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Ingredient Deep Dive: Ceramides

Knowing what the ingredients in your skincare actually do goes a long way to making your favourite products work for your skin. That’s why we have our series of Ingredient Deep Dives, right here on The Dose

We ask our expert team everything you need to know about individual ingredients, and sort fact from fiction. Today, we’re getting to know ceramides – a derm-favourite skincare staple and skin-loving moisturiser.

What are ceramides?

Ceramides are a type of lipid (fat) that binds skin cells together like glue. This helps them form a protective barrier on the skin to retain moisture and prevent water loss. They also help protect the skin from pollutants

Ceramides are found naturally in the skin, and skincare products with synthetic ceramides help to replenish your levels. 

What are the benefits of ceramides in skincare?

Great for your skin barrier

Over time, our skin loses ceramides – this can happen because of over-exfoliation, or simply through the natural ageing process. When that barrier protection starts to deteriorate, it’s time to step up your skincare routine (yes, this can apply to both face and body) and introduce products with added ceramides. 

Ceramides will also help your skin tolerate strong active ingredients – a ceramide-rich moisturiser is one of our Dermatology Team’s must-haves when it comes to using powerful actives like tretinoin. 

Prevents the signs of skin-ageing

We know that as we get older, our skin loses its elasticity – collagen and elastin in the dermis will deplete, so it’s important to keep your skin barrier happy and healthy. Using products with ceramides can do just that. 

Soothes and softens inflamed skin

You know when your skin barrier has been compromised – it’s dry and dehydrated, red and hot to the touch, peeling and flaking, tight across your face. When this happens, it’s best to reach for a moisturiser with ceramides, as they’ll help to calm the skin and soothe any inflammation

Ceramides can also help to reduce the swelling and redness from acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. The cooling properties of ceramide-rich moisturisers will offer welcome relief to hot, inflamed skin. 

“With dry skin you’re more likely to develop problems with your skin barrier function, which often leads to issues with irritation and sensitivity.” Dr Jason Thomson, Head of Medical at Skin + Me explains. 

“Choosing a moisturiser with soothing and barrier boosting active ingredients like ceramides, but also urea, niacinamide, panthenol and allantoin can provide additional benefits and are often found in good moisturisers for dry skin.”

💡 GOOD TO KNOW 💡 Ceramides will appear on ingredient lists followed by a letter combination – you might see ceramide NP, ceramide AP or ceramide EOP written on the INCI. However, there’s very little to differentiate them, so there’s no cause for concern. 

Ceramides work best with

Emollients and occlusives 

These moisturiser types form a barrier on the skin to seal in moisture, and work really well with ceramides to keep skin hydrated for longer. Opt for vitamin E, and jojoba oil (emollients) and shea butter, lanolin and beeswax (occlusives). 


These attract and retain moisture, pulling moisture from the air into the upper layers of skin. Look out for hyaluronic acid, glycerin, betaine and allantoin.

Dr Malvina Cunningham, Consultant Dermatologist, echoes this: “Hydrating the skin can plump it temporarily, so incorporate a moisturiser that has hydrating and skin barrier boosting ingredients such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, shea butter and ceramides.”

Glycolic acid

By exfoliating and removing dead skin cells from the surface, exfoliants like glycolic acid can help ceramides penetrate the skin more effectively, and better hydrate your epidermis (the outer layer of skin) and your dermis (the middle layer). 


Like exfoliants, retinoids have a similar effect on the skin, increasing skin cell turnover and removing dead skin cells from pores, allowing ceramides to go deeper. Simultaneously, retinoids can help to rebuild collagen – keeping skin plump – which ceramides can support. 

As we’ve mentioned before, ceramides can also help with the side effects of strong actives like tretinoin, by either preventing or repairing a damaged skin barrier. 

Overall, ceramides are loved by dermatologists for their skin-loving properties. They make skin look and feel happy, healthy and hydrated and they’re great at replenishing, rebuilding and reinforcing the skin barrier. 

However, to optimise your skincare routine for the better, be sure to use products that combine ceramides with other moisture-loving ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin (ahem – Soothe + Smooth Light Moisturiser). We promise, your skin will thank you.

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