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Ceramides: The New Skincare Breakthrough?

Ceramides
May 7, 2013 Reviewed by Marta 33 Comments

Dr. Oz recently gave his three tips on how to “drop a decade from your skin” (see original article here) and made a very curious recommendation: phytoceramide capsules, plant-based ceramides. Less controversially, he also mentioned vitamin C serums (see our Five Best with Vitamin C) and power cleansing with brushes (like the Clarisonic or the Sirius Sonic). But what are phytoceramide capsules and why should Dr. Oz make them one of only three recommendations?

What Are Phytoceramides and Do They Really Work?

Phytoceramides are the plant-derived equivalent of ceramides, a lipid that keeps your skin hydrated and plump. Supplements with phytocermides are mostly obtained from wheat. Actually, ceramides are found naturally in many foods, especially wheat flour. Sphingolipids, which contain ceramides, are present in large amounts in dairy products, eggs and soybeans. So you can get ceramides from food and don’t really need to take supplements. But what if you did, would they be a good anti-ager?

This is unproven, as far as I can tell. I could find no independent research on phytoceramide capsules’ effects on skin. After many frustrating hours, I eventually found a study on phytoceramide capsules and the “perceived” improvement of dry skin – it was conducted by Hitex, a company that makes extracts from wheat and other plants. Throughout the web, there are various references to Japanese studies, but although they certainly demonstrate the importance of ceramides – deficiencies in ceramides lead to dry skin (source) – they did not refer to phytoceramide supplements.

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So I’ll pass on the supplements for now as likely to be a waste of money. But what about ceramides more generally?  

Are Ceramides Essential for Younger Skin?

Ceramides are natural components of human skin. There are different ceramide types (conveniently numbered – i.e. ceramide 3) and six are commonly found in skin. All four layers of the epidermis contain ceramides, and they play an important role by creating a barrier which reduces infection and helps to retain the skin’s moisture. Reduction in the amount of ceramides  may result in dry skin, dermatitis, or wrinkles.

For years, ceramides were thought of simply as a structural component to the lipid bilayer of all cell membranes, including the upper layer of skin. Interestingly though, recent studies reveal that they can also act as a signaling molecule that send messages to the rest of the body. The “signal” they perform is apostosis, programming a cell to die. This has made ceramide the subject of numerous studies on its role in treating cancer patients.

Will Topical Applications of Ceramides Be Successful?

Now, what about ceramide creams? Well, thankfully, there is research on this. In a Japanese study, eight people's eyelids were treated with a ceramide gel for four weeks with the result that “water content of eyelid skin was significantly increased after treatment.”  There’s also a French study, showing that topical ceramides with “other skin lipids” improved skin barrier repair. A ceramide gel was also shown to relieve dermatitis, while sphingolipids (which as mentioned above is made up of ceramide) from a lactic acid bacteria was applied topically and increased the skin’s resistance to aging (source).

So topical ceramide seems a good addition to our skincare regimen. Ceramide has been a mainstay of Elizabeth Arden products for years, but I wanted to do better  than an overpriced department store brand. Searching through the Truth In Aging archives, I turned up a number of products that feature ceramide (as well as a host of other good anti-aging ingredients). 

Skin Care Products Containing Ceramides

Mad Hippie Exfoliating Serum ($35 in the shop). This is a great little serum. It exfoliates with lactic and glycolic acids, brightens with a botanical complex called Gigawhite, has the peptide Matrixyl 3000 and ceramide-3. Read the full review.

Osmotics Anti-Radical Age Defense ($111). This classic from Osmotics stands the test of time. It is great for wrinkles, broken veins and skin tone. As well as ceramide (a favorite Osmotics ingredient), this anti-aging treatment attacks free radicals that damage skin cells in three different ways, with carnosine and aldenine. Read the full review.

Skinfinite Platimum 1% Retinol ($63 in the shop). Yes, this has ceramide, but it also has a 1% retinol. It is one of the few retinol creams that get my vote. It doesn’t seem to irritate and there are good results within two months. Skin is hydrated with ceramide-2, shea butter and sodium hyaluronate, so unlike many retinols, Skinfinite Platinum is not drying. Read the full review.

Snowberry Rich Nourishing Day Cream ($96) is a rich and heavy hitting day cream that is absolutely jam packed with antioxidants, peptides and, of course, ceramide-3. Actually, ceramide features in many of Snowberry’s organic and natural products including the Cellular Regeneration Night Cream ($104 in the shop), which gives the skin a healthy and moisturized glow. Read the full review of Snowberry Nourishing Rich Day Cream.

