Human skin is the largest organ of the body and is an effective physical barrier keeping it from environmental conditions. This barrier function of the skin is based on stratum corneum, located in the uppermost skin. Stratum corneum has corneocytes surrounded by multilamellar lipid membranes which are composed of cholesterol, free fatty acids and ceramides (CERs). Alterations in ceramide content of the stratum corneum are associated with numerous skin disorders. In recent years, CERs have been incorporated into conventional and novel carrier systems with the purpose of exogenously applying CERs to help the barrier function of the skin. This review provides an overview of the structure, function and importance of CERs to restore the barrier function of the skin following their topical application.