SMOOTH, SUPPLE SKIN IS A NATURAL HALLMARK OF YOUTH—AND ONE we pursue with great dedication. Some of this youthful magic can be attributed to compounds called ceramides, which naturally diminish with age. But if recent research is correct, topical and oral ceramides may be one of the keys to slowing the efects of time.
Here’s how the aging process works: the outer layer of skin— the stratum corneum—is made up of fattened, dead skin cells arranged in overlapping layers; these layers create a barrier that blocks toxins and germs, holds in moisture, and helps the deeper layers of skin retain their youthful suppleness. Tese layers are held in place by ceramides, fatty structures that “cement” the dead skin cells together, keeping them from faking away and locking in water molecules. Ceramides also inhibit elastase, an enzyme that breaks down elastin.
Every 40 days or so, the dead cells on the outer layer of skin are replaced by fresh, living cells that rise to the surface from the deeper layers of skin. But as we age, cell turnover slows signifcantly. Likewise, when we’re young, the body manufactures plenty of ceramide molecules that nourish skin. However, as we age, the body’s production of ceramides slows, resulting in thinning of the skin’s outer layer, a subsequent lessening in moisture retention, increased wrinkling, and loss of fexibility and smoothness.
Here’s the good news: new studies are showing that supplemental ceramides can support skin structure, protect against moisture loss, and maintain smoothness and elasticity of skin.
Originally derived from animal sources, usually bovine, newer versions—called “phytoceramides” for “plant”— come from wheat, sweet potato, or rice. Generally, ceramides are available in two primary forms: topical and oral. Many creams, lotions and serums contain ceramides, from plant sources or in the form of