Home Skin Care Urea: This is how urea works!

Urea: This is how urea works!

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 389 views

Urea is another term for urea. This occurs as a metabolic product in the human body, but can also be produced artificially. Since urea improves the skin’s moisture content and removes dead skin cells, it is used in cosmetics and medical products. Find out here what urea is, how it works and where it is.

What is urea?

Urea is a white, water-soluble, crystalline substance and an end product of human protein metabolism. The body excretes most of it in the urine, about 20 to 30 grams a day.

In addition, urea is found in the horny layer of the skin (stratum corneum), which is the uppermost skin layer. There it arises due to cornification processes and sweating.

Urea is a natural moisturizing factor (NMF = Natural Moisturizing Factor) in healthy skin – just like lactic acid and amino acids.

That is why it is used, among other things, for dry, scaly, itchy skin that occurs, for example, with diseases such as

  • Ichthyosis (a form of severe dry skin)
  • atopic dermatitis (eczema
  • psoriasis

But urea can also be used if the skin is not pathologically dry and/or just needs to be cared for in a more supple manner.

In cosmetics and skin medicine (dermatology), artificially produced (synthetic) urea is usually used. The synthesis succeeded in 1828 for the first time by the chemist Friedrich Wöhler.

Urea not only has a moisturizing effect, but also has a keratolytic effect. This means that it helps to remove dead skin cells from the horny layer and has a smoothing effect on dry skin.

In addition, urea is approved as a food additive E 927b. In this context, it serves as a stabilizer.

This is how urea works

Since urea helps the skin to bind water and thereby increases its moisture content, it is found in various products for the care of dry skin, but also in medicines for the treatment of dry or itchy skin. Urea also calms the itching from a certain concentration.

In addition, urea helps with certain fungal infections, for example nail fungus/onychomycoses. Since it has a horn-dissolving effect, it can also be used against corns.

In order for certain active ingredients to penetrate the skin better, urea is sometimes used as a so-called penetration agent in corresponding (medicinal) products – for example corticosteroids for inflammation and allergies.

How urea works depends on the concentration in the product. The following dosage forms and the associated effects are currently available:

  • up to 10 percent urea: moisturizer (for skin care)
  • from 10 percent urea: moisturizing effect – for example for very dry skin, eczema and psoriasis.
  • from 20 percent urea: softening, skin-smoothing effect – for example in chronic irritant hand dermatitis, hand eczema.
  • from 30 percent urea: peeling effect – for example in severely calloused skin diseases.
  • from 40 percent urea: peeling and antimycotic (against fungal infestation) effect – for example in case of excessive cornification of the skin or nail fungus.

Urea also helps to protect the skin from drying out by sealing the skin barrier. It also supports regeneration and relieves irritation.

Creams, shampoos & Co.: These products with urea are available

Thanks to its moisture-regulating, peeling and skin-smoothing properties, urea is a popular active ingredient in skin cosmetics.

Especially in moisturizing care products, so-called moisturizers, there is often urea. There are also special creams, body lotions, facial care or even shampoos with urea.

While urea creams and lotions primarily care for skin that is naturally dry due to cold, heating air or naturally dry, shampoo or hair tonic soothe dry, itchy scalp. Urea is also a popular active ingredient in anti-aging products because it makes the skin look smoother.

In general, urea is considered to be very well tolerated and free of side effects. However, avoid contact with the eyes and injured skin during use – otherwise there is a risk of painful irritation.

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