Ingredient focus

Ingredient in Focus: Ceramides

First things first: what are ceramides? Well — you’ll often hear skin talked about in terms of ‘bricks’ and ‘mortar’ — the bricks being the cells, the mortar being all the ‘stuff’ that holds the cells together, roughly 40% of which is {ceramides}. They’re a crucial part of skin’s barrier (something that’s currently having an overdue turn in the dermatological spotlight — probably due to the years we spent striving to shed our dead cells in pursuit of that ‘freshly hatched’ glow), which means they’re critical for keeping ‘good stuff’ in and ‘bad stuff’ out but, our {skin}’s natural levels deplete with the passage of time (quelle surprise).  

the inkey list ceramide


A large component of the ‘glue’ that holds skin’s defences together, ceramides are produced naturally however, as levels begin to decline this can lead to a weakened skin barrier. And it isn’t just age that can compromise ceramide levels — all that acid toning? While it’s great (in moderation), if you’re ever over-zealous you can leave your face susceptible to dryness, irritation, breakouts… you name it (never has the phrase ‘too much of a good thing’ been more applicable).  

For this reason, treatments that help to replenish skin’s ceramide levels are an essential element of any skin care ritual — bolstering barrier function to shield from aggressors while helping to ward against water loss — keeping skin plump and preventing all-too-common tightness. 

And their talents don’t begin and end with bolstering skin’s ‘stratum corneum’ (the uppermost layer of dead surface cells that protects from aggressors and locks moisture in). No, ceramides make a great buffer for active ingredients (your acids and retinols) to lessen irritation if you’re prone to reactivity, as well as to safeguard skin’s health and resilience.  

In short, they’re calming, comforting, soothing, softening, protective, great for sensitive skin conditions (such as eczema)… In short, ceramides’ roll call of accomplishments makes compelling reading. 


Naturally occurring, long-chain fatty acids, ceramides and phytoceramides have the same structure (and function) but phytoceramides are plant-derived — whereas others could be synthesised or animal-derived. Phytoceramides (as found in The Ordinary’s new {Natural Moisturizing Factors + Phytoceramides}) are great for reassuring stressed or dehydrated skin, while helping to deflect the daily impact of aggressors (or a heavy-handed attitude to actives). 


Ceramides — unlike rich emollients — are great for oily, blemish-prone complexions, as well as for dry, stressed or compromised skin types. By gently ‘rebuilding’ skin’s protective layer, they help to reduce inflammation, relieve redness and gradually normalise skin that’s rebelling, making them a brilliant step in your acne-care regime, as well as indispensable for those with dry or dehydrated skin types.  


While found in gentle creamy cleansers that eliminate the daily dirt without disrupting your skin’s delicate balance (look no further than CeraVe’s iconic {Hydrating Cleanser with Hyaluronic Acid} to comfort and plump), ceramides primarily reside in moisturisers — from lightweight gels for combination or congested skin, to rich, intensive eye creams made to fortify the fragile eye area. Opt for a texture that’s right for your skin type (avoid anything overly thick if you’re prone to clogged pores), then apply every morning to shield from pollution, as well as at night to protect and repair skin’s defences.  

So, eager to make friends with ceramides? Here are the top-rated picks of the ceramide crop! 

Verity Douglas

Verity Douglas

Content Editor

Cult Beauty’s Content Editor and a Cult Beauty OG, Verity loves nothing more than the marriage of language and lip balm. A quintessential Libran, she’s a self-professed magpie for luxury ‘must-haves' and always pursuing the new and the niche — from the boujee-est skin care to cutting-edge tech. Balancing an urge to stop the clock with her desire to embrace the ageing process (and set a positive example for her daughter), Verity's a retinol obsessive and will gladly share her thoughts about the time-defying gadgets, masks and treatments worth the splurge...