Ceramides are a family of waxy lipid molecules. A ceramide is composed of sphingosine and a fatty acid. The word ceramide comes from the Latin cera (wax) and amide. Ceramide is a component of vernix caseosa, the waxy or cheese-like white substance found coating the skin of new-born human infants.
These lipid molecules are found in high concentrations within cell membranes. In the top layer of the skin, ceramides hold skin cells together, forming a protective layer that plumps the skin and retains moisture. (Think of skin cells as the bricks and ceramides as the mortar.)
In skincare products, ceramides are used to replenish the natural lipids that are lost from exposure to harsh environmental factors, use of drying products, and during in the aging process. They restore moisture, fortify the skin’s natural barrier and help protect it against harm from foreign elements. Ceramides are also particularly effective in treating eczema.