Keratin treatments and Olaplex, the hair world’s new darling, are all great, but we’d like to remind you that there’s an oft-forgotten ingredient that’s just as important – ceramide, the third, equally important part of the healthy hair trinity along with moisture and protein.
If you’re wondering what it is / does, here’s the skinny: There are two types of oils that your hair cuticle naturally produces – sebum that coats the hair shaft externally, and lipids (or oils) inside the cuticle that act as glue to keep its layers bound together – one of which is ceramide. (The same goes for skin, by the way – ceramides are found in the skin’s outermost layer and prevent it from drying out. Tip: Try Elizabeth Arden’s Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum to take care of that.)
A healthy strand of hair needs a packed cuticle layer for it to be nice and elastic, and every time you do anything to your hair, from shampooing it to brushing or colouring it – the cuticle layer gets chipped, which is why you need to replenish those ceramides. If you don’t find them on your product labels, look for 2-oleamido or 1-3 octadecanedio – they’re both synthetic replicas of their natural counterpart.
Another thing you should know: natural oils which contain linoelic acid (an essential fatty acid) are great for a ceramide boost – grape seed oil, hemp seed oil, and wheat germ oil are your best bets. Of course, synthetic ceramides – the ones you find in products – are designed to mimic the natural lipid, and guarantee a higher, concentrated dose.
Studies show that they work especially well on chemically-treated, regularly heat-styled hair – so all you hair colour enthusiasts, you now know what to look for in your shampoos.
Just remember that while ceramides help your hair hold onto protein and moisture from the outside (the reason why they’re mostly found in finishing products), they won’t actually strengthen the inner layers of the cuticle – that’s what you need protein for.
Now that you’re enlightened – hair wise, at least, here’s a bunch of the most effective ceramide-enriched products to add to your beauty arsenal.