Urea’s role in skin hydration
- In order to understand how urea works, it is important to understand the structure of the skin:
- The skin is made up of 3 layers (which in turn have many layers themselves):
- In the epidermis, the process, keratinisation, takes place where cells, produced in the innermost layer, work their way towards the surface of the skin. They end up in the stratum corneum (the outer most layer) which can contain 20+ layers of dead cells which are regularly shed.
- A by-product of this keratinisation process is a substance called urea, which the skin makes from protein, and is a natural moisturising factor (NMF).
- NMFs are water holding substances found in the hydrolopid film, a mixture of water and fats on the epidermis, which is designed to maintain & regulate moisture on the skin’s surface and ensure the skin is supple.
- Urea is a NMF, found naturally in healthy cells, but levels can decrease with age.
- Dry, cracked skin is attributable to where this film is depleted which can also cause itchiness, roughness, flaking and scale.
Properties of urea
- Attracts Moisture – belonging to a category of substances called humectants which attract and retain the moisture in the air nearby via absorption, it increases the active ingredients’ ability to penetrate skin and rehydrate cells. It’s considered as unmatched for its hydrating properties.
- Prevents Water Loss – increasing the capacity of the skin to lock moisture in and rehydrate, it counteracts dehydrating active ingredients (e.g. soap) as it has a high water content.
- Retains Moisture – as opposed to emollients which simply sit on the surface of the skin, sometimes clogging pores, it penetrates the stratum corneum, improving the skins ability to hold moisture. It attracts and binds the moisture by being hygroscopic.
- Accelerates Skin Regeneration Process – it is keratolytic (softens keratin, a major component of the skin. This serves to improve the skin’s moisture binding capacity, naturally exfoliating and smoothing the surface of the skin).
- Strengthens Barrier Function – by the ability to speed up the regeneration process, it improves the ability for the skin to deflect potential irritants from the environment.
- Natural – A product that isn’t derived from any animal and found naturally in the skin.
Benefits of Urea
- Regulates skin’s moisture content – hydrates, nourishes and softens the skin, reducing cracking, roughness and dryness.
- Benefits absorption – helping other ingredients of skin care products penetrate the skin better. Can be beneficial for the likes of other medicines such as steroid cream to perform better.
- Anti Itch – soothes & relieves the itching sensation and shows local anaesthetic effects.
- Reduces inflammation and redness of skin, which is ideal for sensitive skin.
- Anti Ageing – by strengthening the barrier properties, maintaining healthy, supple and youthful skin using water rather than oils.
- Improves skin texture by being an exfoliant of dead skin cells.
- Improves skin resilience through aiding skin renewal.
- Anti Microbial – by increasing resistance to microorganisms, it’s said to demonstrate antimicrobial properties.
- Non-toxic, non-allergenic, colourless, odourless.
- Suitable for use all over the body including the face.