Urea For Skin: Benefits, How To Use, And Side Effects

Written by Arshiya Syeda

Dry skin is often very hard to treat as most over-the-counter moisturizers and creams prove to be ineffective. Skin that is dry, rough, and scaly to touch is also prone to developing cracks and fissures. If left untreated, these cracks can become infected with harmful microorganisms. One may also experience further deterioration of their skin integrity. Here is where an often overlooked ingredient can prove to be effective – urea.

Urea: What To Know

Urea is also known as carbamide. It is a colorless organic compound that helps in the breakdown of nitrogenous chemicals in the body. It is the main nitrogen-containing compound present in mammal urine. It is also found in human sweat. Urea is water-soluble and easy to produce.

The German chemist Friedrich Wohler synthesized urea in 1828 and originated a way of manufacturing it without mammalian urine. It is now produced commercially by dehydrating ammonium carbamate at elevated temperatures and pressures.

Urea has several uses. It is commonly used to manufacture plant and crop fertilizers and is also an ingredient in different resins and plastics. It is also becoming popular as an ingredient in cosmetics and skin care products.
In the next section, we understand how urea benefits your skin. Keep reading.

How Does Urea Benefit Your Skin?

Urea is definitely not the first ingredient that comes to mind when we discuss skin care. However, this compound can offer major benefits to your skin. Here are a few:

1. Acts As A Humectant

Hydration is the key to soft, smooth, and healthy skin. Urea is known for being a powerful humectant that attracts moisture from the environment and seals it in the skin. It may reduce trans-epidermal water loss in dermatitis patients. Regular application of a product with urea can improve your skin’s water retention ability.

2. May Improve Skin Barrier Function

Better skin barrier function means your skin is better protected from external harm. Formulations containing 5% urea were found to significantly improve skin barrier function.

Topical application of the ingredient is believed to accelerate the process of skin renewal. This, in turn, may help maintain your skin barrier and protect your skin from external environmental elements. However, more research is warranted to further understand this benefit of urea.

3. May Provide Pain Relief

Urea may have anesthetic properties. Anecdotal evidence suggests urea can be used for pain relief in skin inflammation and painful flare-ups. Some studies also show that it can be combined with anti-inflammatory treatments to aid in the management of several skin conditions.

4. Works As An Excellent Exfoliant

Urea has keratolytic properties, wherein it helps remove the excess skin produced by the epidermis. It is mandatory to regularly remove the dead skin cells from the skin surface. Urea works great as an exfoliant and may soften dry, rough skin.

Urea has a lot to offer your skin. But before you incorporate a urea lotion or cream into your daily regimen, it is important to know how to use it the right way.

How To Use Urea For Your Skin

Urea is a versatile skin care ingredient. You can easily find moisturizers, body lotions, and hand and feet creams containing urea. The right way of use depends on the area of application.

  •  How To Use Urea Cream On Your Face 
  1.  Wash your face with cool or lukewarm water and a gentle face wash designed for your skin type. Pat dry.
  2.  Apply some toner on your face to close the pores. Always use a non-alcoholic toner.
  3.  Take a small amount of the urea cream on your fingertips and dot your cheeks, chin, and forehead with it.
  4.  Massage in the cream with your fingertips, using small circular motions.

For your face, ensure you choose a cream with a low concentration of urea.

  • How To Use Urea Body Lotion
  1.  Take bath with cool or lukewarm water. Avoid water that is too hot as it may strip off skin moisture.
  2.  Towel dry yourself.
  3.  Take an adequate amount of the urea body lotion in your palms and rub them together.
  4.  Massage your neck, shoulders, arms, and legs with your palms to evenly spread the lotion.
  5.  Apply some extra lotion to the areas that feel drier than the rest of the body. Often, the elbows and the knees require some extra care.
  6.  Let the lotion dry for a few seconds.

Choose a lotion with a low to medium concentration of urea, depending upon your skin type.

  •  How To Use Urea Hand And Feet Cream
  1.  Mix ½ a cup of Epsom salt with ½ a bucket of warm water.
  2.  Soak your feet for 20 minutes to soften the calluses. Use a foot scrubber if needed.
  3.  Rinse with fresh warm water and pat dry.
  4.  Scoop out some urea foot cream with your fingers and massage your feet. Ensure you apply a little extra cream on the heels, especially so if they are cracked.
  5.  Let the cream dry for a few seconds. Wear soft cotton socks.
  6.  Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water. Pat dry.
  7.  Take some urea cream on your palms and rub them together. Apply all over your hands and fingers.
  8.  Wear cotton gloves once the cream dries.

The skin on your hands and feet is rougher than that on your face or body. As such, you should use a cream with a higher concentration of urea to heal dry and calloused hands and feet.

Urea works simultaneously as an exfoliant, humectant, and moisturizer. But is it safe for everyone? Or does it have any side effects?

What Are The Side Effects Of Using Urea On Your Skin?

While urea has numerous skin benefits, it also may cause certain side effects. Discontinue using the product if you experience any of these effects:

  •  Severe itching
  •  Redness
  •  Burning
  •  Stinging
  •  Peeling skin

Remember that skin care products containing urea are meant only for topical use. Immediately visit a doctor in case of accidental ingestion.

Keep the following precautions in mind to ensure a safe experience.

Precautions To Take While Using Urea

Urea can be a boon for those with extreme skin dryness and itchy skin. However, remember that urea is a very strong ingredient. Do follow these precautions while using urea in skin care for a safer experience.

  •  You should not use skin care products with urea on or near open wounds or burns.
  •  Avoid using the ingredient if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  •  Avoid using urea if you have sensitive skin.
  •  Don’t apply urea creams on your rectum or vagina.
  •  Avoid getting it into your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  •  Once you apply a urea product to your skin, stay away from water for at least a few hours.

With the uses, benefits, and possible side effects of urea in mind, how often can you use it?

How Often Can You Use Urea On Your Skin?

Many factors determine how often you can use urea on your skin. If you have a serious skin issue and have been prescribed a urea cream by a doctor, follow their instructions regarding the frequency of application. Generally, you can use the cream 1 to 3 times a day at least for a week to heal a severe skin issue. Discontinue immediately if you experience any negative side effects.

Start using a urea cream or lotion for moisturizing purposes 3 to 4 times a week, and increase the frequency with time. Most skin products with low concentrations of urea are gentle enough for daily use. Products with higher concentrations of urea might not be suitable for everyday use.

In Closing

Urea qualifies as an ultra-moisturizer owing to its humectant properties. This unusual skin care ingredient can soothe dry skin, provide deep hydration, and also improve the skin barrier.

While urea is a great option for those with normal skin, it may cause side effects in those with sensitive skin. If you are just starting, begin with a product with a lower concentration of urea and work your way up. Stop use and consult a doctor if you experience any adverse effects.

References:

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5849435/
  2. The Effect of an Emollient Containing Urea Ceramide NP and Lactate on Skin Barrier Structure and Function in Older People with Dry Skin
    https://www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/445955
  3. Topical urea in skincare: A review
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30378232/
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