Welcome to Urea; The secret superstar of healthy, moisturised skin

How do you sort the fads from the effective in a world where new skincare ingredients seem to trend every day? Understanding what works for you and what people want you to buy can be so confusing. As every skin is different, there’s always a different skincare ingredient trending.

So we’re here to strip it all back with some facts about an ingredient that Dr Andrew Birnie, a Consultant Dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon, and other Dermatologists, prescribe to help a number of dry skin needs: Urea

One of the most important things a skincare ingredient can  provide for the skin is moisture. [1]

The skin’s level of moisture changes with the seasons or weather, and in many countries, skin needs extra moisture in the winter, as cold weather and artificial heating can dry skin out. [2]

Historically, people in the 16th century used lard and lily of the valley to relieve dry and cracked skin (which we really don’t advocate!).[3]

In the 21st century we have many more ingredients available to us, such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin, to support our skin needs. So is the latest buzz around Urea in dermatology circles and amongst beauty brands justified? 100%!  It’s a truly incredible, rising superstar in the skincare world.

What is Urea?

Urea is found naturally in the body, just like Hyaluronic acid and glycerin. [4]. This is the geeky bit (although might be a bit shocking), Urea is a byproduct of urine (the clue is in the name), however, it is also found in the layers in the skin.

In technical terms, Urea is a natural moisturising factor (NMF) [5] and is a huge help to your skin for maintaining moisture. Please do not worry, Urea can also be  made synthetically in a lab (phew!) to be used in cosmetic products.

How does it aid moisture?

Urea can act as a humectant and humectants can draw water into the skin to help smooth the skin and keep it moisturised. So, they can play a crucial role in maintaining skin hydration and health[6].

Did you know that Urea is an exfoliant?

Urea is also a keratolytic which means that it exfoliates the skin by helping detach the dead skin cells and soften the scaly bits. This also helps in giving the skin a smooth appearance. [7]

What are the benefits of Urea for the skin?

As we get older and age, the Urea concentration in our skin can drop by 50%, so our skin needs a little help to retain moisture.

Being a Humectant and a Keratolytic, it can strengthen the protective barrier of the skin and ensure that it is moisturised and soft for a longer period of time. [8]

Think of Urea as the robin hood of skincare ingredients, it takes moisture from its surroundings and gives it to the skin, where it is needed![9]

Furthermore, Urea is helpful to treat many chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and other skin issues like calluses. [10] When we experience irritated skin,  there is a disturbance in the protective barrier of the skin. Histamine is released into the cells, and the receptors in the skin carry a message to the brain to scratch the skin. The skin is thus the most vulnerable when it is dry as it does not have enough hydration to do its job and cannot protect against threats, which in turn makes you scratch. The only way to avoid it from getting worse is to create a routine that involves Urea. [11]

 Let’s break down the benefits!

  • Breaks down the outer layer of skin to improve new cell growth
  • Hydrates skin cells
  • Appeases any irritation in the skin
  • Allows for products to penetrate deep into the skin [12]

What’s the difference between Hyaluronic acid & Urea?

It is not possible to exactly compare Hyaluronic acid and Urea as they both have different purposes.

Hyaluronic acid impregnates the skin with intense moisture, whereas Urea helps to secure in that moisture. They can actually work well together to prevent the skin from feeling tight, flaky or dry.

A plus point for both of these is that they occur naturally in our bodies, meaning that they are non-irritating and safe to use, for any skin type[13]

How to use Urea?

Urea is a safe ingredient that can be used both in the AM and PM.

One thing that is crucial to remember is that Urea may increase absorption of other ingredients in the product that is being used. For example, if you know that you do not react well or are sensitive to a specific ingredient, Urea can make the reaction worse.

For this reason, it is important to do a patch-test with any new skin products you add to your routine. To do this, apply a small amount on the inside of your arm and observe whether your skin has reacted to it. If you notice any redness or itchiness it is probably best not to use the product anymore.[14]

What do the different concentrations of Urea on the market do?

The reason we talk about Urea as the secret superstar of the skincare world is because it cannot be found in many products that are on the market at the moment.  But the cosmetic world is waking up to its benefits, properties and we predict that more products will come onto the market soon.

The range of products on offer vary in Urea concentration, based on the need and function or purpose of the product; the range falls within about 3% to 40% at the highest .

The short list below shows the benefits and uses of the different concentrations:

  • up to 10% Urea – Lower skincare concentrations to aid and enhance moisturisation
  • 20-30% Urea – High-level concentration to help lessen itching, disintegrate keratin, reduces thickness of outer layer of skin and reduce the scaliness of the skin
  • 40% Urea – Very high level of Urea to break down proteins, for example used to peel dystrophic nails, nails that have thickened or discoloured.[15]

Altruist products with Urea that can help you

If you are interested in using products with Urea, but have sensitive skin and don’t want to break the bank, Look no further!

Altruist has several products with Urea that will help to hydrate your skin. They are all hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic and fragrance and paraben free, great for any skin type.

The Altruist Dry Skin Repair Cream has 10% Urea and is a well-balanced cream that helps strengthen the skin as well as restore the body’s natural barrier function, while preventing moisture loss.

The Urea and glycerin help to repair, smoothen and reduce roughness while promoting healing and enhancing moisture. Only £ 5.95!

The Altruist Moisturising Fluid is a facial moisturiser designed to create radiant and youthful looking skin. This fluid penetrates deep into the epidermis and is enriched with glycerin, Urea and shea butter. The light formulation makes it a perfect cream for day and night!

Another body cream by Altruist is the brand NEW Altruist Moisturising body lotion with 6% Urea.

This light and fast absorbing formula is great to restore and repair dry and itchy skin. Contains glycerin, Shea butter and panthenol and can be used by all skin types, ideal for sensitive skin.

Last, but not least, the NEW Altruist Hand Repair Cream contains 10% Urea. Developed for very dry skin, the concentrated formula means just a little dab of this cream is enough to instantly alleviate the dry and cracked skin on your hands. Formulated with glycerin, panthenol & bisabolol, it helps to restore and retain moisture on the hands.

Please share your Urea experience with us on Facebook @altruistsun – Instagram @altruistsun – on TikTok @altruistsunscreen We’d love to hear what you think of this superstar ingredient


If you have any question about any ingredient or product, please head to our Instagram page @altruistsun and DM us or drop a comment on one of our posts. 

[1] https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/urea-skincare-benefits

[2] https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/urea-skincare-benefits

[3] https://www.popsugar.co.uk/beauty/eucerin-urea-dry-skin-product-benefits-48120987

[4] https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/urea-skincare-benefits

[5] https://www.popsugar.co.uk/beauty/eucerin-urea-dry-skin-product-benefits-48120987

[6] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/urea-in-skincare#what-is-urea

[7] https://www.popsugar.co.uk/beauty/eucerin-urea-dry-skin-product-benefits-48120987

[8] https://www.popsugar.co.uk/beauty/eucerin-urea-dry-skin-product-benefits-48120987

[9] https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/urea-skincare-benefits

[10] https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/urea-skincare-benefits

[11] https://www.popsugar.co.uk/beauty/eucerin-urea-dry-skin-product-benefits-48120987

[12] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/urea-in-skincare#benefits-to-skin

[13] https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/urea-skincare-benefits

[14] https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/urea-skincare-benefits

[15] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/urea-in-skincare#uses-in-skin-care

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