Skin Nutrition Cell CPR ($170). This has got it all, including ceramide.  Skin Nutrition's philosophy is that skin cells are complex things made up of phospholipids, proteins (enzymes, oligopeptides, amino acids, growth factors), oligosaccharides, oxygen, vitamins and minerals. And so, therefore, is Cell CPR with a whopping 70 or so ingredients. Cell CPR has been a favorite of mine for more than three years now. Read the full review.

Medik8 Eyelift ($70 in the shop). Medik8 Pretox is one of the few eye creams to promise that it will diminish dark circles and reduce puffy eyes that actually works. A great eye cream with ceramide 2. Read the full review.

See our Five Best with Ceramides, and check out our full list of products with ceramides

See all our Five Best recommendations, including Five Best for Sagging Skin and Five Best with Copper Peptides and Five Best Eye Serums

Read about Dr Oz's Anti-Aging Lotions To Fight Wrinkles and Dr Oz's Anti-Aging Pills for Younger Skin

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  • May 7, 2017

    by Nancy

    I am only 53 years old I am so depressed I hate wrinkles I want to just tear my skin I care for my skin so many times I thought about peeling my skin just the wrinkles off my face I tried everything don't work I got to do something I look so ugly right now

  • August 15, 2016

    by Nancy

    Ruthless billing practices. I no longer care if the product is good.

  • May 4, 2016

    by Sylvia

    Note that the paper represented in comments below as an "FDA Report" on the safety and efficacy of ceramide supplements is not, in fact, a report published by the FDA. It is a letter submitted to the FDA by a product manufacturer, and thus can be found in the FDA dockets. It merely cites previously published studies and materials. While it has a lot of background information implying that ceramide supplements should work, it has a few sentences about actual an actual study on human studies, and those statements claim success without citing actual data.

  • April 23, 2016

    by sharon park

    received this cream, box only---no information as to what it was. Did a survey for a company offering this free. No mention of a trial offer etc.etc. Reviewed ingreidents which started with water. out it went .along with 2nd bottle. No idea of how to reach company...Today i found charges and a tel.# Called, 1st rep. very nice but kept insisting I had to pay for it. Finally conceded to remove 2 months charges. I INSISTED all charges be removed. After speaking w/floor super, Ian, he stated all charges w/b removed.3 chgs. of $94.74 plus $99.69, I will closely follow up on my credit card. Ian, dismissed me when i had add. ????? Rude hung up on me. Gave me a confirmation #3368405 No one could tell me how I ordered this, they d/n have me on file by name or tel #... Be aware of this company... It may be good cream but their methods are dispictible

  • March 2, 2016

    by gillian

    I am not interested in whether this product works but in the business practices of the company. I signed up for what I thought was a 30 day trial. the box arrived with no packing slip so no phone number to cancel. I was billed for shipping 1/29/16. a few weeks later I had a phone call to ask how the cream was working and I asked them to cancel and not bill me.2/16/16 I was billed $94.74 on my visa card and have since called the number listed on my visa. cancelled the account but they are unable to refund my money and hung up on me, dismissing my request of a refund.
    Any body else have a problem like this

  • February 8, 2016

    by Emily Jones

    @Samantha. Yes it helps, i have tried it like 3 years ago and i’m still using it. remember that you can no expect any miracles when you are ageing, especially don’t trust any creams, serums etc. You need solve the problem from inside, not outside. This is one of a few things that helps and trust me I've tried millions of them because i need to look good/young for my job. And the brand you are talking about is great i’m using the same. It is expensive, but quality products are not cheap and this is your beauty and health we are talking about so don’t be cheap.

  • November 5, 2015

    by Samantha

    I'm a 32-year-old women, and already noticing forehead wrinkles and little lines beneath my eyes. I want to know what my real options are. This hurts me particularly because my beauty and especially my skin is really important for me (it is by far the part of me that I get the most physical compliments on). I think botox looks horrid and i reject it. I'm 32 for God's sake! I'm too young to be old! Has anyone here heard of this www.certifiedphytoceramides.com brand? Read a lot good reviews on the internet. Does it really help?

  • August 15, 2015

    by Lisa

    Phytoceramide supplements, lipowheat, 350 mg, DEFINITELY plump the skin, easing fine lines, & evens out tone. I have been taking them for 2 months & there absolutely IS an improvement in my skin & not just on my face but my chest as well. I highly recommend these supplements, got mine at pipingrock . com, & NO, I do NOT work for them. Also if you are interested in the FDA report here is a link.

    http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/95s0316/95s-0316-rpt0240-05-Udell-vol175.pdf

  • July 18, 2015

    by Jane

    I love this ceramide balm from sunnyqnyc.com it has many oils as well, even mink and emu oils. I like he fact that i don't have to reapply it every time i wash my hands, it is very water resistant.

