Ceramides' Role: Fortifying Your Skin Barrier
Our skin is remarkably sensitive in ways that most people do not realize since we take it for granted. We are born with our skin protecting us from the elements, and we expect it to remain intact regardless of what we are exposed to. Unfortunately, this misconception can cause our skin to deteriorate and lose its integrity. While your skin will not rot off your body if you do not care for it, it will become dry and cracked.
This can cause chronic pain and irritation, making life uncomfortable and unpleasant and leading to more serious complications. The biggest problem is that some are under the impression that our skin is a singular organ that does not have other components. Our skin is remarkably complex and involves a series of layers and sublayers that work together to protect us from the elements.
One part of our skin you might not have known about is the skin barrier, which is crucial to protecting our skin. Unfortunately, only people well-versed in skincare routines or dermatology are likely to know the skin barrier. As a result, the average person usually neglects it, believing that simple skincare routines are sufficient to protect their entire complexion.
In reality, preserving and reinforcing the skin barrier is essential to proper skincare, and the methods can be complicated depending on how damaged it already is. The question is: How can we fortify our skin barrier, and what do ceramides have to do with it?
What is the Skin Barrier?
Most people know that the skin is not a single layer of tissue but several layers stacked on top of each other. Each layer of skin plays an important role in protecting our internal body from the elements, with the outermost layer being the most well-known.
Our outermost dermal layer, called the corneum, is usually compared to a brick wall since the skin cells that make it up are among the most resilient. The skin cells of the corneum are called corneocytes (which function as the "bricks" in this analogy) and are bound together via lipids (fatty cells) that function as the "mortar" holding the "bricks" together.
This wall is the skin barrier that protects the lower layers of the skin from elemental hazards and other dangers. As strange as it sounds, this thin layer of skin is one of our most important body parts, and it literally keeps us alive.
Like how a brick wall keeps intruders and animals out of a property, our skin barrier prevents toxins and pathogens from directly accessing our bloodstream. Even contamination of a lower layer of skin could be disastrous for our health, making the skin barrier essential. Unfortunately, just because something is important does not mean it is indestructible. Our skin barrier is remarkably vulnerable to damage, which makes protecting it more challenging than you might have originally believed. Several mundane factors can jeopardize the skin barrier's health because they overtax it. Some of the most common contributors to skin barrier damage are:
- Environments that are extremely dry or humid.
- Allergens, irritants, and pollutants in the environment.
- Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation (real and synthetic).
- Excessive exfoliation or washing of the skin.
- Psychological distress.
- Exposure to alkaline detergents or soaps.
- Exposure to caustic or harsh chemicals.
- Steroid use.
- Genetic factors that promote skin conditions.
Some of these hazards are more common than the rest, but they all demand constant care for the skin to ensure our skin barrier remains intact. Failing to preserve the skin barrier makes getting sick and suffering injuries much easier. The problem is that newcomers to the world of skincare might not know where to start insofar as fortifying the skin barrier is concerned. This brings us to our next major point: ceramides.
What Are Ceramides?
The term "ceramide" might be foreign to some of you since it is primarily a scientific concept that the average person does not commonly use. Unless you have a longstanding skincare regimen, you might not have heard the term before now and are probably wondering what they are, let alone what they can do. The simplest answer is that ceramides are lipids (fatty cells) extremely common in human skin.
More accurately, ceramides comprise 50% of our epidermis (the outer layer of skin) and are found in humans and other animals. Our skin is designed to naturally replenish ceramides to preserve its integrity and retain water to prevent dryness and cracking. As we age, we slowly lose this ability, and our ceramide count dwindles to the point where we have little choice but to supplement them to keep our skin intact. While ceramide depletion from age is common, the real issue is when our ceramides die off due to environmental factors.
Overexposure to any of the elements or environments from the previous section can strip away ceramides prematurely. Proper hydration is essential for ceramides to function, and the ceramides are stripped away without sebum (skin oil). Assuming you spend a lot of time in extreme heat, the temperature dries out the sebum and ceramides on your skin, leaving it vulnerable to cracking.
Similarly, using harsh soaps or washing your skin too often can forcefully strip the ceramides from your skin while the water or soap dries it out. Ultimately, ceramides are a type of glue that is frustratingly easy to dissolve. Without ceramides, the skin barrier is susceptible to damage and might create an opening through which bacteria and other contaminants might enter our bodies.
Therefore, you might assume that the best option is to supplement your ceramides with skincare products that contain them. For the most part, you are correct since most modern skincare products have ceramides to protect the skin and lock certain moisturizers and creams into the skin barrier. However, you might need more in-depth treatment if your ceramides are constantly damaged or removed. Fortunately, some tools promote ceramide production and protection and improve the environment on your skin to keep ceramides safe.
Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides
The main role of ceramides in protecting and fortifying the skin barrier is keeping it hydrated and moisturized. The skin barrier dries and cracks without proper hydration, but ceramides prevent that from happening as long as production remains stable.
