Ceramides are a family of waxy lipid molecules, important in maintaining proper skin protection and increasing the barrier of the lipid membranes. The word ceramide comes from the Latin cera (wax) and amide (measuring ).
A Ceramide is composed of Sphingosine and fatty acids. Ceramides are naturally occurring, long chains of skin lipids (fats) that are a major structural component of the skin’s outer layers. Ceramides form a water-proofing barrier in the upper layers of skin. They help the skin retain water as well as repair the skin’s natural barrier and regulate cell proliferation. Ceramide production diminishes with age which can result in dry skin, wrinkles and even some types of dermatitis.
The skin barrier function is provided by the stratum corneum (SC). The lipids in the stratum corneum are composed of three lipid classes: ceramides (CERs), cholesterol (CHOL) and free fatty acids (FFAs) which form two crystalline lamellar structures.
Scientists are uncovering the important role that ceramides play in the barrier function of the skin. The top layer of the skin is the epidermis, and the top layer of the epidermis is the stratum corneum (SC). Even though the SC is very thin -10-30 mm or one-tenth the thickness of a piece of paper - it is the main barrier of the skin. It keeps chemicals that come in contact with the skin from absorbing into the body, and it keeps water inside the skin from leaching out.
The stratum corneum contains three types of lipids: ceramides, cholesterol and free fatty acids. These lipids have different chemical compositions and different functions throughout the body. There are nine different types of ceramides in the SC, conveniently named ceramide 1 through ceramide 9, and they account for 40-50% of the lipids in this outermost layer.
Scientists have learned that people who have eczema have significantly fewer ceramides in their stratum corneum.
On the other hand, people with psoriasis (another itchy, flaky rash sometimes confused with eczema) have the same number of ceramides compared to people with normal skin. However, the psoriasis-sufferers have less ceramide 1, 3, 4, and a sub-set of 5 and 6; and more ceramide 2 and another sub-set of 5.
Recent studies have shown that lipids can be replaced with topical preparations. Interestingly, all three lipids have to be replaced at a certain ratio to restore the barrier function of the skin.
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Skin Management System by Dr. Strauss
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