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How Phytoceramides Can Help Support Your Skin Barrier In The Cold & Winter

Woman taking care of her skin
Image by OHLAMOUR STUDIO / Stocksy
November 17, 2020

Let's talk about your skin barrier for a quick moment, shall we? Your skin, as an organ, has a few key functions. And perhaps the most important is that it acts as a barrier: trapping moisture and all the other good stuff in, keeping out environmental aggressors and irritants. Your barrier can be weakened or compromised, however. This makes skin dryer, more sensitive, and can trigger inflammatory skin conditions like eczema. 

Your barrier becomes compromised for a laundry list of reasons—some in your control, some totally outside of it. One of those reasons is the weather and environment that you live in: Cold, dry, arid weather can weaken your skin barrier function.

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So during this time of year, it is of the utmost importance to do all that you can do to remedy and support your skin barrier. But how? Don't worry; we've got you covered.

How to support your skin barrier in the winter.

With winter comes dry air, cold winds, and indoor heating systems. This sort of environment contributes to the increase of something called transepidermal moisture loss (or when water literally evaporates out from your skin—not cool!). Essentially what happens is that when humidity drops, your skin loses water to the outside easier. 

How can we stop this from happening? Well, you need to focus your skin care attention on your ceramides.

Ceramides are polar lipids, key lipids that are naturally present in our skin cells1. They make up the barrier between the outside environment and our body, locking in moisture and protecting our skin from damage. In fact, board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., once told us that "ceramides are thought to be the most important component for maintaining barrier function" as they are one of the very building blocks of our skin cells. If you think of the skin barrier as "bricks and mortar," ceramides are part of the mortar holding it all together. If the mortar degrades with cracks and openings, then water will slip out and all sorts of things can make their way in and wreak havoc. Thus, they play a huge role in keeping your skin moisturized, glowing, and youthful as their primary role in skin barrier function is to guard against water loss2.  

Ceramides, like most things present in our skin, can become depleted over time with age and through external aggressors. The best way to help replenish these naturally is through supplementation with phytoceramides or plant-derived versions. 

In one study, participants with clinically dry skin who took a phytoceramide-rich wheat extract oil for three months saw up to a 35% improvement in skin hydration3.* And you might not even have to wait that long for results; in another study, participants saw improved skin hydration after just 15 days4.* Whether you're looking to combat already scaly skin or guard against winter dryness, consider adding phytoceramides to your skin care arsenal

But do take note: This does not mean you should skip the external hydration. Moisturizers are important for every skin type in every environment, but if you are able to help your skin internally, it just means that the external has an easier time doing its job. 

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The takeaway. 

Your skin barrier function loses some of its oomph in the winter, as the low humidity means water more easily evaporates into the air. You can help maintain this process with phytoceramides, or plant-derived ceramides that help enhance your skin barrier.


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Alexandra Engler
Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director

Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.