Urea – It’s benefits for Dry Skin and/or Eczema
Although experts in the field of skincare are still battling with what causes dry skin and eczema, it is understood that a lack of urea plays a vital part. Clinical research has proven that very dry skin sufferers lack the natural urea needed to maintain healthy hydrated skin. Skincare treatments that contain urea, significantly help to prevent, care and treat extreme dry skin conditions and eczema by replacing and maintaining urea levels in the skin.
What is Urea?
Along with epidermal lipids and proteins, our skin contains three Natural Moisturising Factors(NMF’s): Urea, Lactic Acid and Amino Acids. These are produced during the keratinisation process which occurs as skin cells become flatter and eventually die. One of the most effective natural moisturisers is Urea, which the skin makes from protein and represents 7% of the natural moisturising factor(NMF) in the outer layer (stratum corneum). It is found in the surface layer of the skin (epidermis), and plays a vital role in maintaining the skin’s moisture balance and the suppleness of the skin. Urea is non-toxic, non-allergenic, colourless and odorless.
Urea is naturally present in healthy skin, but when the skin is dry, and in some skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis, the level of urea in the skin is reduced. In the epidermis of healthy skin there is approximately 28 micrograms of Urea per 2.5 square centimetres. In dry skin Urea concentration is diminished by 50%, in skin affected by Psoriasis urea is reduced by 40% and in skin affected by Atopic Eczema urea is reduced by 85%.
As a result of the reduced levels of urea, the water binding capacity of the skin is decreased and moisture is lost. This leads to roughness, tightness, scaly or flaky skin and irritation.
Main Advantages of Urea
Applying urea directly to the skin increases the moisture binding capacity of the skin, thus rehydrating the skin, softening it and reducing cracking and roughness. It also helps reduce the cycle of itching and irritation, producing a localised anesthetic affect, as well as the likelihood of flare-ups.
Urea penetrates and re-hydrates the Corneum. Also, the addition of urea to dermatological preparations increased the penetration of other substances, such as cortcosteroids, which is attributed to urea’s ability to increase skin hydration after application.
The proteolytic characteristics of urea are well recognised, where, depending on the concentration, urea modifies the structure of amino-chains as well as of polypeptides. This is significant for skin moisturising since a correlation exists between water content and amino acid content in skin- the dryer the skin, the lower the share of dissolved amino acids.
There are two types of spots that are very similar in appearance to age spots. Most commonly known as melasma or chloasma spots, these discolorations result from hormonal changes rather than sun damage. This type of hyperpigmentation usually occurs in pregnant women or women who take birth control pills.
How Does Urea Penetrate the Skin?
Penetration of Urea is dependent on the vehicle in which it is contained. It has been shown that the penetration is much deeper in the layers of the stratum corneum (which contains around 30 layers of flattened cells) when urea is applied in a water and oil emulsion, such as our dry skin treatments. When urea is applied to the skin in a water/oil emulsion the stratum corneum is able to retain water for longer, and water loss through evaporation is also slowed down.
Where Does Urea Come From?
The urea found in most cosmetics are synthetically produced and therefore does not come from any animals or humans.