Update 6/1/20. Ceramides, also called phytoceramides have become very popular in the cosmetics world because of the promise they might reduce wrinkles and improve the appearance of skin. But, do ceramides really work, or are they a scam? Are they safe and do they have any side effects? Fortunately, there is clinical research to help us figure this out. In this review, I'll show you the clinical studies on phytoceramides so you can decide if they are right for you.
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What Are Ceramides?
We make them naturally. There are up to 9 different types of ceramides in human skin, where they act like cement, providing a barrier between the environment and us. Ceramides are also a humectant, so they hold water in the skin. This helps keep the skin stay plump and supple. As we age, the levels in the skin tend to decline. This can lead to skin that's dry, itchy aged-spotted, and even wrinkles.
Where Do They Come From?
As mentioned in the video below, the original source of ceramides was cow brains. Fortunately, that's no longer the case. Today, most ceramides are derived from:
This is why they are are also called phytoceramides. The prefix phyto means plant. Ceramides can also be found in spinach, milk, eggs, and soybeans. It's estimated that Americans only get about 0.3 to 0.4 grams per day from food sources. While they are synthetically made, research suggests they can help support your natural production of their critical molecules.
Ceramides And Wrinkles: The Research
Several studies have noted ceramides may have a positive effect on skin health and helping wrinkles look better too. Watch the video for a review of the research.
Ceramide Products I like
If you're looking for a quality supplement, remember most of the clinical research is on a phytoceramide supplement called LipoWheat. As the name tells us, this is a supplement derived from wheat. That's not to say rice-photoceramides rice doesn't work. They may and some research has noted they do. It's just that currently, supplements made from wheat seem to have more research.
Even though LipoWheat is derived from wheat, it is gluten-free.
Ceramide Side Effects
So are ceramides safe? For most people, it appears so. Studies have not reported any negative side effects from phytoceramide supplements. Keep in mind the people in the clinical studies tended to be pretty healthy overall, with no skin conditions, or medical problems. Because of this, here are some basic guidelines for those who may not be “healthy.” This list is not complete:
- Start with less than recommended for the first week
- Stop taking at least 2 weeks before having surgery
- Don't take if you are pregnant/breastfeeding
- If you take any medicine, like blood thinners, speak to your pharmacist and doctor first
- If you have a wheat allergy, it may be wise to use a rice-derived phytoceramide until more is known
Are they vegan?
Supplements coming from wheat and rice are vegan. If they come from vegetables, you can generally assume they are vegan.
Will they help rosacea?
Ceramides have not been studied to see if they treat rosacea. They may or may not. The same is true for eczema and psoriasis too. If these are conditions you suffer with, this may take some experimenting to see if they work for you. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have information on these conditions.
Do ceramides help acne?
It's hard to say at this point. Halo Beauty is a ceramide containing a supplement that has some very interesting before and after acne pictures. That supplement contains multiple ingredients however which makes it difficult to know which ingredients are clearing up acne.
How do they work?
The idea is that taking synthetic phytoceramide supplements will add to and/or ramp up our natural ceramide production.
When do you use them?
There seems to be no best time to use ceramides. I suggest taking them with food to minimize any stomach upset you may experience. Taking them several hours apart – such as at breakfast and dinner for example – might help maintain ceramide levels better than using them only once per day.
Do they help hair growth?
Some supplements may combine phytoceramides with biotin or other hair-healthy ingredients but it's not known if they improve hair growth or the look/luster of hair. The same thing is true about reversing gray hair too.
What About Ceramide Creams?
Several moisturizing creams are available which contain this substance. They range from very expensive to not expensive at all. There are no head-to-head comparisons on which creams are best although CeraVe moisturizing cream has the most positive Amazon reviews.
Do supplements help ceramide creams work better? In theory, taking something by mouth combined with applying a cream to the surface of skin might be better than either product alone. But it would take clinical research to know for sure.
How Long Does It Take To Work?
About 1-3 months of regular use will be needed to see results. Keep in mind this is a general statement. Longer duration may be needed depending on how damaged skin is, to begin with. While everybody is different, deep wrinkles may not respond as well as more fine wrinkles.
The research appears to show ceramides can help crows feet and improve the overall look of skin. That said, the results are likely to be most noticeable in those with mild to moderate wrinkles and age spots.
What Do You Think?
- Differential effects of ceramide on cell viability and extracellular matrix remodeling in keratinocytes and fibroblasts
- Clinical investigation of skin beautifying effect of a beauty supplement containing rice derived ceramides (pdf)
- The moisturizing effect of a wheat extract food supplement on women's skin: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial.
- Polar lipids from wheat extract oil improve skin damages induced by aging: Evidence from a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial in women and an ex vivo study on human skin explant.