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Are ceramides good anti-aging ingredients? Episode 77

Do you wonder which anti-aging ingredients really work? Today we’re reviewing the evidence for ceramides.


Which anti-aging ingredients really work?

When it comes to anti-aging products it’s easy to be tricked into spending a lot of money on products that aren’t worth it. That’s because there’s so much pseudoscientific misinformation out there about anti-aging cosmetic ingredients. Also, once you buy an anti-aging product, it takes you a long time to determine if it’s really working for you or not. That’s why we’re going to focus some of our podcast episodes on specific anti-aging ingredients, Today we’re talking about ceramides.

What are ceramides?

“Ceramide” is one of those buzzwords that gets thrown around a lot in the beauty industry, especially with regard to anti-aging. But I’ve never seen a good explanation of what a ceramide is, what it really does, and what to look for in a product. That’s what we’re going to cover today, starting with a little chemical background…

Ceramides are a special type of oily wax that’s naturally found in our skin (and other places.) In fact, the word ceramide comes from the Latin cera which means wax. Ceramides form a kind of water-proofing barrier in the upper layers of skin. They’re not only critical for helping skin retain water but they also help repair the skin’s natural barrier and regulate cells. Ceramide production dwindles with age which can result in dry skin, wrinkles and even some types of dermatitis.

Did you know that newborn infants, especially premature ones, may be born with a waxy or cheese-like coating on their skin that prevents them from losing too much moisture? That coating is called the vernix caseosa and it is composed, primarily, of ceramides.

Chemically speaking, ceramides consist of a long-chain or sphingoid base linked to a fatty acid. By the way, “sphingoid bases” were first discovered in brain fluid and they’re named after the Sphinx because the chemist who found thought them thought they had an “enigmatic structure.” Anyway, sphingoids make up about half of a ceramide. Therefore, ceramides are not a single thing – different types of ceramides can be made depending on which specific base and which fatty acid are combined. There are at least 9 different types of ceramides found naturally. To make things even more confusing there are not only ceramides but phytoceramides, psuedoceramides, and synthetic ceramides. So let’s define these before we go any further.

  • Ceramide: A waxy lipid that is occurs naturally in skin. It’s made by combining combine a fatty acid with a sphingoid base.
  • Phytoceramide: A ceramide made with a phytosphingosine (a special type of sphingosine found in yeast, plants and some mammalian tissues. Don’t get tricked by this because “Phyto” is a buzz word for made from plants so this sounds like a cool, green ingredient. In reality its sourced from yeast.)
  • Pseudo-ceramide: A lipid that has similar properties to a ceramide but which has a different structure. For example, Ceramide E is a pseudo-ceramide. Another example is Arachamide MEA. Pseudo-ceramides may be naturally occurring but typically are made synthetically.
  • Synthetic ceramide: A lab-created version of a ceramide found in nature.
  • For the most part, ceramides used in skin care are synthetic (whether they are true ceramides or pseudoceramides.) Ceramides can be sourced naturally but they are present at only low concentrations in plants and animals so naturally derived ceramides are expensive. And besides, based on what we’ve seen, it doesn’t matter if the ceramide is natural or synthetic as long as it has the right structure.

Understanding ceramide nomenclature

Understanding which ceramides are used in cosmetics is confusing because there are three different ways they can be named:

1. The original INCI name which simply refers to each ceramide by a number.

2. The revised INCI name (sometimes called the “Motta” system) which uses a three letter designation. The first letter is the type of amide-linked fatty acid. (N stands for Normal Fatty acid. A stands for Alphahydroxy fatty acid and O stands for Omega hydroxy fatty acid.) The second letter is the type of base. (S stands for Sphinogsine base, P stands for Phytosphingosine base and H stands for Hydroxysphingosine base.) If there’s an “E” in front of the two letters then that means it’s an ester linked fatty acid.

