You may have heard derms recommend products that contain ceramides for folks with dry skin—it’s common skincare advice, especially for cold winter months. But what exactly are ceramides and why are they such a big deal?

Ceramides are lipids (fats) naturally found in the skin that keep our skin barrier in tip-top shape. “They are an integral part of normal skin oil, called sebum, which is a complex mixture of fatty acids, ceramides, phytosphingosine, cholesterol (yes, cholesterol), and vitamins E and D,” says Dr. Arthur Perry, a high-profile plastic surgeon and founder of Dr. Perry skincare. “Our various types of lipids, along with the skin cells, form the skin barrier.” When our ceramide levels are ideal, skin is less susceptible to irritation and has healthy amounts of natural hydration. However, when skin is lacking in the ceramides department, it becomes weakened and reactive (redness, dryness and more).

Why You Need Them:
Ceramides are essential to keeping our skin barrier strong and transepidermal water loss (TEWL) at a minimum. Unfortunately, we expose our skin barrier with disruptive elements every day. “All sorts of toxins injure this barrier. The most common toxin is soap,” says Dr. Perry. Disruption can cause irritation and sensitivities, like psoriasis and atopic and contact dermatitis. Luckily, ceramides are found in numerous beauty products that help replenish moisture levels in skin and reboot skin barrier function. “Properly designed moisturizers, with ceramides, can help improve contact dermatitis and other skin conditions, such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis,” he adds.

Bonus: When our skin barrier is functioning properly, our skin looks better (more hydration=less fine lines and dullness). Though all skin types can benefit from ceramides (because they are a part of our natural skin makeup), irritated skin is especially in need of an extra dosage: In clinical studies, redness and TEWL were decreased by application of a ceramide cream. To give your skin barrier a needed boost, introduce these ceramide-rich formulas into your daily routine.

NUXE Serum Creme Fraiche® De Beaute, $44A 24-hour soothing and moisturizing serum.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Face Moisturizer, $22A luxurious, nourishing and quick-absorbing moisturizer that provides immediate hydration and a velvety soft finish.

Snowberry Cellular Regeneration Night Cream, $104, A reparative nighttime cream that stimulates and rejuvenates skin proteins, collagen and elastin.

LaRocca Firming Eye Cream, $90A premium multi-tasking eye treatment that helps energize the cells, lift, tighten, brighten and reduce puffiness.

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