The problem is that relying on a single substance to protect your skin barrier is a bad idea. It is easy for a single compound to be overwhelmed by environmental factors or mundane products you use daily. Fortunately, ceramides are not the only thing that keeps our skin hydrated and the skin barrier intact. One of the most popular skincare tools worldwide is hyaluronic acid, another substance our bodies produce naturally. Hyaluronic acid's benefits are remarkably similar to those offered by ceramides but are also different enough to distinguish them.
The word "acid" is usually enough to give people pause since acidity is typically associated with the type of chemicals that dissolve human bodies on television. Fortunately, hyaluronic acid is not corrosive (which is good considering we produce it ourselves). More importantly, hyaluronic acid helps protect and preserve our skin and keeps it looking young and healthy.
One of the main functions of hyaluronic acid is keeping our skin hydrated. Hyaluronic acid is excellent at retaining water (a quarter teaspoon holds 1.5 gallons of water), making it extremely effective at keeping water levels in the skin healthy. This effect is why hyaluronic acid is used for treating dry eyes, especially since our eyes are the most sensitive organs on our faces.
In addition to hydration, hyaluronic acid makes the skin flexible and helps it stretch further without damage. It also helps our skin heal from damage, reducing or preventing long-term marks caused by injuries or acne. When combined with ceramides, hyaluronic acid helps delegate the task of keeping moisture locked into the skin. The main difference is that hyaluronic acid keeps the skin barrier's deeper layers hydrated, while ceramides protect the upper levels. This means that, even if the ceramides are stripped away, the lower levels of the skin barrier remain hydrated and are slightly reinforced against contaminants.
Niacinamides and Ceramides
Niacinamides might seem like an unfamiliar compound, but you have heard of them before, albeit under a different name. Niacinamide is another way to refer to vitamin B-3, one of the 8 B vitamins responsible for skin maintenance. Unlike hyaluronic acid or ceramides, we cannot produce vitamin B-3 ourselves and must consume it to keep our levels high.
Our bodies convert niacin into niacinamide when concentrations of the latter exceed what we need to survive. Despite this, niacinamide has become a rising star in the skincare industry and is a common ingredient in multiple products worldwide. Niacinamide is marketed as a multipurpose skincare tool, but that does not diminish its effect on keeping our skin healthy and strong.
Vitamin B-3 is just as powerful a moisturizing agent as hyaluronic acid or ceramides, but it does have other strengths. In fact, vitamin B-3's most important effect is that it synergizes with ceramides to keep the skin hydrated and fresh.
Vitamin B-3 enhances our skin's lipid barrier, including ceramides, and helps keep them locked to the skin barrier. This means applying vitamin B-3 after ceramides protects the latter and reduces the chances of an environmental factor of other compounds stripping them away. Vitamin B-3 makes the skin less sensitive to these hazards, making it an excellent resource for protecting ceramides.
This vitamin also helps treat some of the damage a lack of ceramides might have caused. Vitamin B-3 has been linked to reduced wrinkles and fine lines, manifest when our skin is not properly hydrated or when certain resources are lacking. Even more impressive is that vitamin B-3 synergizes with hyaluronic acid, too, making it possible to combine all 3 compounds into a single skincare routine.
You Have to Maintain Order
You cannot just apply skincare products as you please and must maintain a proper order to ensure there are no conflicts. The simple truth is that some products overpower others, and some lock others out of the skin and render them useless. Applying skincare products in the proper order is called layering, and it is crucial to ensure your routine works.
Insofar as ceramides are concerned, they are usually applied last despite being essential to the skin barrier. The products we have listed in this article should be applied in the following order: hyaluronic acid niacinamide ceramides. Any other order could interfere with the efficacy of one or all the products.
Skincare layering is a little more complex, but you can find more information about the process here. As long as you remember the order in which these 3 compounds go, you should have no problem fortifying your skin barrier and preventing damage.
Finding the Right Blend
The skin barrier is one of our most important body parts, but keeping it from being damaged is shockingly difficult and requires a lot of information. Protecting the skin barrier is important, but you will never succeed without the proper information or tools. Fortunately, it is possible to find both if you know where to look, but you might struggle somewhat if you prefer a natural approach. While the journey to natural ceramide protection might be difficult, it is not impossible.
We at Teami have always believed that the best cosmetic tools are natural since our bodies were designed to synergize with natural compounds. That is why our cosmetics catalog comprises natural products designed to keep your skin healthy without chemicals. While we do not sell ceramides, we can help you with the other compounds listed in this article so you can keep your skin's ceramides safe and your skin barrier intact.
Our Overnight Sleep Mask contains niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, allowing you to check off both compounds with a single product. We encourage you to visit our website and try our product directly to see if it is right for you. You do not have to care for your skin alone because, with us, finding the right blend is a Teami effort.
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