The icy winds and drop in temperature that announce winter is on its way can be challenging to both our skin and our mood.
Most of the time we are not aware of the metabolic changes in our bodies, often too busy to notice them. Yet we are constantly tuned in to the earth, the sun and the moon, and right now, with the position of the earth in the sky, and of course the many electromagnetic frequencies that hit us from the deepest parts of the universe, our system, which is trying to adapt to these changes, is being quietly impacted on all sides.
As in mammals, plants and trees, our metabolism slows down at this time of year, and we suddenly crave earthy and warming food, mainly carbohydrates and roots. Our lifestyle changes, pushing us ‘in’ rather than ‘out’, as the evenings grow shorter.
As with our mind, body and soul, our skin too reflects these changes, producing more fat to repair and protect us from the onslaught of the elements.
What are ceramides, and do we need to keep them healthy?
Our skin has different fats on its surface resulting from sebaceous gland secretions (sebum). These fats protect the skin, through its acidic pH value, from viruses, bacteria and fungi and help to keep it moist, elastic and supple by reducing loss of water from the skin.
Alongside this family of fats, there is another group of fats – the ceramides. The etymology of this word comes from the Latin ‘cera’, or wax.
Ceramides are lipids that help form the skin’s barrier and help skin retain moisture. Without the right ratio of ceramides, the skin’s barrier can become dry, itchy and irritated.
A ceramide is composed of the compound sphingosine and a fatty acid. Ceramides are found in high concentrations within the cell membrane, where they act as ‘cement’ between cells, holding the epithelial (or epidermal) cells, which form the skin’s uppermost layer, together. In fact, in the top layer of the skin, ceramides, with their ability to link water and fat, form a protective layer or ‘barrier effect’ that plumps the skin and restores moisture.
Ceramides play an important role in protecting and repairing the skin from external aggressors, especially from the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UVB).
With ageing, the skin loses its youthful moisture content and smoothness due to a reduction of ceramides in the epithelium, often leading to inflammation, dryness and desquamation (shedding of the outermost cells) of the skin.
In a specific skin condition called atopic dermatitis, for example, for some who are genetically predisposed the epidermal cells are more fragile and there is less ceramide content: the skin’s internal water content easily evaporates, making the skin more permeable and consequently dry and cracked.
Without a solid protective barrier, it is also easier for viruses, bacteria and fungi to get through, and the skin can be prone to sensitivity, allergies, infection and local toxicity.
Ceramides are also present inside the hair cuticle: they act as a glue to keep our hair flattened as opposed to raised, and are why the hair is shiny, soft and elastic. A lack of ceramides would make hair fragile, opaque and dry.
Ceramides also act as messengers: they are able to send out signals to influence and regulate the differentiation and proliferation of the epithelial cells, especially in the skin’s epidermis.
To summarise, the fascinating family of ceramides have the following actions:
. emollient (soothing), decongestant and anti-inflammatory
. protective against elemental and ultraviolet aggression by improving the skin’s outermost hydrolipidic barrier, thus slowing down premature skin ageing
. restoring by enhancing the skin’s moisturising activity and promoting healing, thus improving skin elasticity
Where to find ceramides
Nature, an endless source of precious gifts, gives us many ways to obtain necessary ceramides; in fact, we can find them in most vegetable oils and waxes, especially when they are organic and cold-pressed. In particular, jojoba oil, sunflower oil and beeswax are rich in ceramides.
Ceramides are essential ingredients in skincare products, to replenish the natural lipids that are lost from exposure to harsh environmental factors. Oil-based skincare is the best source of ceramides.
With the understanding that each plant oil has a distinct composition that uniquely interacts with the human body, I have formulated a base oil blend to mirror the properties of our own skin that is packed with all the allies the skin needs in order to be healthy and happy. Ceramides are an integral part of Inlight Beauty formulas, and contribute to mitigate the premature ageing of the skin by keeping it well hydrated, elastic, smooth and young-looking.
It’s the law of similarity: if we align ourselves to it, we can regain our beauty and our harmony.