Ceramide (Ceramides)

 "Ceramides are the major lipid constituent of lamellar sheets present in the intercellular spaces of the stratum corneum. These lamellar sheets are thought to provide the barrier property of the epidermis. It is generally accepted that the intercellular lipid domain is composed of approximately equimolar concentrations of free fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides. Ceramides are a structurally heterogeneous and complex group of sphingolipids containing derivatives of sphingosine bases in amide linkage with a variety of fatty acids. Differences in chain length, type and extent of hydroxylation, saturation etc. are responsible for the heterogeneity of the epidermal sphingolipids. It is well known that ceramides play an essential role in structuring and maintaining the water permeability barrier function of the skin. In conjunction with the other stratum corneum lipids, they form ordered structures. An essential factor is the physical state of the lipid chains in the nonpolar regions of the bilayers. The stratum corneum intercellular lipid lamellae, the aliphatic chains in the ceramides and the fatty acids are mostly straight long-chain saturated compounds with a high melting point and a small polar head group. This means that at physiological temperatures, the lipid chains are mostly in a solid crystalline or gel state, which exhibits low lateral diffusional properties and is less permeable than the state of liquid crystalline membranes, which are present at higher temperatures. The link between skin disorders and changes in barrier lipid composition, especially in ceramides, is difficult to prove because of the many variables involved. However, most skin disorders that have a diminished barrier function present a decrease in total ceramide content with some differences in the ceramide pattern. Formulations containing lipids identical to those in skin and, in particular, some ceramide supplementation could improve disturbed skin conditions. Incomplete lipid mixtures yield abnormal lamellar body contents, and disorder intercellular lamellae, whereas complete lipid mixtures result in normal lamellar bodies and intercellular bilayers. The utilization of physiological lipids according to these parameters have potential as new forms of topical therapy for dermatoses. An alternative strategy to improving barrier function by topical application of the various mature lipid species is to enhance the natural lipid-synthetic capability of the epidermis through the topical delivery of lipid precursors." (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12553851)
Ceramides are a major component of our skin's surface. They protect against moisture loss to keep skin youthful and supple, support the skin's matrix, keeping it firm. With age, ceramide production declines, and skin begins to sag and wrinkle.
Scientific research found a way to extract ceramides from plants. Research has shown that ceramides derived from plant inhibit the elastase enzymes that destroy the skin's elastin, thus improving skin flexibility and decreasing wrinkling. Natural ceramides provide continuous maintenance for skin and allow it to sustain its healthy protective function and vital moisture.
Applying ceramides topically produces smoother and more youthful skin free of the itching and flaking.
Natural aging results in loss of ceramides in the skin, thus thinning of the skin's outer layer, which weakens the skin's moisture-retention properties.
Laboratory research reveals some improvement to skin's moisture barrier function when lipids, including ceramides are applied directly to skin.
Several laboratory studies demonstrated that natural ceramides could hydrate and restore youthful structure to human skin after being subjected to disruption of its protective barrier function.
The skin 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 skin, 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 skin. 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. If the incorrect balance of lipids is applied, it actually takes longer for the skin to heal. The healing effect of ceramides has been studied in eczema.

Disclaimer: The information presented herein  is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

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