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You may remember memorizing the definition of lipids as “fatty acids” for biology class, but don’t let the name deter you. Lipids are skin’s natural fats and are essential to the skin’s protective barrier. These fats are key to that coveted healthy glow we’re all endlessly in pursuit of. Here’s why.

What Are Lipids?

Lipids are the good fats that naturally occur in skin. They’re crucial to maintaining the strength and moisture of our skin’s protective barrier. They’re also proven to aid in the skin’s natural recovery process. Remember that healthy, youthful glow you had as a kid? That was most likely due to the abundance of lipids that were hanging out in your skin. As we age, lipid production typically slows, resulting in a compromised skin barrier and uneven skin texture, tone and tightness. But don’t fret, there are topical treatments that can help replenish those lipids, promoting the elasticity and moisture needed to keep your skin smooth and supple.

Why Are Lipids So Important?

Lipids give our skin the nourishment it needs to look and stay healthy. Without them, our skin is less hydrated and more vulnerable to environmental aggravators. When our lipid barriers are strong and balanced, they keep the skin’s moisture from diminishing (or, if you want to get visual, seeping out) and repel outside pollutants from getting in. A healthy lipid layer helps the skin to self-repair, improving overall skin texture and tone, hydration and helping reduce the appearance of fine lines.

The Best Lipids for Your Skin

While there are many types of lipids, research shows these three play a major role in our overall skin health, fortifying our natural skin barrier:


No, not that kind of cholesterol. This one doesn’t cause your blood pressure to spike, though it is known to increase the radiance of your skin. This lipid aids in accelerating the skin barrier’s repair process and promotes skin elasticity.


One of the most effective ways to fight dry skin, these lipids help increase your skin’s natural moisture and protect it against harmful stressors that diminish the skin’s barrier.

Fatty Acids

Aka your one-way ticket back to that youthful glow (without the hormonal acne). Responsible for your skin’s lipid balance, fatty acids work to strengthen and smooth the skin’s surface.

The natural makeup of our skin is a 1:2:1 ratio of these lipids, respectively. Products with this specific formula are effective because of their ability to closely mimic our skin’s natural sebum (the naturally occurring oil that keeps it moisturized). When applied, the skin is more willing to absorb it because it feels like its own.

How To Incorporate Lipids Into Your Skincare Routine

Before you work on rebuilding your lipids layer, it’s important to do away with anything that could be compromising your skin barrier. Take stock of the skincare you’re using now and put an end to any harsh cleansers, scrubs or toners that could aggravate or dry out the skin and strip away lipids.

Lipids can be applied topically and can be found in tons of products, from serums to moisturizers, making them a cinch to integrate into your regime — morning, night, whenever. Don’t forget to look for the three lipids mentioned above; because they mirror the skin’s natural lipids, they get absorbed fast and don’t irritate the skin.

Next Up: Ceramides