Phytoceramides, Explained: The Secret To Moisturized, Glowing Skin*
If you're the kind of person who stirs collagen into your morning coffee and spends their Saturday nights doing gua sha facial massages, you're going to want to know about phytoceramides. In fact, you're probably already using phytoceramides without even realizing it. Present in many popular face creams and serums, phytoceramides are a plant-derived fat molecule that mimics the skin's natural barrier functions to smooth and moisturize. But that's not the only way to use them: You can ingest them orally.
Looking for a youthful glow? Let's dive into how ceramides can help and the science behind adding phytoceramides to your beauty and supplement routine.*
What are ceramides?
A quick science lesson: 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.
If you think of the skin barrier as "bricks and mortar," ceramides are part of the mortar holding it all together—50%, in fact2. They play a huge role in keeping your skin moisturized, glowing, and youthful.* That is, of course, until they don't. If you want to get to the root of wrinkles and dry skin, look to the loss of ceramides.
As we age, we naturally stop producing as many ceramides, compromising the skin barrier—and it shows. Without the glue to hold our skin together environmental toxins can get in and moisture can get out: yikes. Dry skin, irritation, and wrinkles1 can all be blamed on declining ceramides. Plus, many other skin-related issues3 have been linked to low ceramide levels.
What are phytoceramides?
This is where phytoceramides come in. Phytoceramides are ceramides derived from plants4. ("Phyto" means plants.) They have a similar lipid structure to the ceramides found in our skin and may help replenish ceramide stores.*
There are two ways to get phytoceramides: Topical and via oral supplementation.
Ceramides a very popular ingredient in skin care items, specifically in creams and serums. They are in the form of phytoceramides (which are extracted from several types of botanicals including corn, oats, and wheat) or synthetic. If you prefer natural origins only, just look for how the ceramides were sourced (usually they'll tell you if they come from natural origin). Otherwise, you can find safe, clean, modern, synthetic options too.
In addition, you should be snagging your phytoceramides from supplements for optimal benefits.* Phytoceramides are common ingredient in beauty supplements, as they play such an important role in skin health. Research indicates that when used consistently, they can keep your skin hydrated long term by naturally supporting stores from the inside out.*
Additionally, wheat, rice, and eggs5 are all dietary sources of ceramides and their precursor, sphingolipids, but ceramides are poorly absorbed in general digestion. If you want more info how getting ceramides through your diet, check out our list beelow.
What are the benefits of phytoceramides?
Since ceramides themselves are such an important part of your skin structure, adding phytoceramides to your routine seems like a natural next step. And here's the thing: there's actually a ton of science behind these plant-derived skin savers.*
Our skin's natural ceramides are all about keeping moisture in. Their primary role in skin barrier function is to guard against water loss6. (So, it's no wonder cosmetic companies pump phytoceramides into their hydrating topical formulas.) Adding phytoceramides to your skin care routine does seem to have promising skin-quenching benefits7.* In one small study, women who applied phytoceramides to their legs for three weeks saw improved skin hydration8.*
However, popping a phytoceramide supplement seems to be the way to go when it comes to really maximizing systemic moisturizing benefits.* 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 hydration9.*
And you might not even have to wait that long for results; in a study of Ceramosides®, a specific brand of phytoceramides made in France, participants saw improved skin hydration after just 15 days10.* Whether you're looking to combat already dehydrated skin or be proactive against dryness, consider adding phytoceramides to your skin care arsenal.*
Fighting wrinkles is all about being proactive and helping your skin's integrity. As board-certified dermatologist Kiera Barr, M.D., explains, "Ninety percent of visible aging is due to sun exposure, with air pollution, smoking, and stress being close seconds." And when it comes to managing all those skin stressors, you'll want to strengthen skin from within.
The healthy aging powers of phytoceramides, and specifically the brand Ceramosides®, have been borne out in studies, showing improved skin smoothness and elasticity10 in just weeks.* Of course, phytoceramides are not a magical fountain of youth, and wrinkles are a natural part of aging. But keeping your skin healthy and hydrated can certainly give you a youthful glow.
Protects your skin barrier
Your skin barrier function is a vital thing to protect. When it's compromised, it's more susceptible to water loss and irritation from external aggressors. This creates a host of problems. A robust skin barrier "protects us from mechanical injury, low humidity, cold, heat, sun, wind, chemical exposure, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens," explains board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., stating that, "a healthy barrier is critical to normal skin function."
Ceramides are the first line of defense against harmful environmental toxins, protecting your skin from damage.* Supporting your ceramides with phytoceramide supplements can reinforcing that barrier from the inside.*
RELATED: Everything You Need To Know About A Damaged Skin Barrier
Foods with phytoceramides and ceramides
If you're only interested in getting your ceramides via food sources, here's the best places to find sphingolipids, which can then be turned into ceramides in the body:
- Brown rice
How much should I take or use?
There are no specific recommended doses for how much phytoceramides you should be getting. So when you think about much you should consume, it should be viewed from a results-forward approach. For the skin specifically, most of the research indicates using 11 to 70 mg per day10 to in order see results.
Topically, there's really no limit to what you can apply as long as your skin agrees with the cream or serum.
Cautions & side effects
There are few cautions associated with taking phytoceramides for healthy folks, unless you are personally sensitive to the ingredient or the source. However you should always consult with your health practitioner if you have concerns before starting a supplement routine.
What is the best source of phytoceramides?
You can get phytoceramides in your diet, via supplements, or topically. Research shows that supplementation is the most effective way to replenish your internal supply, but there are many benefits of using them topically for improved barrier function as well. In foods, look for soy, dairy, oats, and wheat germ.
Do phytoceramides have side effects?
There are few cautions associated with taking phytoceramides for healthy folks, unless you are personally sensitive to the ingredient or the source. However you should always consult with your health practitioner if you have concerns before starting a supplement routine. However, taking them is often associated with several positive side effects, such as more hydrated skin.*
How long do phytoceramides take to work?
To see skin care results, supplementing with phytoceramides can take as little as 15 days, with even greater benefits seen after 8 weeks.*
Ceramides are an essential part of your skin structure, and are fairly easy to incorporate to your internal and external skin care routine. Look for supplements with them,* as well as topicals. Your skin will thank you, now and long-term. Want more ways to keep your skin hydrated and skin barrier healthy? Look no further than our guide to the skin barrier function.
Darcy McDonough, M.S., is the Senior Manager, SEO & Content Strategy at mindbodygreen. She holds a master’s degree in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She has previously worked in nutrition communications for Joy Bauer, the nutrition and health expert for NBC’s TODAY Show.
McDonough has developed & lead nutrition education programming in schools. She’s covered a wide range of topics as a health & nutrition reporter from the rise in the use of psychedelics for depression to the frustrating trend in shorter doctors' appointments and the connection between diet and disease.