Ceramides, a type of lipid naturally produced in young skin, form the ‘mortar’ that helps bond skin cells together to form a protective barrier and seal in moisture.
Unfortunately, as age and other factors diminish the skin’s ability to make ceramides, we’re left with dryer skin, more susceptible to inflammation and infection. But nutrient researchers have now developed a way to replenish the skin’s ceramide supplies in supplement form. And studies are providing encouraging reports on this little known nutrient's ability to promote more supple, healthy-looking skin - from the inside-out.
Causes of Dry, Compromised Skin
Aging is not the only reason we may have problems with dry skin. Other factors that contribute to the flaking, cracked, reddened or itching signs of dry skin include:
• Medications – A number of medications have the side effect of drying the skin.
• Medical conditions – Some medical conditions like hypothyroidism and diabetes can cause dry skin, and a majority of people with fibromyalgia, for example, are especially vulnerable to dry skin problems.
• Skin conditions – Dry skin is a feature of psoriasis, eczema and other forms of dermatitis.
• Dry air/heat – Arid climates and indoor heating and air conditioning systems are major contributers to dry skin.
• Bathing practices – Taking long, hot showers or baths and/or using harsh soaps can wash away the natural oils that protect your skin.
Regardless of the cause, studies show that ceramide supplementation can actually restore moisture to and significantly improve dry skin.
What Are Ceramides?
Ceramides are natural lipids (fats) that can be found throughout the body – in the blood, spinal cord, brain and nerve tissue – but they are most prevalent on the skin's surface. It is there that they perform some of their most important functions:
• Creating a barrier to protect the body from infection.
• Fending off environmental assaults to the body.
• Retaining moisture in the skin.
How Ceramides Work
Our skin consists of three levels. The outermost level, the epidermis, has five distinct layers. New skin cells are created at the deepest level of the epidermis. Then, over a period of about four weeks, they migrate up to the top layer, called the stratum corneum.
Interestingly, once these new cells reach the stratum corneum, most of them are technically dead. At this point, they are transformed into what has been described as protein-rich “bricks.”
The “mortar” that holds these “bricks” together consists of several different lipids - 35% to 40% of which are ceramides.
Just as the brick walls on the outside of a building protect the contents from the environment, the “brick wall” which is our skin acts as a barrier, holding in moisture and protecting the rest of the body from outside elements.
All is well as long as our “brick wall” stays intact. However, aging and environmental influences can cause a reduction in ceramides, which loosens our “mortar” and makes it permeable. Once our “brick wall” has been compromised, we are more susceptible to dry skin, wrinkles and a variety of skin conditions.
Oral vs. Topical Ceramides
Because of the moisture-retaining properties of ceramides, Western cosmetic companies have been formulating and marketing topical skin care products containing ceramides for wrinkles and dry skin since the early 1990s.
At about the same time, on the other side of the world, Japanese nutraceutical firms were developing ways to deliver ceramides orally - through food, beverages, and in capsule form. Only recently has the West begun to recognize the benefits of supplementing ceramides orally.
Since ceramides benefit the skin, it would seem logical that they be applied topically. However, recent research suggests that taking ceramides orally can be more effective.
It's true that the topical application of ceramide-based skin care products can help moisturize skin and reduce fine lines and wrinkles, but the effect is only temporary. Oral supplementation with ceramides, on the other hand, works from the inside out, delivering ceramides to the stratum corneum via the bloodstream for longer lasting moisture retention.
Where Do Ceramide Supplements Come From?
Surprisingly, the ceramides that youthful skin produces naturally are identical to those found in wheat.
However, you couldn't eat enough wheat products to provide adequate amounts of ceramides; and applying wheat germ oil topically doesn't have a long-term impact on your skin. That's where wheat-based oral supplements come in.
New Lipowheat™ is a proprietary ceramide blend of skin-nourishing oils that provides nutritional support for dry and aging skin.
Lipowheat’s ceramides are derived by new ‘mild extraction’ technology from wheat that has not been genetically modified. Importantly, the ceramides are derived from the whole wheat grain, so are very different from wheat germ oil, which contains only lipids from the germ. Lipowheat’s bioactive ceramides are readily absorbed into the bloodstream for use in the body’s skin-building process.
The Proof Is in the Research
A growing number of studies demonstrate the restorative benefits these wheat-derived ceramides provide for the skin.
A two-part French study published in 2007 reported some impressive results.(1)
A four-week, placebo controlled pilot study using a proprietary ceramide-rich lipid blend made from wheat was conducted to determine the formula's tolerability and clinical efficacy. Subjects in the treatment group were given 80 mg per day of the wheat lipid complex.
At the end of the study, 65% of participants in the treatment group experienced an increase in skin moisture compared to only 45% of the placebo group. Given that it takes approximately four weeks for new skin cells to migrate to the stratum corneum, and this study was only four weeks long, the researchers considered the improvements seen to be very promising.
In a 90-day, placebo controlled study, participants were recruited who had chronically dry skin, some of whom also suffered from chronic itching. Those in the treatment group were given 200 mg per day of the same wheat lipid complex used in the pilot study. The results were quite impressive.
• 95% of the treatment group showed improvement as determined by an electrical assessment of skin hydration, while there was no statistically significant change in the placebo group.
• All of the participants who previously had a problem with chronic itching reported a sharp decrease in or complete elimination of the itching.
• There was a significant reduction in the number of flaking patches of skin in the treatment group compared to the placebo group as assessed by dermatological evaluation.
• Upon further examination of subsets from both groups, levels of protective lipids increased in leg tissue samples from the treatment group but there was no statistically significant change in the placebo group.
In a 2011 double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study:
51 women between the ages of 20 and 63 with dry to very dry skin were given either 350 mg of a proprietary wheat-derived lipid extract containing ceramides or a placebo for three months. At the end of the study, skin hydration was significantly increased in the treatment group compared to the placebo group. And skin dryness and redness were also reduced in the treatment group.(2)
Dosage: The suggested dose is one 350mg liquid capsule daily taken with food.
Note: Based on clinical trials and the fact that it takes about a month for new skin cells to reach the top layer of skin, allow one to three months for noticeable improvement in skin hydration.
Contraindications: Because Skin Restoring Ceramides with Lipowheat contains wheat, it is not recommended for individuals with celiac disease.
Ceramides, naturally produced in young skin, help bond skin cells together to form a protective barrier and seal in moisture. Aging and other factors can cause a reduction in ceramides, breaking down that natural barrier and resulting in dry, flaky skin. Ceramide supplementation can help restore skin hydration and provides nutritional support for dry and aging skin.
* Supplement research writer Karen Lee Richards is the Lead Expert specializing in Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS for HealthCentral’s ChronicPainConnection. Karen is co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) and was Executive Editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE magazine for four years.
1. Boisnic S, Branchet M-C. "Interet clinique d’un ingredient alimentaire a visee hydratante: Lipowheat™. Etude randomisee en double aveugle versus placebo." J Med Esth et Chir Derm. 2007 Dec; 34(136):239-42.
2. Guillou S, Ghabri S, Jannot C, Gaillard E, Lamour I, Boisnic S. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20646083 Int J Cosmet Sci. 2011 Apr;33(2):138-43.
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is general information and is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any illness, condition or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.