Do you have concerns with dry skin? We want to introduce you to a little known but super powerful ingredient for treating your dry skin - urea. Now, urea can get some bad press - yes it’s found in urine, but it is actually a naturally occuring substance in the surface layer of your skin too! To find out why everyone is putting urea into skin moisturisers (and where it comes from!) we need to look at urea in more detail - what is it, how does it benefit your skin and where can you find it in your skincare routine.
What is urea?
Urea is found naturally in the top layer of your skin - it’s a part of the Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF). It is a humectant - a powerful ingredient that draws water into the skin like a magnet and is an active part of the NMF. Now before we start it’s important to say that urea in skincare isn’t derived from urine(!) It is made in a laboratory so is totally hygenic and nothing to worry about!
What is the Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF)?
Your NMF is a protective coat on the outer layer of the skin that helps to seal in moisture and goodness to keep the outer layers of the skin hydrated and moisturised. It’s made up of a number of powerful ingredients known as humectants, that’s ingredients that act like magnets to draw water into the skin. The NMF in your skin is actually made up of approximately:
Your natural moisturising factor (NMF) has two main purposes:
To draw and lock in water
To sustain and protect the acid mantle (lipid barrier)
Why does urea matter for dry skin?
The second function of the NMF - to sustain and protect the lipid barrier (acid mantle) is why urea is a power ingredient for dry skin. The stratum corneum (that’s the outer layer of your skin) is made up of corneocytes - dead skin cells and a cement with a high resistance to most chemical agents. Your NMF is inside these corneocytes, regulating the level of moisture on your skin surface by binding water molecules.
You may already know that dry skin is the result of a damaged lipid barrier. The cement that holds the skin cells together can be lacking and this can cause the barrier to start to break down. When your barrier is impaired this means that irritants and pollutants can affect the deeper layers of the skin and water can get out. Skin can appear flaky, red and sensitive and dehydrated.
Urea makes up 7% of your NMF and is able to penetrate the stratum corneum, unlike some other ingredients that simply sit on the surface.
Why are people using urea in skincare?
As we’ve already discovered Urea is already a part of the NMF. The problem is that the NMF production decreases with age and changes in hormones. By adding urea to skincare products you are giving your natural moisturising factor an added boost.
What’s the science behind urea?
Urea is a natural moisturiser - as we have already discovered - but it is also a natural chemical exfoliator. That means it doesn’t exfoliate physically, scrubbing away cells, but works to dissolve the glue that holds cells together to demasque the skin. Basically it’s double the benefit - which is unusual for this type of skin care ingredient! You can at once get rid of those dead cells that are clogging the skin and also get moisture deep into the layers of the skin that need replenishing. All of which is super good news for dry skin!
Does urea lead to glowing skin?
Glowing skin is a sign of healthy skin. So yes urea can lead to glowing skin. That’s because Urea works on dry skin to penetrate the outer layers of skin and provide moisture to the deeper layers of skin. At the same time, it’s exfoliating properties work to get rid of dead skin cells and demasque the skin. The effects of this are to get rid of dead cells and gunk that is sitting on top of the skin, whilst at the same time helping your skin back to full health. This can lead to that natural glow of healthy skin!
Is it good for oily skin?
While we have focused on dry skin concerns so far it’s worth mentioning how urea can be a power ingredient for some oily skin types as well. Oily skin massively benefits from chemical exfoliation - the physical act of exfoliation can actually encourage even more oil production so a chemical exfoliator can be more effective for getting rid of dead skin cells.
Another important point is that oily skin can still be dehydrated. As the excess sebum clogs your pores this can make it difficult to get and retain the water your skin’s layers needs. Urea can penetrate the skin’s layers to rehydrate your skin.
What products can you find urea in?
The short answer is - more than you think! But we’ve come up with a list of our favourites to see how urea adds to their effectiveness.
Urea for continuous care
Dermalogica Skin Smoothing Cream 2.0
First up, we wanted to talk about a popular favourite from Dermalogica for dry skin - skin smoothing cream - that has been a firm favourite for over 30 years! So Dermalogica thought it was about time it got its own facelift! And one of the additions is… you guessed it, urea.
The new formula of Skin Smoothing Cream focuses on the change in environmental impact on the skin and also a change in pace of lifestyle for many of us. The new formula has a state-of-the-art Active HydraMesh Technology which infuses the skin with critical moisture for up to 48 hours whilst also protecting against water loss.