3. Some times the chemical name of the ceramide is used (which doesn’t include the word ceramide at all.)

What to look for on the label:

  • Ceramide 1 = Ceramide EOS
  • Ceramide 2 = Cermamide NS = N-stearoyl sphinganine
  • Ceramide 3 = Ceramide NP = N-stearoyl phytosphingosine
  • Ceramide 4 = Ceramide EOH
  • Ceramide 5 = Ceramide AS
  • Ceramide 6 = Ceramide AP = α-hydroxy-N-stearoylphytosphingosine
  • Ceramide 6 II = Caproyl sphingosine
  • Ceramide 7 = Ceramide AH
  • Ceramide 8 = Ceramide NH
  • Ceramide 9 = Ceramide EOP
  • Ceramide E = Cetyl-PG Hydroxyethyl Palmitamide and Hexadecanamide

Now that you know what ceramides are and how to spot them on your product labels, let’s talk about what these things really do for skin. Are they worth the hype?

Ingested ceramides for skin

We’re going to focus our discussion on topically applied ceramides but I want to quickly touch on ingested ceramides. If you’ve listened to our previous anti-aging spotlights on collagen and hyaluronic acid you know we looked at the data for ingesting those materials to help your skin. For ceramides there is SMALL amount of research that shows they can improve the skin barrier when swallowed. A company called Hitex that makes phytoceramide capsules conducted their own study that showed a “perceived” improvement in dry skin.  Another study showed that taking 20mg or 40mg/daily for 3 weeks decreased transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and increased skin moisture content compared to a placebo.  And, for what it’s worth, the FDA has published a paper which essentially says phytoceramides are safe to ingest and that they’ve never seen any problems from dietary supplements that contain them. That, however, doesn’t mean they’ve actually been proven to work. ”New Dietary Ingredient Notification: For Phyto-Derived Ceramides.”  There just doesn’t seem to be as much as a push for ingestible ceramides like we’ve seen with collagen.

Ceramides as topical moisturizers

Overall, topical application is much better studied and that’s where the majority of interest is in the beauty biz so let’s get to that.

As always we’ll be using the 3 Kligman questions as a framework: is there a scientific mechanism to explain HOW ceramides work? Do ceramides penetrate into the skin where they COULD work? And are there any legitimate studies on real people showing ceramides DO work?

Is there a mechanism?
It’s well understood that natural ceramides waterproof skin. Furthermore, we know they do this best when they’re combined with other oily materials in a specific ratio. The optimal mixture of 50% ceramides, 25% cholesterol, and 15% free fatty acids forms what are called “crystalline lamellar structures” which have unique moisture retaining properties. So yes, there is a mechanism for how ceramides benefit skin.

Do they penetrate?
Yes they do and it’s not surprising given that ceramides are “skin identical” lipids. This is not some foreign ingredient, it’s one that’s naturally present in the upper layers of skin. It’s been proven that topically applied ceramides can move into the upper layers of the stratum corneum by a method called tape stripping. We’ve talked about this method before – essentially it involves sticking a piece of tape on your skin, ripping it off, and then analyzing it for the ingredient that you’re looking for. Each time you do this you tear off a few more layers of skin cells so by repeated tape stripping you can get a sense of how far an ingredient penetrates into the stratum corneum. Here are two quick examples:

Friend of the Brains Dr. Zoe Draelos published one such study. Cosmetics and Dermatologic Problems and Solutions, Third Edition By Zoe Diana Draelos. Another source confirms that finding but, interestingly, the degree of penetration may depend on what else is in the formula. The Textbook of Cosmetic Dermatology says that without a glyceryl ether the ceramides weren’t any better than the placebo.

Are there studies proving they work?
There a numerous studies on the efficacy of ceramide creams but there are two problems to watch out for. First, a number of the studies are “open label” which means they’re not blinded and there’s no control. So even if they show that ceramide cream does work you can’t tell if the cream without the ceramides would have worked just as well! The second problem is that there are so many different types of ceramides, that can be used at different levels, in combination with so many other materials that’s it’s impossible to pinpoint a definitive study showing what works “best.” Despite these problems, though, the weight of the evidence makes it apparent that ceramides can be beneficial. We’ll cite a few example studies to give you a flavor of the work that’s been done.

  • A study published in the J Clin Exp Dermatol shows that topical ceramides not only repair the skin barrier but they actually protect it from future attack by surfactants. (This study was done on mice.)
  • A Japanese study shows that plant-derived ceramides improve skin moisture better than a placebo.
  • The Kao Corporation published a study showing that a cream containing 8% of Ceramide E improves water content of skin and symptoms of atopic dermatitis. But, ceramide cream wasn’t compared to any other product. So the test had no control and it wasn’t blinded. By the way, this 8% concentration shows up in a couple of studies and it’s MUCH higher than the typical use level of ceramides which is a few tenths of a percent.
  • According to the Textbook of Cosmetic Dermatology, certain ceramide combinations are better than a placebo at repairing skin barrier function.
  • And a paper titled “Skin-identical lipids versus petrolatum” shows that ceramides work but they aren’t any better than petrolatum. They tested a blend of ceramide-3, cholesterol, oleic acid and palmitic acid and they say the lack of superiority may be due to a “suboptimal lipid mixture.” Again, it’s this notion that you have to have the right blend at the right ratio for ceramides to perform their best.

There are many more of these studies so it appears there is ample evidence that ceramides really do work.

Let me very quickly interject a note about a completely different approach. Instead of restoring ceramides you’ve lost, you can protect the ceramides you already have. There are enzymes in your skin called ceramid-ases that break down these lipids so if you can limit these enzymes theoretically you can keep more ceramides in your skin. I found one research paper on this topic and apparently it’s a little bit tricky because of the difficulty in sourcing these enzymes. Researchers can’t get them out of skin very easily so instead they get them from…get this…fecal extracts and nasal secretions.

So, anyway, now that we know ceramides really work what does this all mean if you want to buy an anti-aging ceramide cream?

How to pick the ceramide cream that’s right for you

First, let me summarize why picking a ceramide cream is so complicated:

1. There are many different types of ceramides. But at least most of them (at least the ones commonly used) appear to be beneficial to skin.

2. Sometimes they’re beneficial because they are just providing an occlusive layer on the surface of skin that locks in moisture. If that’s the case, ceramides may work no better than conventional, less expensive ingredients like petrolatum.

3. Other times they’re MORE beneficial because they’re penetrating and moisturizing from within. This means they may have a more prolonged effect compared to conventional ingredients. However, this seems to be the case only when the ceramides are combined with other materials like cholesterol and fatty acids. AND, they have to be combined in very specific ratios. For example, in skin the natural ratio is 3.6 to 1.2 to 1. We found one patented product that uses a ratio of 3:1:1. And who know what ratios other products use – but we do know it’s critical. Unfortunately we could find no side by side studies to prove which products are best. Which means that it’s very difficult for you to know if any given product is worth trying, especially if it’s expensive.

So, if you want add ceramides to your anti-aging regimen, here’s what we recommend: Start cheap and work your way up. To help you get started, we’ll list a few products starting with the inexpensive ones that may only have a single ceramide followed by more costly ones that appear to contain the optimal blend of actives (hopefully at the right ratio.) Try the cheapest one first. If you don’t like the way that one makes your skin feel, go up to the next most expensive one and continue the process until you find one you like.

Product examples

Curel Ultra Healing

Cost: $0.45/oz

Comments: You can’t beat the price but this Curel product only contains a single ceramide without the other critical ingredients.



CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion

Cost: $0.92/oz

Comments: Impossible to tell for sure without seeing the formula but this one seems to offer the best blend of ingredients at the best price.

Key ingredients: Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6 II, Ceramide 1, Cholesterol, Phytosphingosine

Full ingredient list: Water (Purified), Glycerin, Capric/Caprylic Stearic Triglyceride, Behentrimonium Methylsulfate/Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth 20, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6 II, Ceramide 1, Hyaluronic Acid, Cholesterol, Dimethicone, Polysorbate 20, Polyglyceryl 3 Diisostearate, Potassium Phosphate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Disodium EDTA, Phytosphingosine, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum


Cost: $8.80/oz

Comments: An over the counter medication used to treat eczema.

Key ingredients: Strangely the ingredient list just says “ceramide” without specifying which one. It also contains linoleic acid which is good but none of the other key actives.

Full ingredient list: Active: Purified Water, Lanolin, PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Ceramide, Glycerine, Petrolatum, Dimethicone, Curcumin, Soybean Sterol, Linoleic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Stearic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid, Carnosine, Carbomer, Tromethamine, Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

DHC Ceramide Cream

Cost: $27.14/oz

Comments: Even though this is called a ceramide cream it doesn’t appear to contain any actual ceramides. Go figure.

