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Synthetic urea is a common ingredient used in skin care products to help exfoliate and moisturize the skin.

The body naturally makes urea, but scientists can also make it in a laboratory and refer to it as synthetic urea. A range of skin care and cosmetic products contain this type of urea due to its moisturizing properties.

This article discusses urea, its benefits and uses in skin care, the frequency of use, potential risks, and the best products to purchase.

The liver makes urea, also known as carbamide, which is a waste product after breaking down proteins in the body.

While urine contains urea, it is also an organic compound naturally present in healthy skin.

Urea can act as a humectant. Humectants work by drawing water into the skin to help the skin stay smooth and moisturized. It plays an important role in preserving skin hydration and health.

Urea can have the following benefits for a person’s skin:

  • breaking down the outer layer of skin to promote new cell growth
  • moisturizing skin cells
  • soothing irritation
  • increasing how deeply products penetrate the skin

Urea can also be a useful additive for products designed to counter the effects of aging. Researchers have found that urea can help improve signs of UV radiation exposure — photodamage — on the skin.

Urea concentration and the benefits

The concentration of urea varies between different products.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the concentration ranges between 3–40% and has the following benefits:

  • creams with 10% urea concentration help hydrate the skin
  • products with 20–30% urea can:
    • reduce itching
    • break down keratin
    • decrease the thickness of the outermost layer of skin
    • improve scaly skin conditions such as ichthyosis
  • products with 40% urea content are proteolytic, meaning they will break down proteins

A person may use a 40% urea product to dissolve or peel dystrophic nails, which are nails that have thickened or become discolored …….


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