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Ceramides are a type of fat molecule found naturally in the top layer of your skin. Essential to healthy functioning of the skin barrier, ceramides play a key role in helping your skin retain moisture. When applied directly to the skin through the use of skin-care products, ceramides are said to aid in the treatment of certain skin conditions (such as eczema and psoriasis), improve dry skin, and reduce signs of aging in the skin (such as fine lines and wrinkles).

When we are young, our bodies manufacture ample ceramide molecules to keep our skin healthy. These ceramides are a major component of our skin's surface. They protect against moisture loss to keep skin youthful and supple. Functionally, ceramides support the skin's matrix, keeping it firm. However, with age, ceramide production declines, and skin begins to sag and wrinkle. Scientists have found a way to extract ceramides from whole grain wheat that allows aging humans to nourish their skin's structure from within. Research has shown that ceramides derived from wheat inhibit the elastase enzymes that destroy the skin's elastin, which results in loss of flexibility and increased wrinkling. Natural ceramides provide continuous maintenance for skin and allow it to sustain its healthy protective function and vital moisture. Benefits include:

Skin Conditions

Research indicates that people with eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) often have low levels of ceramides in the top layer of the skin. Some studies show that use of ceramide-containing skin-care products may help treat eczema. In a 2008 study published in the journal Cutis, for instance, researchers found that ceramides may help improve symptoms and reduce the duration of flare-ups in patients with mild to moderate eczema. The study tested the use of a liquid cleanser and moisturizing cream containing ceramides.

Aging Skin

Ceramides may help protect against aging-associated xerosis (a condition marked by abnormal skin dryness), according to a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology. In tests on 20 healthy females, the study's authors determined that applying a cream containing ceramides helped improve skin barrier function and increase resistance to aging-related xerosis. Aging causes a loss of ceramides naturally found in the skin. The result is thinning of the skin's outer layer that weakens the skin's moisture-retention properties. The obvious solution is to replace those ceramides. But

what is the best way to do so? Laboratory research reveals some improvement to skin's moisture barrier function when lipids, including ceramides are applied directly to skin. But this topical approach can't match nature's steady supply of ceramides from the inside. On the other hand, very promising studies show that ceramides, taken as a food supplement, can significantly improve skin moisture levels and reduce the discomfort of dry, aging skin. Until 1997, ceramides for internal use were derived only from animal sources, chiefly from cows. Researchers have discovered a number of plant-based ceramides that are available from grains such as rice, corn, and wheat. A little over a decade ago a French company decided to explore the potential of wheat-derived ceramides for use as a skin moisturizer that could be taken orally. This would allow the ceramides to reach the skin's outer layer in a natural fashion, being delivered by the bloodstream and gently nudged into the extracellular matrix, where they would restore the healthy moisture barrier function of the skin. That same company went on to develop the first ceramide-rich extract of wheat. They used exclusively whole-grain, non-genetically modified wheat as the raw material. The new wheat extract contains purified oils, and has been tested to prove that it has no gluten or other allergy-provoking components. The product was an instantaneous hit in Japan, where since 1997 it has been used in many popular "beauty drinks" and nutritional supplements. A number of interrelated studies have now validated that healthy consumer response. Several early laboratory studies demonstrated that a powdered form of the wheat extract, which is equally potent as the oil form, could hydrate and restore youthful structure to human skin after being subjected to disruption of its protective barrier function. In addition, this study found a substantial reduction in free radicals in the skin, and showed that the wheat extract could inhibit the elastase enzymes that ordinarily would destroy elastin and contribute to loss of flexibility and increased wrinkling.

Skin Irritation

Ceramides may help shield the skin from certain irritants, a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Dermatology suggests. In an experiment involving 15 women with healthy skin, researchers found that applying a ceramide-containing emulsion to the skin helped improve skin barrier function, increase skin hydration, and protect irritation induced

by exposure to sodium lauryl sulfate (a synthetic chemical found in many personal-care products).

What You Need To Know When Integrating Ceramides

With aging, skin loses its youthful moisture, suppleness, and smoothness, thanks to the loss of essential ceramide molecules.

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