The idea of a hydramesh may sound a bit like you will feel something on top of your skin. But it is super lightweight so you won’t feel it there but it will be working continually. It works on a molecular level to form a mesh like substance on top of the skin that both lets the skin breathe but also protects dry and damaged skin. First a biopolymer network of ingredients create a second skin on top of the skin and then the moisture complex is slowly released over the 48 hours for intense hydration and repair.
Urea is one of three active ingredients in the moisture complex. Urea, along with trehalose and glycerin act as moisture binding ingredients to penetrate deep into the skin and lock in moisture. While the second skin is made of hyaluronic acid - a powerful hydration ingredient to lock in moisture. As well as urea being a power ingredient itself it can also aid the absorption of other active ingredients.
Skin Smoothing Cream makes a fabulous everyday moisturiser. It’s available to buy on its own or you can treat yourself or someone you love to one of these fabulously festive Dermalogica gift sets that include Skin Smoothing Cream.
Our Best + Brightest gift set contains 3 of the Dermalogica heroes for brightening and hydrating the skin including Daily Microfoliant, Skin Smoothing Cream and Biolumin-C Serum.
Our Best + BrightestBrightening, hydrating skin care set.SkincareSet: £65.00
Frei Ol Face Cream with Urea 5%
For really dry skin and sensitive skin types, this is an excellent choice for a face cream that is gentle but really effective. Dermatologically tested on people with atopic dermatitis and diabetes it has a concentrated amount of urea (5%) for a targeted treatment for very dry skin.
If you have itching, flaky skin or redness this is a great choice to soothe and heal the skin.
The urea acts to provide an intense burst of moisture and also help to regenerate the skin barrier, as it exfoliates the skin. It has borage oil that helps to rebalance the lipid barrier and Vitamins B3 and E to help to encourage cell renewal.
If your skin is feeling tight or rough to the touch, using this oil based face cream can have an immediate soothing action.
This cream is quite rich and so isn’t ideal for oily skin types as it can sit heavily on the skin. It is best suited to skin that is in need of comfort and repair and is dry to the touch.
Face Cream with 5% UreaMoisturises & regeneratesSkincare50ml: £23.00
Urea for the Eye Area
Payot Hydra 24 Regard Glacon
Payot Hydra 24 Regard Glacon is a fantastic formulation especially for the eye area, where the skin can be more delicate. This roll on eye product is a great way to rejuvenate tired eyes and to treat fine lines and wrinkles around the eye area.
It is packed full of active ingredients to rehydrate the eye area and to lock in goodness. Urea is a great ingredient in this product as dehydrated skin can make fine lines and wrinkles look more pronounced, especially around the eye area. Urea is able to penetrate into the deeper layers of skin and lock in hydration, which stimulates collagen renewal. This is the stuff that gives your skin its plumpness. By building back moisture around the eyes, urea can help the eyes look healthier and younger.
The other great thing about urea is that it won’t clog the skin’s pores so you can use this roll on throughout the day without worrying about clogging the skin. It’s a great antidote to those winter months with cold weather and harsh heating.
Payot Hydra 24 Gel Cream Sorbetis a great choice for a skin cream that has urea in it but that is lightweight and non-greasy so ideal for combination and oily skin types. As we have already discovered, urea is a powerful chemical exfoliant which is brilliant for treating oily skin. In the Gel Cream Sorbet a combination of active ingredients help to rehydrate the skin, plump it up and protect against environmental impacts for up to 24 hours.
Urea both exfoliates the skin, stimulating cell renewal and penetrating deep into the pores, and also works to rehydrate - locking in moisture and boosting the function of your skin’s natural moisturising factor.
Urea is a power ingredient when it comes to dry skin! And in fact for most skin types, providing you find the right skin care products with urea that will suit your individual skin. It is a naturally occurring substance in your skin’s Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF) but as you age you naturally produce less of the NMF your skin needs. By using active ingredients in your skin care products that are found in the NMF you are effectively boosting your skin’s natural defenses.
Urea can work to help repair the lipid barrier which causes dry skin and irritation and can also penetrate deep into the skin’s layers to deliver much needed moisture.
Why not try and include urea in your skincare routine? Shop for moisturisers by clicking the link below: