Potential Applications of Phyto-Derived Ceramides in Improving Epidermal Barrier Function

Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2017;30(3):115-138. doi: 10.1159/000464337. Epub 2017 Apr 14.


The outer most layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, consists of corneocytes which are coated by a cornified envelope and embedded in a lipid matrix of ordered lamellar structure. It is responsible for the skin barrier function. Ceramides (CERs) are the backbone of the intercellular lipid membranes. Skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis and aged skin are characterized by dysfunctional skin barrier and dryness which are associated with reduced levels of CERs. Previously, the effectiveness of supplementation of synthetic and animal-based CERs in replenishing the depleted natural skin CERs and restoring the skin barrier function have been investigated. Recently, however, the barrier function improving effect of plant-derived CERs has attracted much attention. Phyto-derived CERs (phytoCERs) are preferable due to their assumed higher safety as they are mostly isolated from dietary sources. The beneficial effects of phytoCER-based oral dietary supplements for skin hydration and skin barrier reinforcement have been indicated in several studies involving animal models as well as human subjects. Ingestible dietary supplements containing phytoCERs are also widely available on the market. Nonetheless, little effort has been made to investigate the potential cosmetic applications of topically administered phytoCERs. Therefore, summarizing the foregoing investigations and identifying the gap in the scientific data on plant-derived CERs intended for skin-health benefits are of paramount importance. In this review, an attempt is made to synthesize the information available in the literature regarding the effects of phytoCER-based oral dietary supplements on skin hydration and barrier function with the underlying mechanisms.

Keywords: Dietary supplements; Glucosylceramides; Phyto-derived ceramides; Plant-derived ceramides; Skin barrier function; Skin diseases; Stratum corneum.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Ceramides / chemistry
  • Ceramides / metabolism
  • Ceramides / pharmacology*
  • Ceramides / therapeutic use
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / drug therapy
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / metabolism
  • Epidermis / drug effects*
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Magnoliopsida / chemistry
  • Permeability / drug effects
  • Phytochemicals / chemistry
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology*
  • Phytochemicals / therapeutic use
  • Psoriasis / drug therapy
  • Psoriasis / metabolism


  • Ceramides
  • Phytochemicals