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- Best for psoriasis: CeraVe Psoriasis Moisturizing Cream
- Best for elbows and knees: Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS 30 percent Urea Cream
- Best facial moisturizer for normal skin: Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion
- Best body lotion for alleviating itch: Cetaphil Pro Urea 10%
- Best for cracked, dry heels and toes: Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Foot Cream
- Best facial moisturizer for dry or sensitive skin: The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
Urea, also known as carbamide, is a keratolytic (peeling) agent used in some skin care products. Ingredients with keratolytic properties are used to soften and slough off the outer layer of dead skin cells.
Urea is found in skin, where it helps sustain barrier function and provide moisture. And as you may have suspected from its name, urea is found in urine. Urea is produced in your liver and is a breakdown product of amino acids.
People with psoriasis and some other skin conditions may have less naturally occurring urea in their skin than is optimal for barrier function and hydration.
No, the urea in commercially made products doesn’t come from human or animal urine. The urea used for skin care products is manufactured synthetically.
In products, urea is measured by percentages. The higher the percentage, the more exfoliation it provides.
Skin creams containing less than 10 percent urea are used for moisturizing dry skin. Products containing 10 percent or more have keratolytic properties and are beneficial for exfoliation as well as moisturizing. Some products contain 40 percent urea. These are used for sloughing off hard or rough patches of thickened dead skin, such as those found on the heels.
What does urea do for skin?
It has been found in
- Brand reputation. We chose products that come from reputable manufacturers either based in the United States or overseas that can be bought from reputable retailers in the United States.
- Other ingredients. In addition to urea, each product contains ingredients that provide moisture for dry or very dry skin. Some are especially beneficial for certain conditions, such as psoriasis.
- Retailer reputation. We did our best to include only reputable sellers as well as manufacturers. When shopping, we suggest you read customer reviews about sellers before purchase. Since urea is hard to find in the United States, some sellers substitute products that don’t contain this ingredient. Others sell discontinued products at a very high price.
Some synthetic types of urea, such as imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea, are formaldehyde releasers. This, coupled with the “pee myth,” may be why it’s hard to find a large selection of skin care products containing urea, especially in the United States.
Even though they all contain urea as an active ingredient, the products on this list vary in function. Some are designed specifically for the face and others for the body or feet. In some instances, their cost may reflect these differences.
Another variation is the number of ounces contained in each product. Make sure you check how much product you’re getting when you buy.
We’ve indicated cost as follows:
- $ = under $10
- $$ = $10–$25
- $$$ = over $25
- Price: $$
In addition to urea, this moisturizing cream contains salicylic acid, ceramides, and vitamin B3 (niacinamide).
It provides moisture to help bolster the skin’s outer layer. It can also reduce psoriasis symptoms such as itching, redness, and scaling.
It has the Seal of Recognition from the National Psoriasis Foundation.
- Price: $$
Eucerin produces a line of UreaRepair lotions, creams, and foams that have varying percentages of urea. At 30 percent, this cream is beneficial for very rough, dry patches of skin on areas of the body such as elbows, feet, and knees. It should not be used on the face or other delicate areas of skin.
It also contains ceramides and a group of moisturizers that Eucerin refers to as NMF (natural moisturizing factors).
- Price: $$-$$$
This facial moisturizer is designed to be lightweight, smooth, and easily absorbable. It is also fragrance-free.
It’s an appropriate choice for normal, dry, or combination skin, but may not provide enough moisture for very dry skin.
In addition to urea, it contains ingredients such as mineral oil and glycerin to help retain moisture.
- Price: $$
This lotion is fragrance-free and odorless. With 20 percent urea, it’s a good choice for dry or very dry skin on the body and feet.
It’s made to reduce dryness and significantly stop itch by strengthening the skin’s natural moisture barrier, and deeply hydrating skin.
- Price: $
If you have rough or cracked skin on your heels or toes, this product may be a good choice for you. It contains urea, aloe, and nutrients that are beneficial for dry skin, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
It goes on thick but absorbs quickly. It has a light scent but is not fragrance-free. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to do a patch test to make sure you don’t get a reaction and have no allergies to any of its ingredients.
Users say this foot cream also works well on elbows and dry patches of skin on the body.
- Price: $
This facial moisturizer is vegan and alcohol-free. It is formulated to moisturize all skin types, including dry, normal, and sensitive skin. It is designed to provide a non-greasy, smooth feel on the skin.
In addition to urea, it contains hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and plant-derived moisturizing sugars.
Products containing urea can be hard to find. However, urea provides potent moisture, hydration, and exfoliation to benefit dry and problem skin.
When shopping for products containing urea, make note of the percentage it contains. Lower percentages are appropriate for facial skin and dry skin on the body. Higher percentages are more suitable for very rough, cracked, or dead skin that requires exfoliation.