INCI: Hydroxyethyl Urea
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What is Urea?
Urea is a colorless or white crystalline powder and is used as a humectant in cosmetics and personal care products. Urea is found in the skin’s epidermis and it is an active part of the body’s natural moisturizing factor (NMF) which functions to keep skin hydrated, protected and working efficiently.
A healthy and hydrated skin will typically contain 28 micrograms of urea per square centimeter.
Benefits of Urea:
Dehydrated skin causes horizontal lines to develop leading to deep-seated wrinkles. Ensuring adequate hydration for the skin is the key to preserving skin health and youth; drink at least 8 glasses of water every day.
Stratum corneum is the topmost layer of the epidermis and is made up of corneocytes. Inside the corneocytes are natural moisturizing factors (NMF) that regulate the level of moisture on the skin’s surface. The NMFs bind the water molecules to keep skin soft and supple. Urea makes about 7% of our natural moisturizing factor and it decreases with age.
Urea is an excellent hydrophilic molecule (water-loving) and holds on to water molecules in the epidermis and dermis, keeping the skin moist. Products containing low to medium concentration of urea have been found to reduce transepidermal water loss. When used in high concentrations, urea can be used an alternative to acid peels. It helps with the exfoliation process and enhances skin penetration for other active ingredients in cosmetic products.
Side Effects & Toxicity:
An extremely safe ingredient, urea has no known toxicity in general use and is shown to be non-irritating and suitable for sensitive skin.
Urea is the waste produced by the body after it metabolizes protein. However, the urea used in the cosmetic industry is derived from synthetic and not animal sources.