  • February 25, 2015

    by Jennifer

    Here's what I found from the fda (on safety of these products), but the pdf articles also gives some good information about ceramides and claims. http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/95s0316/95s-0316-rpt0240-05-Udell-vol175.pdf

  • June 30, 2014

    by Jean

    I have to take warferin because of deep vein thrombosis and a pulmonary embolism. Has anyone heard of any contraindications of these two substances? I would appreciate an answer. I've tried to find this on the web but nothing at all. Thanks in anticipation :)

  • April 29, 2014

    by Shirley

    As a person who has very flaky dry skin and adult atopic eczema... I have personally purchased the active ingredient I think you can buy 'skin identical' ceramide complex from makingcosmetics.com.

    I have used the active ingredient mixed it in with acqeous lotion. It does work on my skin but it can also be easily irritating if my skin is having a bad day.

    It makes it a bit smoother. I definitely think for people with mild eczema it is way better than sorbolene and the usual lot.

    This was my personal experience. I have also found skin peptide to be very handy. Hydrolyzed skin peptide can be purchased online. A whole bag of ingredients are very cheap but you have to be careful how much you put in. I woke up with a bed of flaky 'extra' skin. If you look into some scientific research silk peptide is used for burns victims. Its very powerful and also cheap to buy and you can also mix it with lotion base. I wouldn't bother spending hundreds of dollars when you can buy the ingredient for 30 bucks and it would last the whole year.

  • April 27, 2014

    by David

    To quote: " there is research on this. In a Japanese study, eight people's eyelids were treated with a ceramide gel for four weeks with the result that “water content of eyelid skin was significantly increased after treatment.”
    Wow! In-depth study! EIGHT people!
    What sort of research is this? What does it prove?

  • April 13, 2014

    by eliot

    I'm a skeptic on almost everything. This is no different.
    Research studies from independence is where I look.
    Phytoceramides predominantly affect nerve and brain tissue and help send the signal of death to a cell. Phytoceramides also determine the type of death that will occur. Apoptosis is part of normal cell death as a generative factor. My understanding is that if a cell is "ordered to die" it will be replaced with a new one.
    Senescence is the other alternative: growth to old age and death. Phytoceramides might interrupt this and force apoptosis instead of senescence. At least that's my understanding or the research that I obtained from a university library.

  • November 11, 2013

    by j

    And no one said anything about the study being done on her product. You agreed the comments should be read more carefully, yet once again you posted something that was not an issue in these comments. No one challenged anyone's credentials, and no one questioned whether the study was done on shelly's product. I like this site for many reasons, but I especially like the 'truth' in 'truth in aging'. I appreciate that Marta insists on candor - no hidden agendas.

  • November 11, 2013

    by Karen

    For the TIA readers that ARE interested in gluten-free phytoceramide supplements, a quick google search produced the following:

    http://www.amazon.com/Phytoceramides-Clinical-superior-Moisturize-Naturally/dp/B00BQ82MD8

    http://aveyabeauty.com/phytoceramides-made-from-sweet-potatoes/

    http://www.devanutrition.com/ceramide_skin_support.html

    (DISCLAIMER: I HAVE NOT YET TRIED ANY OF THESE, NOR DO I HAVE ANY AFFILIATION WITH THE MANUFACTURERS)

  • November 11, 2013

    by Karen

    LOL I'm not trying to stir up any trouble at all! I'm trying to get the focus of the comments back on the rice-based phytoceramides, whereas you seem more interested in something else.

    I think we'll have to agree to disagree. And good luck to you too, J.

  • November 10, 2013

    by j

    You are clearly trying to stir up trouble here. The point is that even when shelly was asked directly if she was affiliated with the product she was promoting, she avoided the question. This is why Marta stepped in to ask that everyone be upfront about vested interests. That's it. Then you claimed shelly was somehow called out for having a vested interest. UNTRUE. She was asked to be upfront, as TIA is, about her vested interest. Therefore, when you called TIA disingenuous, you were INCORRECT. I don't really know what your point is, but good luck to you. If you want to talk about ceramides, perhaps you should just do that rather than misreading the comments and attacking TIA for something that was not done. To clarify, it is not that shelly has a vested interest, it's that she was not forthcoming about it. Good day.

  • November 9, 2013

    by Karen

    Hi J,

    I agree, perhaps the comments *should* be reread more carefully. I read that the study was done on a rice-based ceramide. The product from Shelly's company contains the same rice-based ceramide, in the same amount used in the study, plus vitamins. It's clear to me that the study was not done on her product.

