful appearance.

The protective layer that ceramides form on the skin also prevents damage from environmental stressors like UV radiation and pollution, which are known to speed up the aging process. 

Ceramides Can Restore a Healthy Skin Barrier

This protective layer is an essential part of maintaining healthy skin since it prevents environmental stressors from entering through the skin and causing damage. When the barrier is compromised, the skin is naturally more prone to irritation, dryness, and infection.

The skin also struggles to retain water when its protective layer is damaged.

However, ceramides can be used to soothe skin and counteract damaging factors, like UV radiation, pollution, and harsh skincare products.

Ceramides help strengthen and maintain the natural skin barrier for a radiant and healthy complexion. In addition, it ensures that the skin texture stays smooth and soft.

Ceramides Improve the Skin's Tolerance to Active Ingredients

Ceramides play a big role in protecting the skin from bacteria and environmental stressors.

Ceramides can also reduce adverse reactions from more potent skincare ingredients, like retinoids or vitamin C.

While these ingredients have great anti-aging benefits, they can cause irritation and other adverse reactions, especially as your skin adjusts to them. Fortunately, ceramides’ moisturizing and soothing properties can counteract those reactions to reduce side effects like redness, peeling, and irritation.

We’ll take a closer look at how this works in the ingredients section.

Are Ceramides Suitable for All Skin Types?

Since ceramides are naturally-occurring lipids, they’re generally well-tolerated by any skin type.

Synthetic ceramides are made to mimic the body's natural molecules so they have less chance of causing an adverse reaction. This makes ceramides generally a safe option for even the most sensitive or dry skin.

Can Ceramides Be Used with Other Skincare Ingredients?

Ceramides can be combined with almost any other skincare ingredient on the market because they aren't acidic enough to break other products down. 

They also won’t be overpowered when they’re used with more potent skincare ingredients.

This means you'll get all of the benefits of ceramides and whatever products or ingredients you choose to pair them with.


Retinoids—like tretinoin—are vitamin A derivatives that have powerful anti-aging properties.

They help stimulate the skin's cell turnover process. This is when we produce new skin cells and push them to the surface. During this process, dead skin cells and impurities are removed from the skin’s surface to improve complexion.

While retinoids are great for minimizing fine lines and wrinkles, high concentrations can sometimes be harsh on certain skin types and take a period of adaptation.

This can end up damaging the skin barrier, causing dryness, irritation, and more frequent breakouts.

Ceramides’s soothing, hydrating, and reparative properties can help reduce adverse side effects associated with retinoids, allowing you to reap their benefits without the side effects in the process.


Niacinamide is a vitamin B derivative with antioxidant and skin-healing properties.  It helps protect the complexion from environmental stressors and promotes the production of collagen—a protein responsible for keeping the skin firm, smooth, and lifted-looking, without excessive wrinkling and sagging. 

Niacinamide can also improve the skin's texture by tightening pores for a smoother, more uniform appearance.

When niacinamide is combined with ceramides, the skin’s ability to retain moisture improves. Your complexion will also appear softer and smoother.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps the skin fight free radicals, unbalanced molecules produced by sun exposure, pollution, and nicotine products.

Free radicals can damage your cells, causing irritation and breakouts. Free radicals can also contribute to wrinkles and other premature signs of aging.

Vitamin C can neutralize free radicals to minimize their damaging effects on the skin. It also stimulates the production of new cells to help the skin rebuild itself.

Since vitamin C works deep within the skin, pairing it with ceramides ensures that every layer of your skin is protected from free radical damage. 

Although it has many noteworthy benefits, vitamin C can be too potent for some skin types and may cause mild irritation. This is where ceramides come in. Ceramides’ soothing properties allow them to counterbalance these effects and restore the skin’s moisture barrier.


Peptides are short amino acid chains that act as building blocks to give skin strength and structure.

They can help prevent and improve the  appearance of wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen and elastin—two essential substances that keep the skin firm, smooth, and supple. Peptides are also incredibly soothing, so they are helpful in alleviating any irritation or redness.

Peptides and ceramides have similar beneficial qualities, one being that both help the skin retain moisture. The two ingredients can also work together to increase the skin’s tolerance to more potent ingredients—like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. 

Choosing the Right Ceramides for Your Skin

Now that you know what ceramides can do for your skin, it's time to start incorporating them into your routine.

Various types of synthetic ceramides are suited to different skin concerns. These are: 

  • Ceramides 1, 3, or 6-II are great for soothing dry and irritated skin. These are often described as the three essential ceramides you need for a healthy complexion.
  • Ceramides 2 and 3 are commonly used in facial and neck anti-aging products for improving skin tone.
  • Sphingosine is an amino acid chain that contains ceramides. This formulation promotes the production of more natural ceramides in the body. These chains are good for keeping the skin hydrated and giving it more protection.

Any of these formulations are highly effective, both on their own, and also when combined with other skincare ingredients. 

Incorporating ceramides into your skincare routine is relatively straightforward since they are unlikely to cause any adverse reactions.

However, when you’ll apply the ceramides will depend on the type of product you use.

A typical skincare routine comprises the following steps:

  • Cleanser.
  • Toner.
  • Serums.
  • Moisturizer.
  • SPF (during the day).

Some dermatologists recommend applying a ceramide-rich moisturizer twice a day: once in the morning, and once in the evening before bed.

Ceramides and Packaging: Why Does It Matter?

When it comes to choosing formulas containing ceramides, packaging is extremely important. 

When shopping for skincare products that contain ceramides, try to choose those with airtight packaging. Containers with a pump dispenser or tube are the most common forms of airtight packaging. These containers protect most of the formula from light and other contaminants.

When ceramides are exposed to light and UV rays, they can become unstable and lose their effectiveness over time.

Using ceramide products in jars or anything similar means they are exposed to light every time you open the container.

That’s why the packaging should ideally also be opaque to block out as much light as possible.

Protect and Nourish Your Skin with Nava MD

Strong and healthy skin is at the core of everything we do at Nava MD. 

Our products are formulated with ingredients that enhance your skin's natural ability to protect itself, while also supplying it with vital moisture and  nutrients.

They contain ingredients like tretinoin, niacinamide, vitamin C, and yes, ceramides, to promote radiant, youthful-looking skin.

By completing Nava MD's free online consultation, you’ll take the first step towards achieving great skin with the help of a dermatologist––all online.

After you’ve completed the short form, a board-certified dermatologist will create a personalized treatment plan suited to your specific concerns. And that’s just the start.

As a Nava MD patient, you'll have continuous access to knowledgeable dermatologists and healthcare providers who are ready to advise you on your skin’s unique needs.

The best part? You won't have to schedule an in-office appointment or wait in line at your local pharmacy. If approved, your prescription skincare formulas are delivered straight to your door. 

Start your journey to healthy skin today.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency