What it is: Urea is a compound naturally produced by the body and can be found as a moisturizing factor in the outermost layer of the skin, along with lactic acid and amino acid. Dry skin results from lack of normal amounts of urea in the skin.
Where it comes from: Urea is naturally produced by the liver and is a waste product. Most urea used in products is synthetic, made of pressurized ammonia and carbon dioxide.
Properties: Little white solid pellets are common, but it can also be produced in liquid or cream form. In skin care products it has hydrating, softening, regenerative, irritation-soothing, and penetration-assisting effects.
What it’s good for: Urea is added in small doses to moisturizers to treat scaly and itchy dry skin problems, including eczema, psoriasis, and ichthyosis. It hydrates by increasing the water-binding capacity of the skin and softens the outermost skin layer so it can be easily removed. Other skin care applications include treating acne and removing diseased nails.
Where you’ll find it: Urea can be found in lotions, foot creams, soaps, hair products, cleaners, pesticides, and barbiturates. However, most of the urea produced in the U.S. is used as fertilizer.
Other uses: It can be added to livestock food to meet protein requirements, and it can be used as an adhesive. The urea solution AdBlue is used in diesel trucks in Europe and Asia to reduce pollutants in exhaust gasses. Urea is also used as an ingredient in teeth-whitening toothpaste, as well as an alternative to rock salt for de-icing roads and runways.
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