    I'd rather focus on the content of her post, rather than quibble about *how* she posted.

  • November 9, 2013

    by j

    Can't we all be upfront about our vested interests? TIA is quite upfront about theirs. Perhaps the comments, which were made 2 months ago, need to be reread with more accuracy.

  • November 8, 2013

    by Karen

    Personally, I try to avoid products containing wheat-based and soy-based ingredients. So I appreciated Shelly's original comment that there might be another option for me when it comes to ceramides.

    As far as I can see, only By J challenged Shelly's credentials in this thread.

    And let's be fair, calling her out for having a vested interest is a bit disingenuous considering Truth In Aging sells products too, including their own line.

    Can't we all just get along?

    (and NO I do not have any connection to Shelly, her company, or her products!)

  • November 7, 2013

    by Shirley

    Just google any cosmetic online wholesalers e.g. www.makingcosmetics.com and buy a whole 60ml tube of ceramide complex for $35.

    The average amount of active ingredient is about 5-6%, mix it with a basic lotion and save your skin from all the preservatives, random chemicals. A 60ml bottle could make about 500-700ml of lotion. That's about $10 per jar of cream...

  • August 20, 2013

    by katherine

    here's my view; the phytoceramide capsules are around 20$ for a 30 day supply at the recommended dosage. why not give them a try since 2 plastic surgeons recommended it? i'm giving it 2 months to see a difference. everything you recomended in this article costs a lot and it seems to me that they can only go so far into the skin and how do you know if it really working vs. just plumping the skin ...which a lot of products do the same thing?

  • August 12, 2013

    by Marta

    Hi Shelly, information is information and we are happy to have it, even if it comes from someone with a vested interest. Our readers are just saying that it is best for everyone if those interests are declared up front.

  • August 12, 2013

    by Shelly

    I am not sure what that has to do with me leaving a comment? I was simply trying to let others know where to find a gluten free phytoceramide if they chose to try it. The article is about phytoceramides, is it not? There are other phytoceramides on the market that most people are aware of that are made of wheat. I was just trying to give them another alternative. If you would like, I could list the other companies that sell phytoceramides. Japan has been using phytoceramides for 20+ years, with great effect. The reason I developed the line was to give my clients another alternative to get hydration to the skin. I was only trying to help others. My apologies if I offended you by leaving my comment, that was not my intention.

  • August 11, 2013

    by j

    Now I understand, Shelley. You are the founder of the company selling the products on the website you gave. Why didn't you say that in the first place?

  • August 11, 2013

    by j

    I'm still not sure, Sherry, you are not trying to sell the line of products on the website you gave. The phytoceramide supplement also includes many vitamins, so even results from that taken alone could not necessarily be attributed to the phytoceramides. In any case, I wish you good luck.

  • August 11, 2013

    by Shelly

    Hello J. I am a licensed medical Aesthetician that has years of experience in the skin care field. I have literally seen thousands of clients and have used many different products over the years. I can honestly say that the line really does work. A lot of my clients are cancer survivors that have gone through chemo and radiation. The majority have chronic dryness and dehydration. There is only so much hydration that you can apply topically. Since introducing this phytoceramide into their regimen, their skin has become much more hydrated, smooth and plump. These results have not been clinically documented, but I can visually see a change in their skin. More importantly, they can see a change. Isn't that what it's all about? Helping people find their best skin?!!

  • August 9, 2013

    by j

    Thanks, Sherry. One experiment, 6 weeks, 33 participants avg age 25. They shouldn't title the page 'Clinical Studies' since there's only one. Have you used their products, or are you otherwise affiliated with this company?

  • August 9, 2013

    by Shelly

    Hi J. I see the trial specifics at the bottom of the page of the clinical studies tab.....

    The study says that the clinical trials were of just the 40 mg/day from Oryza ceramide.

  • August 8, 2013

    by j

    The website mentioned below shows graphs, but there is no information about who did the studies, when or where they were done, etc. Also, the product they offer also includes vitamins, so how can they claim the results are only from the phytoceramide?

  • July 7, 2013

    by Shelly

    If you want to see clinical studies that show phytoceramides work when you take them orally, please go to http://www.faceliftshop.com. They have a gluten free phytoceramide derived from rice and fortified with vitamins A, C, D and E. The clinical studies show the results of the skin after 3 and 6 weeks of use. The results are significant.

  • November 10, 2012

    by Toni

    CerVe PM facial lotion also contains ceramides and niacinimide and is only $12.99 at at your local drugstore! It's what my dermatologist recommends :)

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