Key ingredients: cholesteryl hydroxystearate, sphingolipids,

Full ingredient list: water/aqua/eau, dipropylene glycol, caprylic/capric triglyceride, squalane, stearic acid, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, lanolin, glyceryl stearate SE, pentylene glycol, sodium PCA, methyl gluceth-10, hydrogenated lecithin, batyl alcohol, cholesteryl hydroxystearate, phenoxyethanol, behenyl alcohol, dimethicone, tocopherol, serine, butylene glycol, potassium hydroxide, allantoin, sodium citrate, pyrus cydonia seed extract, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, phospholipids, ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate, sodium hyaluronate, hydrolyzed rye phytoplacenta extract, sphingolipids, glycine soja (soybean) seed extract

Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Lift and Firm Night Cream

Cost: $42.35/oz

Comments: This product appears to have all the right pieces but who knows if the ratio is correct. However, it’ll cost you!

Key ingredients: Ceramide 1, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6 II, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Oleic Acid,

Full ingredient list: Water/aqua/eau, Dimethicone, Butylene Glycol, Butyrospermum Parkii (shea butter), Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Isostearyl Alcohol, Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, Theobroma Cacao (cocoa) Seed Butter, Ceteth-20 Phosphate, Butylene Glycol Cocoate, Isodecyl Salicylate, Ceramide 1, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6 Ii, Calluna Vulgaris Extract, Chondrus Crispus (carrageenan), Dioscorea Villosa (wild yam) Root Extract, Glycine Soja (soybean) Sterols, Hibiscus Abelmoschuss Seed Extract, Trifolium Pratense (clover) Flower Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Retinyl Palmitate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Tocopherol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Erythritol, Glycine Soja (soybean) Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Isohexadecane, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Acetyl Octapeptide-3, Sodium Pca, Trehalose, Urea, Homarine Hcl, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Hydrolyzed Potato Protein, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Yeast Protein, Lauryl Peg-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Lecithin, Phospholipids, Phytosphingosine, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/beheneth-25 Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/vp Copolymer, Ceteth-20, Cholesterol, Oleic Acid, Oleyl Alcohol, Peg-100 Stearate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Dicetyl Phosphate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polysorbate 60, Polysorbate 80, Polyquaternium-51, Ethylcellulose, Beta-glucan, Hexylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hydroxide, Thioctic Acid, Ubiquinone, Disodium Edta, Cyclohexasiloxane, Cyclopentasiloxane, Parfum/fragrance, Benzyl Salicylate, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxycitronellal, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Limonene, Linalool, Isopropylbenzyl Salicylate, Benzoic Acid, Methylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Sorbic Acid, Triacetin, Chlorphenesin.


I don’t have the price for this one since it’s a prescription drug but it is approved for treating atopic dermatitis. We also know that it contains ceramide, linoleic acid, and cholesterol in the ratio of 3:1:1. It looks promising but you’ll have to ask your doctor for it. http://www.epiceram-us.com/physician.html

The Beauty Brains bottom line

“Ceramides” refers to a class of ingredients which are waxy lipids naturally found in skin.

Ceramides are good moisturizers but may be not better than regular lotions unless correctly formulated.

The best formulas blend ceramides with cholesterol and fatty acids to replicate skin’s natural moisture barrier.

To save money, start with the least expensive ceramide creams and work your way up until you find one you like.

Improbable Products

We also played the Improbable Products game in this week’s show. Can you guess which of these three products is just made up? (Listen to the show for the answer.)

1. Robo manicurist
If you like the look of well manicured nails but you’re too lazy to do it yourself, you’re in luck! A Japanese company has invented a robot designed to paint your nails.

2. Smart sock
Anyone who’s suffered from calluses will love this new salicylic acid impregnated sock that treats your feet while you walk.

3. Moisture monitor
Researchers have developed a sensor that detects when your skin is dry and alerts you to apply more lotion.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Eileen April 7, 2015, 10:47 am

    Great post! So many companies say that their creams and lotions have ceramides when touting their anti-aging benefits, but that’s pretty much where the discussion ends. You did a wonderful job of explaining about the different types and the role they play in protecting the skin. I was especially interested in the information about the importance of ratio when determining the efficacy. Unless the product is properly formulated, “ceramides” becomes just another buzz-word in the anti-aging lexicon.

    • Randy Schueller April 7, 2015, 11:15 am

      Thanks (as always) for the pithy summary, Eileen!

