Knowing Your Ingredients: Ceramides

As I sip on my Starbucks Iced Clover Coffee and inhale my Chocolate Brioche from one of my favorite bakeries, killing time before I hit up the Banana Republic 4th of July sale, I pass Trader Joes and remember “Oh Shoot, I need Rice Bran Oil!”

And that’s how this post begins…

What are Ceramides?
Digging in my gray matter, I remember from anatomy and physiology in college that ceramides are naturally occurring lipids (totally different from oils as lipids can penetrate cells because they are small enough) that are found in cell membranes. They are actually more wax-like than just a lipid alone. Ceramides have alot to do with the normal functions of a cell, cell death, cell adhesion and are especially important to our integumentary system. Why? Probably because the integumentary system is the largest system of our body, with tighter packed cells, so since more cells (with higher turnover rates) are found within this system, especially tightly packed together, its fitting more ceramides are found there too. Skin and hair are most suitable for this topic.

So why are Ceramides important?
Well, think about what I just said about ceramides. They have alot to do with the normal functions of the cell. They are also found in our integumentary system, the largest system of the body. Lets think, what is hair and skin exposed to everyday? Water, human manipulation and the natural environment. So ceramides can become depleted naturally or artificially. Naturally includes programmed bodily functions that we can delay, but not really stop or fully control. Artificially includes everything else.

Ceramides are typically found on the cell membrane, and cells are sometimes (depending on location) close together. Without getting too technical, ceramides perform alot of functions, but for the purpose of this post, it has adhesion functions.

Now with hair and skin, the visible cells are already dead, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the cells have no ceramides. It just means the cells are not functioning anymore. Hair and skin cells are programmed to essentially a) grow inside the body b) function inside the body c) uplift, die and protect the body externally while staying intact. But these cells still should stay hydrated so they don’t fall off too quickly and your not looking like an ear length prune in a nice outfit! Just because cells are dead doesn’t mean we have to look like Ashy Larry. I’m just saying.

So what does this mean for us?
Basically, while we still have ceramides in hair and skin cells, probably not a ton, because they do get recycled depending on the location, these cells do become naturally and artificially depleted of ceramides. We have to constantly replenish them and not only with a protein/moisture balance.

Now we are getting to the good stuff!
When I was first refreshed on ceramides, it was through Nadege from relaxedhairhealth.blogspot.com Hers was the first blog I ever read that got me to re-familiarize myself with ceramides. Afterwards, I noticed my hair was stronger. Then I got into the use of oils (not many, my hair is funny with oil) trying to get more natural ceramide usage between washes. Afterwards, I read Science Of Black Hair, but before and after reading it, I had already determined a protein/moisture balance is not enough. I secretly determined and experimented that my regimen is best when it is 75% moisture 20% protein and 5% ceramides. When you look at a cell, that’s not the exact percentage, but depending on location, even cells have a water/protein/lipid balance. This is why I am so adamant about my Biolage Cera-Repair every wash day!

Now with Ceramides, its not that you’d really get stronger hair like protein strong where you are getting a “patch job” to keep hair longer through normal manipulation as well as wear and tear and also creating an environment for better moisture retention. With ceramides, you are depositing the lipids that are depleted back into the hair, thereby allowing cells to stay intact longer. It’s a totally separate function. Remember from before: a function of ceramides is cell adhesion. When cells stay intact, they don’t divide and conquer the floor or your catch drain. That’s why ceramides create the effect of stronger hair; its stronger because its staying together not just because it has strengthening qualities like protein.

Moisture = Hydration
Protein = Strength
Ceramides = Adhesion

Ceramides can be used different ways. Since I use Cera-Repair in my DC process, I have no purpose for mixing in an oil (though I should try it once). Ceramides as a prepoo for me make my hair SUPER HARD upon washing and its not a pleasant feeling. I dismissed it a while ago and stuck with moisturizing, slightly to non-penetrating oils as even penetrating oils make my hair hard after my wash day. As a sealer, ceramides work best for me.

If you are ever in doubt about whether an oil is high in ceramides or not, an observation I have noticed is that oils high in ceramides usually have high cooking temperatures (with the exception of coconut oil) which is specified on the front with a cooking point at 400 degrees F +. Thats high!!!! These same oils are also high in Omega FA’s but be careful with consumption of omegas out of ratio (that’s clearly another post).

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Pardon the smudging on the second photo as this sits in my fridge, but I bought this oil from Vitamin Shoppe. I use it on my face after cleaning and I rub 1-2 drops on the palm of my hands, apply to my face and leave it alone. I’m left with soft skin for at least 12 hours and I have also had younger looking skin since using it. Not to say I didn’t look young before, but its definitely improved my dryness. Never used it on my hair, but I’m sure it’s just as good. This blend has ceramide oils (not mentioned), the same oils which are also omegas and one penetrating oil. These oils are good for many health and skin benefits. It’s really good and lasts a while. Evening Primrose may have some ceramide properties, but don’t take my word for it. I normally apply this to my face after my face dries a bit, but not too much so that there is still a little water/wetness to my face. I’ve also added this to some Shea butter for my skin and apply it to my body in the shower. Because my skin is really dry and itchy, after mixing this or even when I used hemp seed and wheat germ as a my ceramide infusion for my body, I’ve noticed less itching, less reactions with my skin and fabric (you think my hair is dry, you should meet my skin!) and increased moisture retention and improved complexion. I’ve gotten molested by a few aestheticians when I get waxes after a year of using this blend….

That Paul Mitchell Shampoo One. Yeah, it also has wheat germ oil and I attribute it with decent results.
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These are all my ceramide oils I’ve collected over the past 2-3 years. I have Rice Bran Oil, Wheat Germ Oil, Hemp Seed Oil, Sunflower Oil and Grapeseed Oil. Safflower oil is missing, buts its definitely in my arsenal of ceramide-packed oils.

I don’t care for Grapeseed Oil, but WGO, HSO and SnO are GREAT for my super picky hair.

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This is the bottle I plan to fit and portion them in. This would make it easier to use exactly what I want. I’m not going to mix them all at once, just start playing with mixtures. Either way, ceramides on dry hair for me never goes wrong.

I hope you found this educating as well as helpful.

One Day, It Will Happen
Tasia S.

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7 thoughts on “Knowing Your Ingredients: Ceramides

  1. thank you for thia post. very informative. i have a way better understanding of ceramides now. great post!

  2. Great post! Very detailed. I LOVE safflower seed oil. Hands down my favorite ceramide oil. I tried WGO but I could not take the smell! I don’t care to use them for prepooing unless I do it VERY lightly. I definitely prefer sealing with it on wash days because they make my hair smoother than a serum! Great info!

    • Safflower is my favorite too. It’s the lightest for me. WGO is heavy, but it softens my hair long term for some reason. It’s supposed to aid in hair growth, but my scalp can’t take anything on it.

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