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Phytoceramides

Skin Rejuvenation From The Inside Out

November 2014

By Michael Downey

Phytoceramides Skin Rejuvenation From The Inside Out  

As you age, your skin progressively loses natural lipids called ceramides.1-4 The result is visible aging that includes wrinkles, age spots, and rough, uneven skin.5-8

Ceramides are major skin components that help form the “glue” that holds surface cells together.9,10 Depletion of these molecules not only causes skin to wrinkle, but also makes it more susceptible to moisture loss, environmental allergens, skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis, and possibly cancer.5,11-13

For these reasons, ceramides have long been a key ingredient in expensive skin creams. The problem is that topical application may not penetrate deeply enough into the skin to effectively block wrinkle formation and skin aging.

Fortunately, plant-derived ceramides—or phytoceramides—have been developed that can be taken orally, ensuring that these potent molecules are absorbed into the bloodstream.14 Once absorbed, they are carried to the cells of the inner layer of the skin and subsequently seep to the outermost layer.14,15 These rejuvenating molecules reach skin all over the body, not just where creams are applied.

Oral phytoceramides effectively work from the inside out to hydrate, smooth, and rejuvenate aging and wrinkled skin.14,15

Your Skin’s Natural Regeneration Molecules

As the years pass, ceramide production declines dramatically. Without substantial replenishment of ceramides, the mortar that holds the skin-cell bricks together deteriorates, and the skin moisture barrier becomes greatly compromised.9,14,16

The result is a thinning of your skin—with noticeable wrinkles, dryness, roughness, and even infection.14,17-19

Although ceramides are present in many of the foods we eat, including rice and wheat, they do not naturally occur in sufficient quantities to optimally rejuvenate aging skin.14 This means that slowing and reversing skin aging requires effective supplementation.

skin anatomy

The Phytoceramide Breakthrough

To help prevent skin infections, skin dryness, and wrinkling, researchers have investigated the effectiveness of topically applying ceramides to the skin surface. What they discovered is that adding lipids such as ceramides directly to the skin can improve the moisture barrier function—but only modestly.14,20,21 The problem is that a topical ceramide application is not the body’s natural route for infusing the skin’s outer layer with ceramide molecules—that occurs from the inside out.

That’s why creams and lotions, applied to the outer surface of the skin, simply can’t match the steady supply of ceramides that naturally comes from healthy, youthful skin.

To solve this problem, researchers turned their attention to oral ceramides. Initially, research focused on identifying potentially useful oral ceramides only from animal sources.14 Then scientists switched to using a number of different ceramides available in grains such as rice, corn, and wheat.14,21 These plant-based ceramides are called phytoceramides.

In an important breakthrough, scientists developed a proprietary wheat-derived phytoceramide extract. Taken orally, it can reach the skin’s outer layer through the natural route—delivery by the bloodstream to the deepest skin-cell layers, then gently nudged into the extracellular matrix.14 There, it restores the barrier function.14

This innovation was achieved by using natural, nongenetically modified wheat as the raw material and producing an extract containing only purified oils.14 This extract is so purified it is classified as gluten-free by current government standards. A number of studies now validate the effectiveness of this novel phytoceramide.14,15,22

In a laboratory cell study, this wheat-derived extract was shown to hydrate human skin and restore its youthful structure after the skin cells’ protective barrier function had been disrupted.22

This study also found that wheat phytoceramides reduced levels of free radicals in the skin and inhibited elastase enzymes, which would ordinarily destroy elastin and contribute to loss of skin flexibility and increased wrinkling.23

Ceramides have also been shown to inhibit melanogenesis, the process by which the skin produces the hyperpigmentation behind age spots and other discolorations of the skin. This suggests that by replacing ceramides from the inside out, oral wheat-derived phytoceramides may inhibit or reverse the uneven pigmentation of skin aging.7,8,24

Scientists realized that if clinical trials validated these effects in humans, it would at last be possible to rejuvenate aging skin—simply by swallowing a capsule.