  • Andrea Fitch April 7, 2015, 3:55 pm

    Have you ever tried Anew Clinical Thermafirm?http://avon4.me/1INiAkb. You can see the ingredients and reveiws at my website. My customers are raving about this product. It claims to be the 3 day miracle cream. This target treatment lifts, tightens and firms skin. According to Avon’s website ” RESULTS SHOW: After 3 Days**
    •Skin looks and feels firmer, tighter and more lifted.*

    After 4 Weeks**
    •87% of women felt their youthful facial shape was visibly restored.**
    •77% of women felt their jawline and neck were looked sculpted.**
    With Continued Use***
    •76% of women showed improvement in the look of sagging.***
    •The appearance of skin tightness improved a remarkable 51%.***
    •91% of women showed improvement in the look of fine lines.***

    *Based on a consumer perception study. **Based on women who expressed an opinion in a consumer-perception study. ***Based on a dermatologist-supervised clinical study.”” What do you think? You can also visit my blog at https://busymamabeautybasics.wordpress.com/

  • Cassondra April 7, 2015, 7:51 pm

    You guys are the absolute best! So smart and thorough. I’d be wasting so much money without you. Thanks so, so, so much! 😀

  • Yoya April 7, 2015, 9:38 pm

    Hmmmm, I’ve been taking a supplement that claims to have 350mg of “lipowheat”. The supplement is supposed to be a wheat derived phytoceramide but lipowheat is the only ingredient…how can I tell if it actually contains ceramides?

  • Vivella April 8, 2015, 5:21 am

    What a fantastic informative article, thanks so much!

  • Rebecca April 10, 2015, 10:55 pm

    Hmm… I think the robot might be the true one?

  • LaDonna Pulsipher April 11, 2015, 12:38 am

    Could you give me your opinion on this product. According to your information the ceramides seem to be in the appropriate ratio.



    Product Ingredients:
    Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone (silicone slip agents), Acetyl Glucosamine (skin-repairing ingredient/melanin inhibitor), Niacinamide (cell-communicating ingredient/melanin inhibitor), Butylene Glycol, Silica (slip agents), Glycerin (skin-repairing ingredient), Phenyl Trimethicone (silicone slip agent), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (stabilized vitamin C/antioxidant), Morus Bombycis (Mulberry) Root Extract, Morus Alba Root (White Mulberry) Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (antioxidant plant extracts/melanin inhibitors), Ceramide 1, Ceramide 6 II, Ceramide 3 (skin-repairing ingredients), Scutellaria Baicalensis Extract, Saxifraga Sarmentosa Extract (antioxidant/anti-inflammatory plant extracts), Phytosphingosine (cell-communicating ingredient), Sodium Hyaluronate, Cholesterol (skin-repairing ingredients), Panthenol (skin-conditioning agent), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Extract (antioxidant), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E/antioxidant), Bisabolol (anti-irritant), Bis-Phenylpropyl Dimethicone (silicone skin conditioning agent), Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer (silicone thickener) Pentylene Glycol (skin-conditioning agent), Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Polysorbate 40 (emulsifiers), PEG-10 Dimethicone (silicone thickener), Polysorbate 80 (emulsifier), Xanthan Gum (thickener),Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (film-forming agent), Sodium Acrylate/Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer (polymer), Carbomer (gel-based thickener),Isohexadecane (dry-finish solvent), Hexylene Glycol (solvent),Polymethyl Methacrylate (film-forming agent), Mica, Titanium Dioxide (mineral pigments), Disodium EDTA (chelating agent), Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol (preservatives).

    • Randy Schueller April 13, 2015, 12:32 pm

      This one appears to be worth trying.

      • LaDonna Pulsipher May 2, 2015, 6:08 pm

        Fabulous! Thanks for the reply and love the podcast!

  • Pedro April 12, 2015, 11:14 pm

    I believe some creams from Kao can have about 8% of ceramides because in many cases the “pseudo-ceramide” is the third ingredient in the list… Another interesting point is that Kao has published some studies showing eucalyptus extract can stimulate the skin produce its own ceramides:

    1 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19156331

    2 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21696405

    3 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23438136

    • Randy Schueller April 13, 2015, 12:33 pm

      Very interesting about the eucalyptus oil!

      • Curious May 9, 2016, 12:02 pm

        These studies talk about eucalyptus extract, but you mention eucalyptus oil in your comment. Will a topically applied eucalyptus essential oil produce some results?

