Ceramides are lipids naturally found in high concentrations in the cells of the upper skin layers, and are essential for the proper function of healthy skin1. There are different types of ceramides which, together with cholesterol and free fatty acids, constitute the lipid matrix in which the upper skin cells are contained. This lipid matrix is an important barrier for the skin.
The lipid matrix is the only continuous pathway across the upper skin layers2, and is therefore also important for the penetration of topically applied therapeutics. Skin with insufficient levels of ceramides has an increased loss of water across the surface of the skin, and thus becomes dry with increased permeability to irritants and allergens which may worsen the disease symptoms1,4.
In psoriatic skin lesions, the synthesis of ceramides is impaired, which compromises the structure of the skin and leads to skin barrier dysfunction3 (meaning that water can more easily evaporate from the skin).
A recent study investigated the effects of a ceramide moisturiser that was used as an adjunctive therapy for plaque psoriasis for a period of 8 weeks. The results showed that the moisturiser containing ceramides was beneficial for psoriasis severity and area compared with the group that did not apply the ceramides. Further, with continued use over a year this group also showed less relapse and rebound compared with the control group5.
The concentration of an ingredient is important for its efficacy, and therefore products containing the same ingredient may not necessarily have the same effect as in the studies mentioned above.
Updated: July 2017