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Urea, a naturally occurring compound in the skin, is widely recognized in dermatology and skincare for its hydrating and keratolytic properties. It is a component of the skin's natural moisturizing factor (NMF) and plays a crucial role in maintaining skin hydration and barrier function.

In skincare, urea is valued for its dual action: it acts as a humectant, drawing moisture into the skin, and as a keratolytic agent, helping to break down the protein bonds between dead skin cells, leading to smoother and softer skin. This makes it particularly effective in treating dry, rough, and scaly skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and ichthyosis.

Additionally, urea has been shown to have antimicrobial properties and can aid in skin barrier repair, further underscoring its utility in treating a variety of skin conditions.

Physiological Effects of Urea
  1. Hydration: Urea is a potent humectant, meaning it draws moisture into the skin, significantly improving hydration and maintaining skin moisture balance.
  2. Keratolytic Action: Urea has keratolytic properties, helping to break down the bonds between dead skin cells, aiding in the exfoliation of the skin's surface.
  3. Skin Barrier Function: Urea enhances the skin's barrier function, helping to prevent moisture loss and protect the skin from external irritants.
  4. Soothing Effect: It has a soothing effect on dry, itchy, and irritated skin, providing relief in various skin conditions.
Role in Managing Dermatological Skin Conditions
  1. Dry Skin (Xerosis): Urea is a key ingredient in many moisturizers for treating dry skin, due to its excellent hydrating properties.
  2. Eczema and Psoriasis: It helps manage symptoms like dryness, scaling, and itching in eczema and psoriasis.
  3. Ichthyosis and Keratosis Pilaris: The keratolytic action of urea makes it effective in conditions characterized by excessive skin scaling, such as ichthyosis and keratosis pilaris.
  4. Cracked Heels and Calluses: Urea-based creams are effective in softening and reducing thickened skin on heels and calluses.
  5. Aging Skin: It can improve skin texture and hydration in aging skin.
  • Lodén, M. (2003). Role of topical emollients and moisturizers in the treatment of dry skin barrier disorders. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology.
  • Pan, M., et al. (2013). Efficacy of topical urea in the treatment of xerosis. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology.
  • Fluhr, J. W., et al. (2008). Glycerol and the skin: holistic approach to its origin and functions. British Journal of Dermatology.
  • Grether-Beck, S., Felsner, I., Brenden, H., Kohne, Z., Majora, M., Marini, A., ... & Krutmann, J. (2012). Urea uptake enhances barrier function and antimicrobial defense in humans by regulating epidermal gene expression. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 132(6), 1561-1572.