        • Randy Schueller May 9, 2016, 5:17 pm

          I haven’t read the studies that Pablo linked to so I don’t know.

  • Pedro April 14, 2015, 5:29 am

    Still talking about the ceramides from Kao: they claim they use an emulsification technique in almost all of their emulsions that creates structures similar to the skin’s ceramides…


    • Randy Schueller April 14, 2015, 9:23 am

      Yeah, apparently the structure of the lipid bilayers is important in determining transepidermal water loss.

  • Ariel August 3, 2015, 5:01 pm

    Thanks for the useful information! This website is like no other!
    One question ; The Cerave Moisturizing lotion you mentioned above has only 0.2% of Ceramides, 0.007% of Cholesterol and 0.001% of Hyaluronic Acid (Which the local distributor here in Korea just told me). Do you think it is still worth a try?

    • Randy Schueller August 3, 2015, 7:08 pm

      Hmmm. Those levels sound really low. Are you sure the distributor has access to the actual formula percentages?

      • Ariel August 4, 2015, 8:32 pm

        Yes. Because they are the authorized exclusive distributor, they must know the actual formula percentage to label the ingredients list in Korean. They even changed the order of some ingredients to comply with the Korean labeling requirements (Ceramides are far below close to the end). I did some research on ceramides and found an information sheet written by a manufacturer. It says its efficacy starts from 0.05 % and the recommended concentration is 0.05 to 1%. But I can’t trust it because it’s not based on scientific studies. Cosmetics companies say more than 1% is high concentration. The highest I found is 3%. But I still wonder. If ceramide is no better than petrolatum, and it doesn’t work like natural lipids without cholesterol and fatty acids, isn’t it just a bogus ingredient the cosmetics industry exaggerate and fantasize about?

  • aligena September 25, 2015, 3:13 pm

    So do all ceramides act as occlusives, assuming they’re in the right ratios? I ask because I wonder if I should layer anything over them.

    • Randy Schueller September 26, 2015, 7:48 am

      Layering is a good idea. I haven’t seen anything to suggest that ceramides alone are adequately occlusive.

  • Ellen Turner March 9, 2016, 3:17 am

    I had ceremide cream and hydroxacel eye effect advanced eye treatment along with it. I have been cleansing and toning my skin twice a day and applied each of these products for 20 days now, I have seen a noticeable difference in my face skin. I am impressed with these products and it only cost me $10.00 dollars total. I will be having more sent to me within the next 2 weeks. I have been using an Avon face cream for the last 25 years with no positive effect except to moisturize my skin, it is called Avon Platinum cream and also in the past Avon Anex Cream. I am now 60 years old and so I reached out for something different that would help me improve my skin with my crows feet and parenthesis on my face and what have you. Anyway, I guess bottom line is to convey to other women the good experience I have had, I look forward to more information from you and the newsletter I have applied to. Thank you for your time and feel free to share my email with others. Sincerely, Ellen Turner Reyes

    • Cheryl Landi November 20, 2016, 3:13 pm

      I would like to know which products ellen turner is using. She appears to have had some positive results

  • Deanna August 8, 2016, 6:25 pm

    Thank you! so much for your article on Ceramides I have dermatitis the information was invaluable. Is there an anti ageing moisturizer for my face that Has a lot of Ceramide in the ingredients but is organic and chemical free?
    Thank you Kindly,
    Deanna from Australia

    • Randy Schueller August 9, 2016, 8:04 am

      There are no ceramide lotions that are chemical free.

  • Charlotte G August 23, 2016, 7:45 am

    Hi Randy.
    You mentioned that you knew of one patented product that uses the ratio of 3:1:1. Which brand was it?

  • juliet October 22, 2016, 8:01 am

    Excellent post. Your post really helped me .Thanks

  • e.howden May 8, 2017, 11:26 pm

    Originally an OTC product, the prescription product with the 3:1:1 ratio is called “Epiceram”. This word is derived from an ancient sanskrit symbol which loosely translates to “KA-CHING!” The ratio describes the way the formulator/developer (Dr Elias) splits the enormous profits the cream makes between himself, insurance companies and pharmacies (joke). Now the product is registered as a medical device (“510k-cleared moisturiser”). Dr Elias has gone from “Mr Stratum Corneum” to “Walter White” in a world where there are so many white creams that claim ‘barrier repair’. The only difference with Breaking Bad is that there is no evidence that Walter’s crystal meth performs any better than his rivals.

