So what are ceramides and do you need them in your regimen?
Ceramides are one of 3 naturally occurring lipids aka fatty material found in the hair’s cuticle. Not to be confused with Sebum which is found on the surface of the cuticle, ceramides’ function in the cuticle is to act as a binder to keep the cuticle layer in place. So why are they important in hair care I hear you ask.
Well as we know the cuticle is the hair strand’s defense layer which is why you hear about cold water or acv rinses to close the cuticles after a wash.
Closed cuticles give your hair that shine/sheen that practically screams ‘healthy hair’ hence closing the door to potential damage that may threaten the vulnerable cortex inside.
The cuticle layer is also the thinnest layer of our hair and can be damaged or removed by just vigorous combing or shampooing (typical)! With the cuticle layer gone, the cortex is exposed and breakage inevitable.
Along come ceramides to save the day; they create a protective barrier around the hair to hold in moisture and protein while also guarding the hair from chemical damage, heat damage and UV rays as such ‘repairing’ the cuticle layer.
Now we all know the trilogy of healthy hair is moisture, elasticity and strength, ceramides fit quite snugly into the strength category. They are not proteins but studies show that hair which has been treated with ceramide containing conditioners showed an increase in tensile strength which is fabulous news for the protein sensitive among us. Ceramides give all the benefits of protein treatments without any of the downsides!
We now have companies with patented synthetic ceramides in their products, I seem to remember a L’oreal product with ‘Ceramide Cement’ in an advert recently so clearly ceramides are here to stay.
Before you run out of the house to load up on ceramide containing products, you should know that ceramide ‘take up’ that is to say that ceramides that bind to the hair and are not washed off mostly happened in lye processed hair (63%), a bit less in No-lye processed hair (53%) and much less in natural untreated hair (18%).
It is no secret that relaxing strips most of the natural hair oils* so ceramides in a relaxed hair regimen would seem vital. I would also imagine that those of us who are natural but straighten our hair regularly would certainly benefit from ceramides too.
As mentioned before, there are both naturally occurring ceramides and synthetic ones. There isn’t much evidence to show any difference better or worse between the natural or the synthetic ones but it may be worth considering that commercial products with ceramides in them have been specially formulated to provide these lipids in ample amounts to ensure maximum up take.
Rather than create my own list, From Short To Long Blog has already provided a handy list with natural and commercial products containing ceramides:
OILS CONTAINING CERAMIDES:
Barley Malt Oil