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A ceramide cream, containing a precise mixture of fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides, is a moisturizer that replenishes the lipid or oily matrix of the skin's outer layer — the stratum corneum. Ceramides, composed of fatty acids and sphingosine, are critical to the barrier properties of the skin, preventing the entrance of harmful chemicals, toxins, and bacteria, and limiting loss of water and nutrients. Topical creams build this barrier as they liberates its ingredients by a time-released emulsion, allowing around-the-clock absorption into the skin. Some of the creams include ursolic acid, which stimulates the production of new collagen and ceramides in the epidermis. With regular application of ceramide cream, the skin typically exhibits better water retention with more resilience and firmness.
Nine different types of ceramides occur in the stratum corneum. A viscous mixture of extracellular ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol bathes this skin layer, comprised of a stratified sheet of dead cells that is about 0.4 to 1.2 inches (10 to 30 mm) thick. Damage to the gelatinous skin matrix by sun exposure, harsh soaps, perfumes, and hot water can impact the ability of the skin cells to function normally, increasing the risks of infection, dryness, irritation, and other skin problems. The resultant dryness produces a dull, roughened texture and magnifies the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Skin dehydration can lead to increased laxity.
Scientists have linked various skin diseases, including eczema and psoriasis, to deficiencies in ceramide levels, which normally make up approximately 50% of the skin oils. Clinical studies reveal that eczema patients lack the normal complement of all skin ceramides, resulting in redness, irritation, scaling, and itching. Psoriasis sufferers, although they possess a normal total percentage, lack certain subsets and have more than enough of the others. Research has established the importance of having not only the correct quantities of ceramide, but also the correct ratio of the subtypes. This cream repairs skin damage by restoring the appropriate ratio of ceramides to other emollient oils in the epidermis.
In addition to barrier functions, ceramides serve as chemical messengers that regulate cell turnover, allowing damaged cells to self-destruct. Any kind of stressful event will stimulate the production of ceramides, including radiation, toxins, and inflammation. Their metabolites moderate the cell destruction mediated by ceramides, thereby preventing too much inflammation or cellular breakdown. Faulty cell self-destruction due to the dysfunction of this substance contributes to many degenerative processes, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and atherosclerosis of arteries.