What You Need To Know
Rejuvenate Skin From The Inside Out

Rejuvenate Skin From The Inside Out

  • Natural skin-based lipid molecules—called ceramides—have shown critical capacity to preserve youthful-looking skin and strong defenses against certain skin diseases and infections.
  • They critically maintain the water-retaining properties of the skin by blocking water loss from aging or physical trauma.
  • As we age, the skin content of ceramides substantially decreases, and topically applied ceramide-containing creams have shown limited effectiveness.
  • Natural phytoceramides can be taken orally, allowing them to enter the bloodstream where they are naturally transported through all layers of the skin, working from the inside out.
  • Placebo-controlled, clinical studies show that oral wheat-derived phytoceramides boost skin hydration, smoothness, suppleness, and other measures of youthful skin. Ceramides also defend against skin-based infections and diseases.

Phytoceramides’ Effectiveness Validated In Clinical Trials

To demonstrate wheat-derived phytoceramides’ effectiveness, investigators conducted experiments of the scientifically most rigorous type: double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical studies.

In the first study, women with dry to very dry skin were given 200 mg daily of either a placebo or a powdered phytoceramide extract for three months. Skin hydration was then evaluated using three distinct methods: a special testing machine, a dermatologist’s examination, and the subjects’ own subjective scores.15

The women taking the phytoceramide extract experienced significant improvement in skin hydration as assessed by all three of these testing methods. Additionally, in the ceramide group, participants experienced significantly reduced dry patches, roughness, and itching.15 These changes were not seen in the placebo arm of the study. This placebo-controlled human data provided scientists with a clear indication that the phytoceramides had made their way through the bloodstream to the skin cells, where they provided a powerful rehydrating and rejuvenating effect.15

To confirm these remarkable results, another clinical trial evaluated the wheat-derived phytoceramide extract in its oil form.14 For the study, women with dry to very dry skin took 350 mg daily of the wheat ceramide oil, or a placebo, in a double-blind trial. Results were assessed after just three months of supplementation.14

First, researchers objectively measured skin hydration using a special technique known as corneometry. The supplement, but not the placebo, was shown to significantly increase skin hydration of the arms, legs, and the body overall. On the arms, skin hydration increased by more than 35%, compared to less than 1% in the placebo group.14

Second, researchers asked participants to rate their own perceptions of the effects of the supplement or placebo treatments. At all points of measurement in the study, the wheat phytoceramide oil extract provided greater improvement in all factors—facial skin hydration, leg skin hydration, suppleness, roughness, uniformity of complexion, itchiness, and overall state of the skin—without any significant adverse effects and with a superior level of acceptability.14

These controlled clinical trials delivered clear confirmation that orally taken wheat-derived phytoceramides substantially boost skin hydration, smoothness, suppleness, and other levels—reflecting reversal of age-related skin wrinkling, drying, and decline.14

What Are Ceramides?
What Are Ceramides?

Ceramides are components of specialized lipid molecules called sphingolipids, an essential element of human skin.41

The presence of ceramides as a category within sphingolipids was first discovered in the human brain in 1884.42 The ceramides that are found in both plants and the human body are now known to be structurally similar.19

All four layers of the epidermis contain ceramides, and they play a critical role in skin health by creating a barrier that reduces infection and helps to retain the skin’s moisture and smoothness.19

Over a period of four weeks, new cells created at the deepest epidermal layer migrate upwards to form the top layer of the skin (the stratum corneum) where extracellular matrix lipids inhibit loss of water.43 By the time skin cells reach the skin’s surface, they become cornified or horn-like, transforming into protein-rich bricks tightly bound together by a layer of mortar composed of various lipids, up to 50% of which are ceramides.44

The primary function of the epidermis is to generate a relatively impermeable layer to protect the skin from dehydration and environmental stress.44 Ceramides play a critical role in this barrier function and in the retention of water by the stratum corneum.44

The aging process reduces the content of ceramides in the epidermal skin layers. This contributes to dry skin and dermatitis, and is a major cause of skin wrinkling.1-6,9-12

Research has shown that optimal amounts of ceramides, in relation to other lipids, in the top layer of the skin are required to maintain youthful and healthy skin.12,44

Wrinkled, dry, irritated, and sensitive skin often lacks ceramides. Topical application of ceramides has shown limited benefit. However, orally taken wheat-derived phytoceramides—both in powdered and oil form—have been clinically demonstrated to hydrate skin and promote more youthful appearance and smoothness.14,15