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Jar Deconstructed: Ceramides

Contact Author Rachel Grabenhofer and Katie Anderson

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Many spiritual paths teach us that happiness and the answers to life “lie within.” Skin care has taken direction from this edict—with ceramides. Ceramides are natural molecules found in the skin. The general consensus estimates the stratum corneum to be approximately 50% ceramides, along with 25% cholesterol and 15% free fatty acids.1 Taken together, these create a water-impermeable and protective organ to prevent water loss from the body and the entry of microorganisms.

Ceramides are present in the body at sites deeper than the skin, however. These waxy lipid molecules, composed of sphingosine and a fatty acid, are found in high concentrations in animal cell membranes in general.1 Specifically, they are one of the component lipids that make sphingomyelin—a major lipid in the bilayer that forms a continuous barrier around cells.2

Furthermore, ceramides link with other molecules to create other compounds, e.g., sphingomyelin, gangliosides, glucosylceramide, etc., that are vital for brain and nervous system development.3 Indeed, according to Healthline, ceramides have been noted for their role in this capacity, although they have more recently gained interest for potential skin health benefits.4 This may be due to findings that they engage in cellular activities.

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Rachel Grabenhofer is the managing editor of Cosmetics & Toiletries, Skin Inc.’s sister brand for cosmetic chemists. She’s a member of the Council of Science Editors and Society of Cosmetic Chemists, and for the past several years, has led judging panels to honor the best ingredients in cosmetics.

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