    Trials of Epiceram (done by Dr Elias at first on a VERY small sample of 24 people, then 207 who have impaired barrier function) show that it works (just like a sh*t load of other barrier creams without ceramides/fancy ratios/prescription only prices). Why not do a study comparing the efficacy of their super duper expensive 3:1:1 cream against an OTC cream 47 times cheaper? Wouldn’t you do this if you REALLY believed your product was superior to others?

    Someone did that study, and what did they find?

    *Hyaluronic acid foam beats Epiceram in terms of clinical efficacy.
    *OTC moisturisers perform the same as prescription ones and are 47 times more cost effective (Epiceram was tested in this study by Miller DW et al)

    Still don’t believe me?
    A 2016 study by Shim et al testing creams (Physiogel, Laroche-Posay Tol. Riche, Atobarrier, Zeroid, with EGF) found that consistent and regular moisturizer use is much more important than the moisturizer’s particular formulation. So there!

  • meghan July 7, 2017, 11:46 pm

    thanks for this super helpful explanation of ceramides and the need for the proper ratio of ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids. Can you please clarify exactly what free fatty acids are? I tried looking it up online, but am having a hard time finding a good answer. I searched on the blog and read that sebum is broken down by enzymes on the skin’s surface to form free fatty acids. Also, a fungus called Malassezia furfur feeds on oils on the scalp and releases free fatty acids which can irritate your scalp. So it seems like free fatty acids are something that are created? Would free acids be something like linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, or or even oleic acid or stearic acid? Thank you!!

    • Randy Schueller July 10, 2017, 7:05 am

      Linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid are good choices, they are frequently added to skin care products.

  • Dee August 1, 2017, 4:57 am

    Thanks for the info, very helpful. 🙂

    What do you all think about Stratia Liquid Gold?

    Water (Aqua), Propylene Glycol, Ethoxydiglycol, Niacinamide, Polyglyceryl-3 Methylglucose Distearate, Rosa Mosqueta (Rose) Hip Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Seed Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Oil, Panthenol, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Squalane (olive-derived), Cetyl Alcohol, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Ceramide NP, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Disodium EDTA

  • kate October 20, 2017, 9:51 am

    Hi, do you know if certain vegetable oils naturally contain ceramides? Eg. wheatgerm and hempseed oil, I have seen many listed by bloggers but they give no sources and I can’t find any scientific information. I am not if they actually contain ceramides or other things which in turn protect/nourish the ones already present in the skin instead. Any advice would be appreciated! Thank you.

  • Melissa January 6, 2018, 9:23 pm

    I just noticed that one of my favorite skincare brands, Paula’s Choice, has come out with a ceramide-loaded moisturizer. Can you tell from the ingredient list if it looks good? It also has retinol and Vitamin C in it; does having all those ingredients combined into one formula diminish the efficacy of any of them? Thanks in advance!

    https://tinyurl.com/yccjjgvq for the product page which also shows the full ingredient list I copied here:

    Water (Aqua), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (vitamin C/antioxidant), Cetyl Alcohol (texture enhancer, Ascorbyl Glucoside (vitamin C/antioxidant), Neopentyl Glycol Diheptanoate (texture enhancer), Potassium Cetyl Phosphate (emulsifier), Glyceryl Stearate (emollient), PEG-100 Stearate (texture enhancer), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), PEG-12 Glyceryl Dimyristate (hydration), Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2 (emollient), Dimethicone (emollient), Glyceryl Ascorbate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (vitamin C/antioxidants), Retinol (vitamin A/skin-restoring), Ceramide NP, Ceramide NS, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP, Ceramide EOS, Cholesterol, Caprooyl Phytosphingosine, Caprooyl Sphingosine (skin-replenishing), Squalane (emollient), Punica Granatum Fruit Extract (pomegranate/antioxidant), Pongamia Glabra Seed Oil (non-fragrant plant oil/antioxidant), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (skin-soothing), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract (antioxidant), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E/antioxidant), Carnosine (skin-restoring), Panthenol (hydration), Sodium PCA (skin-replenishing), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Sodium Citrate (pH adjuster), Ceteareth-25 (texture enhancer), Polysorbate 20 (emulsifier), Ethylhexyl Stearate (emollient), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Trideceth-6 (emulsifier), Propyl Gallate (antioxidant),Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Sodium Polyacrylate (film-forming agents), Behenic Acid (texture enhancer), Disodium EDTA (chelating agent), Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin (preservatives).

