Ceramides vs. Peptides in Skin Care: What You Need to Know

Join us on a journey to find the ultimate champion in the battle of ceramides vs. peptides. Will there be only one winner, or will it be a tie?

May 23, 2023 4 minutes read
Woman applying a moisturizer

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Whether you're a seasoned skincare enthusiast or a newcomer, it can be overwhelming trying to navigate the many ingredients that are available to us. The two commonly discussed ingredients are, undoubtedly, ceramides and peptides. But what exactly are they, and what makes them different from each other?

While both ceramides and peptides are essential for skin health, they have different functions and benefits.

In this article, we'll delve into the differences between ceramides and peptides, exploring the benefits they provide for the skin and how they work to improve skin health and appearance.

What Are Ceramides?

Ceramides are a type of lipid or fat molecule that is naturally found in the outermost layer of the skin, known as the stratum corneum. They make up approximately 50% of the stratum corneum and are essential for maintaining the skin's barrier function. The stratum corneum is responsible for preventing water loss from the skin, protecting it from external factors, and maintaining its overall health and hydration levels.

To better imagine what they are, picture the skin's natural moisture barrier (or the stratum corneum) as a wall made of bricks and mortar. The bricks in this metaphor are skin cells, and the mortar is ceramides or lipids that hold these bricks (cells) in place. When the skin's ceramide levels are low, the barrier is weakened, and the skin becomes dry, flaky, and more prone to irritation and premature aging.

There are nine types of ceramides found in the skin, each with a slightly different structure and function. They are often referred to as ceramide 1 through ceramide 9, with ceramide 1 being the most abundant in the skin.

skin barrier with ceramides and without ceramides, infographic

How do Ceramides Work in Skincare?

As we mentioned above, ceramides play a crucial role in maintaining the skin's barrier function. They do this by working together with other lipids, such as cholesterol, and urea to retain the skin's moisture.

By applying ceramides topically, we can reinforce the skin's natural barrier by sealing the spaces between skin cells, creating a shield that prevents water from escaping the skin while keeping the various irritants out. Ceramides, therefore, equip the skin to better protect itself from environmental damage, such as cold and dry air, pollution, and UV radiation. On top of that, these lipids support the skin's natural healing process, promoting healthy cell growth and regeneration.

Ceramides are particularly beneficial for those with dry or sensitive skin, as these skin types tend to have a weaker lipid barrier. Ceramides can be found in a variety of skincare products, including moisturizers, serums, and cleansers. They are often combined with other beneficial ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, to provide even more benefits to the skin.

What Are Peptides?

Peptides are short chains of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. When amino acids are joined together in a specific sequence, they form peptides. Peptides can vary in length, with some containing just two amino acids while others can contain hundreds.

There are different types of peptides in skincare, or polypeptides, to be more precise, mainly consisting of carrier peptides, neurotransmitter-inhibiting peptides, and signaling peptides. In essence, they are smaller cousins of larger proteins like elastin and collagen, which are essential proteins for maintaining skin firmness.

degradation of collagen in the skin with aging, infographic

How do Peptides Work in Skincare?

To understand the role of peptides in skincare, we need to first understand what collagen is and its role. Collagen is a fiber-like structured protein, providing a framework to the skin and keeping it tout and youthful. Unfortunately, our bodies produce less collagen as we grow older and wiser, resulting in wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging skin.

And since collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed by the skin, there are only so many options to replenish it, through diet and collagen-boosting foods, supplements, and, last but not least, skincare – and this is where peptides jump in.

In effect, peptides in skincare act as messengers, interacting with skin cells and triggering them to start the process of cell regeneration and tissue repair. By using peptides in the form of serums or face creams, our skin will be triggered to produce more collagen, essentially slowing down the aging process.

Besides, depending on their type and structure, peptides can also have anti-inflammatory properties, healing damaged and irritated skin.

So, What Exactly Is the Difference Between Ceramides and Peptides?

serums with ceramides and peptides

While ceramides and peptides both have similar roles in skin care, keeping the skin healthy and preventing premature aging, they work in entirely different ways. Namely, ceramides are lipids or fats, better for hydration and restoring the skin's barrier, while peptides are amino acids or proteins that stimulate collagen production and improve the skin's firmness, making them an anti-aging superhero.

So, if you're asking yourself - Should I use one or the other? The answer is - Use both! For maximum benefit, creating a skincare routine with both ingredients is best. So, choose one skincare product that contains both, or create a routine to include both ceramides and peptides, e.g., a booster or serum with peptides, followed by a ceramides-rich moisturizer.

On top of that, these work well with other skincare actives, and you won't have trouble combining them with retinoids, AHAs, and other potentially irritating ingredients.


As you can see, there's no winner in this battle, as both ceramides and peptides are crucial ingredients for strengthening the skin and delaying the development of signs of aging.

And, since they work differently, the best results can be achieved by using both ingredients in your routine. So, if you're in your 20s, they will keep your skin soft and tout: and if you're in your 50s, they will restore some of that youthful glow.


What is better for the skin, ceramides or peptides?

Both ceramides and peptides are essential for skin health. Ceramides repair the skin's natural barrier and help maintain its moisture, while peptides play an anti-aging role, triggering the skin cells to produce more collagen.

What should not be mixed with ceramides?

Since ceramides are produced naturally in the skin, they are called skin-identical ingredients. This means they could be mixed with any other skincare ingredient, including retinol and AHA exfoliating acids.

What is the difference between ceramides and peptides for the skin?

Ceramides are fats or building blocks of the outermost layer of the skin, while peptides are amino acid chains or building blocks of protein in the skin. Ceramides are repairing and moisturizing ingredients, while peptides are excellent for postponing signs of aging and maintaining the skin's firmness and elasticity.

Can I use vitamin C with ceramides?

Yes, ceramides in skincare products are almost identical to those found in our skin. Therefore, you can use them with almost anything, including vitamin C.

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