Experts weigh in on the science behind ceramides

Ruhi Gilder 
Science-backed skincare is gaining traction and words like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and vitamin C are much-hyped ingredients globally. But what are they really? How do they affect our skin? To answer these burning questions, LuxeBook spoke to Cosmetic Physician, Author and Founder of SkinLab, Dr. Jamuna Pai, the founder and CEO of skincare brand, d’you, Shamika Haldipurkar as well as advanced science-backed skincare company, Lisén’s founder and MD, Ramandeep Singh.  
Breaking down the jargon 
Starting with the all-important question, what are ceramides? Dr. Pai gives us the answer, “Ceramides are fat molecules found in the outermost layer of the skin, forming the first layer of defense.” As a part of the skin’s protective layer, ceramides help retain the skin’s natural moisture. Shamika Haldipurkar, who recently launched d’you’s second offering, In My Defence, a moisturiser whose primary ingredient is ceramides, explains the ingredient with an analogy.
d'you in my defence
d’you in my defence
Comparing the skin barrier to a brick wall, Haldipurkar said, “Imagine the bricks as skin cells, while the mortar is the lipid matrix (made up of approximately ceramides – 50%, cholesterol- 25% and fatty acids- 25%). Factors like aging, lifestyle stress, sun exposure and climatic conditions, may cause this wall to deteriorate, leading to cracks and gaps in the skin barrier. While the barrier is used to ensure against loss of moisture and protect from external aggressors, when it is damaged, water loss and susceptibility to attacks from external pathogens and bacteria increases. Ceramides then seep into the skin barrier to tighten the lipid matrix and seals the skin cells together. 
Dr. Jamuna Pai
Suit yourself 
This handy ingredient helps with dryness and irritation, says Ramandeep Singh of Lisén, a premium cosmeceutical brand that has recently launched in India. Dr. Pai, Singh and Haldipurkar all concur on the suitability of ceramides for all skin types. Since they are naturally occurring fat molecules, this makes it suitable for oily, acne-prone, aging, sensitive, skin; Singh even calls it “the gold standard of ingredients.” It is a general misconception that ceramides cause breakouts, and Dr. Pai is quick to clarify that ceramides by themselves do not cause breakouts on their own. However, one must be mindful when choosing a ceramide-heavy product, Dr. Pai recommends a light moisturizer enriched with ceramides for acne prone skin type. A test patch is always dermatologically advised before using any new skin care ingredient or product.  
Formulation first 
According to the founder of d’you, ceramides must be used in the ratio 3:1:1 (ceramides: fatty acids: cholesterol), mimicking the natural barrier of the skin. This high concentration is achieved using a patented dispersion technique in d’you. Singh of Lisén on the other hand, believes that it is not necessary for a formulation to contain a high percentage of ceramides to have the desired effect, a medium-to-low percent may also do the trick. According to her, it all depends on the formula of the product.  
Ramandeep Singh, Founder & MD, Lisèn
Ramandeep Singh, Founder & MD, Lisèn
As an ingredient, ceramides are considered ‘friendly’ hydrating agents, which works well with most other skincare ingredients. Singh recommends combining ceramides with other lipids, as this replicates our skin composition. For combating damaged barriers, Haldipurkar recommends combining ceramides with niacinamide. For anti-aging, retinol + ceramides are ideal, as the former has its wrinkle-reducing properties while ceramides retain the skin’s plumpness. Timeless Elegance, a lift-up ampoule/serum by Lisén is one of those products. Singh explains the reason behind the inclusion of ceramides in the serum, “Anti-aging products focus on toning and firming, and the ingredients that do that can lead to your skin becoming dry and hard. To combat that, our formulators suggested a certain concentration of ceramides, to help maintain the skin’s balance of moisture.”  
Lisén Timeless Elegance
Lisén Timeless Elegance
Use it right 
Haldipurkar advises using ceramides as a proactive measure rather than a reactive one. The founder of d’you suggests including ceramides in one’s daily routine to avoid skin damage that is treated symptomatically, such as skin dryness, dehydration, that actually may be caused by a damaged barrier. “We definitely would say take the preventative approach, but in case needed ceramides can be used curatively to help build a healthy barrier,” says Haldipurkar. She encourages the use of ceramides in a skincare routine as soon as active ingredients like Salicylic Acid, Hyaluronic acid, and Niacinamide, enter the picture. 
Shamika Haldipur, Founder & CEO, d'you
Shamika Haldipurkar, Founder & CEO, d’you
When it comes to choosing the correct mediums for ceramides, Singh says they can be used in anything from cleansers, serums, eye creams to of course, facial moisturisers. Their effect is best felt in products that stay on the skin for an extended period of time, such as overnight creams, day moisturisers and serums. As for application, for best results, the product must be applied immediately post a shower, while the skin is still slightly moist, as ceramides help in trapping moisture in the skin and keep it hydrated. Dr. Jamuna Pai explains, “It is important to use a moisturizer twice a day. At bedtime, apply a ceramide rich moisturizer over any active ingredient that’s being used.”  
Identifying ceramides 
While Dr. Pai says that emollient moisturizers mostly contain ceramides, hydrating products like serums, masks and in-clinic treatments may also use the ingredient. To identify ceramides in a product, one must look for the word ‘ceramides’ in its label. There are various forms of ceramides like EOS, EOP, NS, NP, AP that could be mentioned as well. Phyto-ceramides and ceramide precursors may also be mentioned, however, Haldipurkar says one must spy the singular word on a label. Look for fatty acid (may have a different name), cholesterol and ceramides as well, because these three used together are ideal for the skin barrier. Haldipurkar warns against getting fooled by ceramide complexes, which contain the actual ingredient in miniscule amounts. Sourced from complexes ingredient trade suppliers, these complexes are basically raw ceramides that have been put it in an emulsification and then stabilized. The percent of active ceramide in these complexes is very low, about 0.5%. Another method of checking the percentage of ceramides is the order of ingredients listed on the back of the bottle, as manufacturers and brand owners are bound to write ingredients in decreasing order of their percentage.  
The effect of ceramides is not one that may show visually, but a healthy barrier is key to healthy skin. Armed with this guide to ceramides, go forth and pick your ceramide-centric products with care!   
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