Everything You Need To Know About Ceramides In Skincare

Meet the skin-soothing ingredient that dermatologists swear by.

A woman with glowing skin applying cream on both cheeks and smiling.

(Photo: iStock)

You may not have heard of them until recently, but there aren’t many skincare ingredients that are more hydrating—or more beloved by dermatologists—than ceramides. Essential to healthy skin and key to banishing dryness all year round, ceramides are a type of lipids that are naturally produced by skin. Though they have been flying under the radar in your favourite formulas for years, ceramides have recently gained well-deserved notoriety in the skincare world thanks to their ability to soothe, hydrate and strengthen the skin barrier. We asked two dermatologists to share their best advice on incorporating this ultra-nourishing ingredient into your skincare routine.

What are ceramides?

“Ceramides are lipids [fatty acids] found in the skin, and they are critical to a healthy skin barrier,” says Dr. Geeta Yadav, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology in Toronto. Found in the outermost layer of the skin (the epidermis), they act as the mortar, so to speak, between the bricks of the skin cells. Their job is to form a protective barrier that prevents moisture from escaping, while also stopping hazards—like bacteria and pollution—from getting in, explains Yadav. 

Are there different types of ceramides?

Dr. Alia Bosworth, a dual-certified medical and cosmetic dermatologist at Luma Clinic in Halifax, notes that there are nine types of ceramides commonly used in skincare. On an ingredient list, they will be listed as ‘ceramide,’ followed by a number or letter initial (like ceramide 2 or ceramide AP, for example); these numbers and letters refer to the type and structure of the ceramide. (While each type has a slightly different purpose, all forms of ceramides help nourish the skin and strengthen its barrier.)

There’s no guesswork when it comes to finding skincare products formulated with ceramides. When scanning an ingredient list, simply look for ceramides—no matter the type, your skin will thank you. Now that the ingredient is trending, many brands advertise it prominently on their packaging and in the name of their products. 

Who can benefit from using ceramides in skincare?

Ceramides are considered one of the pillars of an effective skincare routine for all skin types, not just those who suffer from dryness. “Everyone can benefit from ceramides in their skincare,” says Bosworth. While using them on dry, easily irritated skin is a no-brainer, even those who are blemish-prone can use the ingredient to keep skin supple and nourished. Using ceramides is especially important if you regularly use exfoliating acids, such as salicylic or glycolic acid, to keep oily skin in check as they will help ensure the skin barrier doesn’t become compromised over time.

Moreover, just like levels of hyaluronic acid and collagen diminish as we age, so do levels of ceramides—hence the importance of using a skincare product that contains them. Ceramides dwindle even further in people who have certain skin conditions, such as chronic dryness, psoriasis and eczema. These all-important lipids can also become depleted by dry weather, over-exfoliation and other external factors, such as hot showers and sun exposure. When levels drop, the skin’s protective layer starts letting irritants and allergens in. “That inflammation in the skin can also further impair the production of ceramides,” says Bosworth. 

How do you incorporate ceramides into a skincare routine?

“Ceramides can be used as often as you’d like,” says Yadav. To start, try incorporating a ceramides-rich product in your skincare routine at least once a day. They are an excellent addition to any skincare routine year-round, but Yadav finds ceramides especially effective to combat dry winter skin.

The ingredient can be found in an array of skincare products⁠—from oils and serums to rich creams⁠—that can be applied to dry or damp skin. If you’re using a body cream with ceramides, Bosworth recommends moisturizing immediately after towelling off. This will help lock in extra moisture and make the skin barrier stronger, which can make a significant difference in preventing dryness and eczema flare-ups, she says. 

What skincare ingredients can you pair with ceramides?

Ceramides layer well with just about every active ingredient. To ramp up their replenishing properties, Yadav and Bosworth recommend pairing your go-to ceramide products with hyaluronic acid as they work together to boost hydration levels. “Hyaluronic acid draws water from the air into the skin, while ceramides prevent that water from escaping,” Yadav explains. 

Ceramides also pair particularly well with retinol—a notoriously harsh ingredient—to counteract potential irritation, adds Bosworth. Simply layer on a ceramides-rich cream over your retinol to reap the skin-soothing benefits.

Shop our favourite ceramides-packed skincare products below. (Trust us, your skin barrier will thank you.)

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

Yadav and Bosworth are both fans of this rich, non-greasy cream that stars three types of ceramides as well as hyaluronic acid.


Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Cream-Infused Mask

Pop on this mask when your skin is feeling tight and you’ll be instantly soothed. Infused with ceramide NP (known to help with water retention) and a barrier comfort complex, it delivers over 24 hours of hydration.


Supergoop Daily Dose Hydrating-Ceramide Boost SPF 40

This innovative oil marries sun protection with skin barrier protection. With its blend of squalane, jojoba and ceramides, its lightweight formula locks in moisture without leaving skin feeling slick.


Tata Harper Superkind Bio-Shield Face Oil

Containing oat ceramides and plant-derived omega fatty acids—along with a hefty list of other skin-soothers like reishi mushroom—this oil is like a tall glass of water for dry, irritated skin. 


Boscia Plant Stem Cell and Ceramide Barrier-Defense Moisturizer

A trio of ceramides, essential fatty acids and stem cells make this daily moisturizer a must-try for winter. Skin is left feeling plump, restored and protected.


Caudalie Premier Cru The Rich Cream

The beloved French brand’s latest launch is all about maximizing moisture. Formulated around their bio-tech ceramides—which mimic the lipids produced by skin—this luxurious cream combats dehydration while replenishing the skin barrier. 


The Inkey List Ceramide Night Treatment

Specifically created for dehydrated skin, layer on this overnight treatment—a blend of ceramides, glycerin and hyaluronic acid—for the ultimate beauty sleep.


Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Cream

A fan favourite for a reason, this super rich cream fortifies the moisture barrier with ceramides and sugarcane-derived squalane to fight dry, flaky skin.


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