Urea, also known as carbamide, is an organic compound with the chemical formula CO(NH2)2. This amide has two –NH2 groups joined by a carbonyl (C=O) functional group.
- Urea-containing creams are used as topical dermatological products to promote rehydration of the skin. Urea 40% is indicated for psoriasis, xerosis, onychomycosis, ichthyosis, eczema, keratosis, keratoderma, corns, and calluses. If covered by an occlusive dressing, 40% urea preparations may also be used for nonsurgical debridement of nails. Urea 40% “dissolves the intercellular matrix” of the nail plate. Only diseased or dystrophic nails are removed, as there is no effect on healthy portions of the nail. This drug is also used as an earwax removal aid
- Hydration: Urea is a humectant due to its ability to retain moisture by binding to water. When urea is applied to the skin, it is able to penetrate into the stratum corneum to further enhance water absorption. Hence, urea improves the ability of the skin to retain water, while simultaneously balancing adequate hydration.
- Exfoliation: Removal of dead skin cells in the stratum corneum will improve the water binding ability of the skin. At high concentrations, urea is a keratolytic and helps to loosen scaly, dead skin allowing for exfoliation and improve cellular turnover.
- Protection: By retaining moisture and enhancing the skin’s renewal process, urea helps to ultimately strengthen the stratum corneum barrier function to fight against trauma and containments. Routine use of a moisturizer to the skin is necessary to prevent the development of dry skin.
- Penetration: The benefits of urea to strengthen the skin’s barrier has allowed it to be used in a variety of urea-containing creams and lotions for skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis and cracked heels. Urea enhances skin penetration of topical medication such as corticosteroids and antifungals in order to treat scaling and inflammation of the skin.
- Urea can be irritating to skin, eyes, and the respiratory tract. Repeated or prolonged contact with urea in fertilizer form on the skin may cause dermatitis.
Source: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urea#Medical_use