Ceramide serums often get overlooked when it comes to the hydrating treatment step of our skincare routine; it’s the social media darling that is hyaluronic acid that usually gets all the fame. But ceramides are an essential building block of the skin that benefit from being supplemented through topical skincare. And when combined with hyaluronic acid, the two produce an unbeatable hydration duo that can transform dry skin.
If you have skin that’s dry, dehydrated, sensitive or irritated, you may have a compromised skin barrier. The skin’s barrier keeps all the good stuff in (we’re talking things like hydration that comes from water and topical ingredients like hyaluronic) and the bad (aggressors like pollution and water loss etc) out, meaning skin is less prone to breakouts, redness and other issues. Ceramides are brilliant at strengthening this skin barrier and thus helping skin to maintain overall skin cell health and hydration. Keep reading to learn more about them.
SKIP TO: What are ceramides and what are their benefits? | How often should I use ceramide serums? Is it better to apply them in the morning or before bed? | Are there any potential side effects that could come from using ceramides regularly? | How to choose ceramide serums
Best ceramide serums at a glance – our top picks
- Best ceramide serum overall: CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum, £18.05, Amazon
- Best ceramide serum for hydration: BYOMA Hydrating Serum, £12.99, Cult Beauty
- Best capsule ceramide serum: Superactive Ceramide Capsules, £18, Beauty Pie
- Best toning ceramide serum: Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Skin Barrier Serum Toner, £35, Boots
- Best budget ceramide serum: Glow Hub Barrier Builder, £13.99, Sephora
Meet the experts:
- Dr Derrick Phillips: CeraVe Consultant Dermatologist
- Dr Sonia Khorana: Cosmetic Doctor and Dermatology Expert
What are ceramides and what are their benefits?
As mentioned, ceramides are naturally occurring in the skin, but benefit from being ‘topped up,’ so to speak. “Ceramides are naturally produced waxy lipids that play a crucial role in maintaining the skin barrier function,” explains Dr Phillips. “They are essential for preserving skin hydration, preventing moisture loss, and protecting against environmental stressors.”
Both Dr Phillips and Dr Khorana agree that ceramides are beneficial for all skin types, but there are some that may reap the rewards more than others. “They are particularly helpful for dry or dehydrated skin, as they restore and maintain moisture levels,” says Dr Phillips. “Additionally, ceramides can benefit those with sensitive skin, eczema, or conditions involving a compromised skin barrier.”
How often should I use ceramide serums? Is it better to apply them in the morning or before bed?
“I’d recommend applying ceramide serums twice a day (morning and evening) as they’re not irritating or actives,” says Dr Khorana. “They should be applied after cleanser,” she adds.
“Applying ceramides before bed can be especially beneficial, as they work overnight to repair and strengthen the skin’s barrier, ensuring you wake up with hydrated and protected skin,” explains Dr Phillips. A ceramide serum is recommended, as serums are able to penetrate the skin more deeply in comparison to other products like cleansers or moisturisers, due to their smaller molecule size.
Are there any potential side effects that could come from using ceramides regularly?
As ceramides are not particularly irritating ingredients and are on the whole gentle and well tolerated by all, you needn’t have concerns about them specifically. However, if you do tend to experience sensitivity, you may be triggered by other ingredients in your chosen serum, so it’s best to do a patch test 48 hours prior in case.
How to choose the best ceramide serums
In particular, you should look to the wider formulation – as mentioned, if you’re prone to sensitivity, you’ll want to be aware of a product’s INCI list (or ingredients list) in its entirety.
Dr Phillips explains: “Pay attention to the list of ingredients and avoid products with potential irritants such as sodium lauryl sulfate, which can aggravate dry and sensitive skin conditions like eczema.”
Instead, opt for hyaluronic acid-rich (or similar) formulations, which “are humectants that will ensure the skin is well hydrated.”
Dr Khorana explains that these serums can be a great addition to a routine that is heavy in actives like AHAs and retinols, too. “Ceramides work well to minimise irritation, so pairing them with an active ingredient like retinol, vitamin C or AHA/BHA exfoliants is a good idea. By supporting the skin’s natural barrier, ceramides can help to reduce the sensitivity or irritation that may be caused by the use of active ingredients.”
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