It’s time to add ceramides to your skincare routine

I​t sounds like a fancy piece of pottery, but ceramides may be the thing your skin needs this winter.

Much as fat makes meals a thousandtimes tastier, ceramides can make skin plumper.Credit:Florian Sommet/Trunk Archive/Snapper Images;

Have you ever watched Doctor Who? If so, you may remember the episode featuring Lady Cassandra, the lastever "pure human" – essentially a face on an extremely stretched piece of skin that is constantly requesting to be moisturised. She probably had low levels of ceramides.

Think of ceramides as the mortar that holds the bricks – your skin cells – together, says Desiree Stordahl, senior research and education manager for skincare brand Paula's Choice. Without this essential mortar, a brick wall would be fragile and unable to withstand much damage. But with a normal, healthy amount of mortar, the bricks stand strong and firm.

Much like how fat makes meals about a thousand times tastier, ceramides can make the skin plumper and firmer. In fact, ceramides are lipids, or fat molecules, and they occur naturally. But sadly, like most good things, they disappear over time.

As a barrier to the skin – 50 per cent of the top layer, in fact – these depleted levels can leave the skin more prone to dehydration, dryness and increased sensitivity. This means that signs of ageing, including the loss of firmness and radiance, are more pronounced.

Ceramides are our first line of defence against both environmental damage and the inevitable circle of life.

"Reduction in skin barrier oils, whether through decreased production or increased removal, like staying too long in a hot shower, is detrimental to the skin's integrity," says dermatologist Dr Adrian Lim. "The skin barrier is vulnerable in winter and in lowhumidity conditions such as airconditioning and air travel. When the skin feels and looks dry, moisturising is indicated, irrespective of age."

Cult US skincare brand CeraVe recently launched in Australia. I've been using some of the range, in which the products' core ingredient is ceramides, for the past month. My favourite is the CeraVe Daily Moisturising Lotion ($23) – the Cream version being just a bit too heavy for my combination skin. The Lotion has a great consistency and comes in a staggering one-litre pump for those who just can't get enough moisturiser.

Arbonne RE9 Advanced RestorativeCream, $95. Elizabeth Arden CeramideOvernight Firming Mask, $120. Dr.Jart+Ceramidin Cream, $85. Credit:Jennifer Soo

These products are formulated with three specific ceramides (ceramide 1, 3 and 6-II), hyaluronic acid, glycerin, cholesterol and niacinamide (vitamin B3). Which brings me to my next point: ceramides are great but, as with a diet, a well-balanced one is best.

Sure, feed the skin ceramides, but don't forget about the other nourishing ingredients on offer and the role other products can play to ensure optimum skin health.

"It is safe to use these products morning and night all year round," says Dr Eleni Yiasemides, consultant dermatologist for CeraVe. "Many will find that the moisturising benefit often lasts 24 hours, so once a day may be adequate. If using only once a day, I suggest the ideal time is at night.

"That's when the temperature is often lower, so you won't sweat it off. And the products can penetrate and absorb into the skin overnight and won't make a mess of your sheets. Moisturisers are also absorbed better if applied after a shower or bath."

Also consider using a physical or chemical exfoliant two to three times a week. The removal of dead skin cells means ceramides can be better absorbed into the skin.

Sunday Life's beauty director, Stephanie Darling, is currently on leave.

This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale July 7.

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