Ceramides: What They Are and Why Your Skin Needs Them

Photo: ©Atolas / Stocksy

Dry, rough skin? Shopping for a moisturizer? If you’re on the hunt for hydrating skincare, you’ve probably noticed “ceramides” emblazoned across a label or two. Ceramides have become increasingly popular over the years for their restorative, barrier-building properties. But what are they—and what do they actually do? Ahead, we investigate the buzzy, derm-beloved ingredient.

What are ceramides?

Ceramides are a type of fat found naturally in human skin. They make up around 50% of your stratum corneum, aka the skin barrier—the protective outermost layer of your skin.

What do ceramides do?

Think of your skin barrier like a brick wall—if the bricks are your skin cells, ceramides are the mortar that holds the bricks together, forming a protective barrier that keeps moisture in and things like germs and pollutants out. As you can imagine, ceramides play an essential role in a healthy skin barrier, helping skin retain moisture and keeping it looking smooth, firm, and plump.

Who are ceramides best for?

As we age, our body produces fewer ceramides, which can lead to dryness, dehydration, sensitivity, acne, redness, wrinkles, and rough skin texture, and a number of skin conditions. Your ceramide levels can also take a hit from harsh weather, sun exposure, and overusing soaps and exfoliants. Ceramides are especially helpful for strengthening and restoring a compromised skin barrier. Because they’re found naturally in your skin, ceramides are ideal for all skin types.

Our favorite ceramide-powered skincare

Sunday Riley Ice Ceramide Moisturizing Cream, $22-$65

This rich yet non-greasy moisturizer quickly seals in hydration and replenishes lost lipids with the help of ceramides, vitamin F, and a host of moisture-boosting botanicals.

Farmacy Honey Halo Ultra Hydrating Ceramide Moisturizer, $23-$68

Another intensely moisturizing cream, this time powered by ceramides and buckwheat honey to leave skin looking dewy, plump, and baby-soft.

Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Glow Serum, $68

For an instant hydration infusion and major plumping properties, layer this hyaluronic acid serum under your go-to moisturizer or facial oil.

Belif Youth Creator Age Knockdown Bomb , $65

Formulated with mature skin in mind, we love this milky serum’s ability to deeply hydrate and replenish skin without feeling too heavy or greasy.

Allies of Skin Molecular Barrier Recovery Cream Balm, $88

Our holy grail for inflamed, flaky, stressed-out skin. Damaged skin barriers soak up this creamy balm, which features ceramides, peptides, niacinamide, and zero irritating fragrance.