    • Perry Romanowski January 9, 2018, 10:19 am

      It’s challenging to make a Vitamin C formula that is still effective. The Vitamin C breaks down too easily. But they have all the right ingredients in it. So, you’ll have to test it to see how well it works for you.

  • Margaret January 7, 2018, 6:10 pm

    Would you get a large benefit using a product with lots of ceramics or can you get by with just 2 or 3? Do you have to have all 9 together for an ideal product?

  • Michele Port April 2, 2018, 2:42 pm

    I bought Curel and the label also shows other ceramides that you did not list…after cholesterol it lists ceramide NP, ceramide AP, phytosphingosine, and ceramide EOP. Are these not separate from the one you listed?

    • Perry Romanowski April 3, 2018, 7:34 am

      Raw material companies are adding new ceramides all the time. In the future, we’ll have to do an updated post.

  • Chris May 16, 2019, 4:25 pm

    I’d love to see a discussion about ceramides as they relate to haircare, such as L’Oreal’s mysterious “ceramide r” aka 2-oleomido-1,3octadecanediol. They claim it’s “the first biomimetic ceramide” and have incorporated it into products such as Kerastase and Redken conditioners as well as other cosmetics such as mascara. To my knowledge, it’s one of the oldest synthetic ceramides & is “proven” to bond to hair to a degree (altho they never mention the concentration used during testing). I have personally used these products and like the formulations with ceramides, but don’t know if that’s because of the rest of the formulation. I guess I’m just curious about this specific ceramide and wanted to know if either of you are familiar with it or what concentration it’s actually effective at (they have a product that lists parts per ml). I’d love to do research and development to create something like that, or a bond builder. That’s in a different vein, but what do you think of bond builders such as Olaplex and Brazilian Bond Builder? Are they not classified as drugs because they act on dead tissue? I have used Olaplex as a standalone conditioning treatment and have to say that I was impressed. Is my assumption that keratin, ceramides and bond builders would be the trifecta for healthy hair just hype, or am I on to something?

    • Perry Romanowski June 15, 2019, 12:44 pm

      I can tell you whether you use the ceramides in the formula or not, you won’t see any difference. I don’t doubt that L’Oreal can prove effectiveness in a lab but in real life use, you won’t see any results. In my view, Olaplex is interesting technology but the results are less than impressive. There is nothing particularly special about its effects. I’m not familiar with Brazilian Bond builder.

  • Candace August 24, 2019, 8:56 pm

    I have been using Elizabeth Arden’s youth capsules which contain ceramides. I’ve also been using Caudalies radiance serum for dark spots.. etc. out of those 2 formulas can you tell me which of them has more of the anti aging benefits in it. With better ingredients? Which one would benefit my skin more. I like them both and I can’t decide. Thank u so much!!!!

    • Perry Romanowski September 8, 2019, 2:41 pm

      It’s tough to know without knowing the exact formula but I would guess the Elizabeth Arden formula.

  • Belinda September 8, 2019, 11:07 am

    Can you please let me know what do you think about Stratia Liquid Gold? They say they have the 3-1-1 combination.

    Water (Aqua), Propylene Glycol, Ethoxydiglycol, Niacinamide, Polyglyceryl-3 Methylglucose Distearate, Rosa Mosqueta (Rose) Hip Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Seed Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Oil, Panthenol, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Squalane (olive-derived), Cetyl Alcohol, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Ceramide NP, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Disodium EDTA

    • Perry Romanowski September 8, 2019, 2:44 pm

      Niacinamide might help but it doesn’t appear to be a product that will give you great results.

  • Hope November 14, 2019, 8:27 am

    In cases of eczema, where the skin constantly flakes off, no matter whether the weather is dry or not, and itches and burns constantly, ceramides have been touted as a good product to address these problems. I’ve been frantic to find a lotion that will help, as one isn’t supposed to use even the mildest steroid ointment or cream on one’s eyelids. I would give anything to just have crow’s feet instead of the constant red, swollen, rough burning eyelids.