You'd be forgiven for thinking you need a science degree to understand skincare these days. Retinol. Hyaluronic acid. Peptides. And don't even get us started on Vitamin A.
At the risk of confusing you further we're going to add ceramides to the list of skincare buzzwords you need to know about. But don't worry -- we're going to explain what they are and what they do.
"Ceramides are essential components of the outermost layer of the epidermis, better known as the stratum corneum, and are naturally occurring lipids produced by your skin," Doctor Dendy Engelman, Consulting Dermatologist for Elizabeth Arden told The Huffington Post Australia.
This is all part of the natural ageing process and happens to everyone.
"Ceramides help support the skin's barrier layer for moisture retention and help hold healthy cells together, leaving skin with a hydrated, smooth, and healthy look."
Stay with us here while this next bit gets a little scientific:
"Ceramides represent about 50 percent of the lipids in this layer, along with cholesterol which makes up about 25 percent, and other fatty acids which make up another 10-15 percent. Collectively these lipids act like mortar in a brick wall, with the ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids binding skin cells -- which are the "bricks" in this analogy -- together,"
So they're a 'thing' that occurs naturally in the makeup of our skin, but sadly, as with many of the cruel effects of ageing, they diminish over time.
"Ceramide levels drop at an alarming rate after the age of 30 -- by 43 percent in your 30's and 60 percent in your 40's. Additionally, with age cholesterol levels in the epidermis start to drop off as well, so it's crucial to replenish them in order to ensure that your skin functions most optimally."
"This is all part of the natural ageing process and happens to everyone, so it is vital to replenish ceramides starting in our 30's in order to make up for what is being lost," Engelman said.
Wonder why not having adequate levels of ceramides is a bad thing? Yeah, us too.
"Since this layer of the skin serves as a barrier protecting against bacteria, pollution and other harmful environmental assaults, it acts as your skin's first line of defense. When compromised, signs of an impaired skin barrier include dryness, redness, itchiness, and skin irritation."
But wait, there's more! The good news is that you can manually put back what is lost from the skin by way of topical skincare.
"Adding Ceramides to skincare products can help restore the skin's barrier, in turn helping to restore skin's natural lipid levels and counteract the visible signs of ageing."
"While it's important to add ceramides back into the skin, recent research shows us that other lipids such as cholesterol and fatty acids are critical as well, and using all three together are crucial to healthy looking skin," Engelman said.
"The ratio of these lipids is something we are constantly learning about. If you think of it like a recipe, you can't use random amounts or incomplete combinations of ingredients and expect the recipe to taste correct. It's the same way with these kinds of skincare ingredients -- the amounts and combinations of lipids put back into the skin have a major impact on how effective a skincare product will be."
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Ceramides are now being formulated into a whole host of different skincare products, at various steps.
"Ceramides can be used in any of the steps in the skincare regimen -- serums, moisturisers, masks. It can even be used in hair and makeup products. The one place that you will see them less frequently is in a cleanser, since it does not have as much of an opportunity to absorb into the skin. You can, however, have a cleanser that bears ceramides in mind, meaning that is it more gentle -- possibly an oil based cleanser to avoid stripping oils from the skin," Engelman said.
Can you overuse ceramides like you can acids and retinol? No. So go nuts!
"I would also say that the earlier you can start using ceramides the better -- I generally advise my patients to start using them around the age they start to lose them, generally in their early 30s. This will help you to get ahead of any signs of ageing due to ceramide loss."
ALSO ON HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA