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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.

Is urea in beauty products from pee?

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 a lab.

High vs. low dose urea

Urea products or prescriptions are available in a slew of different dosages.

The higher doses (typically around 30% or higher) work best to exfoliate, getting rid of the roughest skin patches. For example, high-dose urea can be used to treat dense dead skin areas, which are commonly found on the heels of our feet.

It’s also possible to find urea in doses as low as 2%. Low-dose urea works best as a moisturizing agent for dry skin. Low-dose urea may be used alongside other useful skin care ingredients, or it can be used alone for moisturization. Low-dose urea is safe enough to use on facial skin.

Depending on the chemical formula, some urea creams can be found over the counter, while others require a prescription.

  • 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.

Pricing guide

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
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Best for psoriasis

CeraVe Psoriasis Moisturizing Cream

  • Price: $$
  • Skin type: psoriasis (scaly, red, dry, flaky skin)
  • Free of: fragrance
  • Key ingredients: urea, salicylic acid, lactic acid, ceramides, niacinamide
  • Pros: gentle, calming, can help soothe psoriasis symptoms
  • Cons: some reviewers complain about the packaging (saying it seems to spill during shipment)

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.

Best for elbows and knees

Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS 30% Urea Cream

  • Price: $$
  • Skin type: extremely rough, dry, and scaly skin
  • Free of: fragrance
  • Key ingredients: 30% urea, ceramides
  • Pros: safe for keratosis pilaris and psoriasis, contains high-dose urea, can help thickened skin on hands and heels
  • Cons: not safe for delicate skin areas including the face, not safe to use on the entire body (should only be applied to specific areas of very rough skin)

Eucerin produces a line of UreaRepair lotions, creams, and foams that have varying percentages of urea. At 30%, this cream is beneficial for very rough, dry patches of skin on areas of the body such as the 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).

Best facial moisturizer for normal skin

Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion

  • Price: $$-$$$
  • Skin type: dry skin, normal skin, combination skin
  • Free of: fragrance, parabens, sulfates, denatured alcohol, SLS, SLES
  • Key ingredients: mineral oil, glycerin, urea
  • Pros: fast-absorbing, lightweight, non-greasy
  • Cons: contains dyes, not ideal for very dry skin types

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.

Best body lotion for alleviating itch

Cetaphil Daily Smoothing Moisturizer for Rough & Bumpy Skin

  • Price: $$
  • Skin type: rough, bumpy, red, dry, sensitive skin
  • Free of: fragrance, mineral oil
  • Key ingredients: 20% urea, glycerin
  • Pros: large bottle, noncomedogenic (won’t clog pores), soothing to red, dry, rough skin
  • Cons: not suited for facial use

This lotion is fragrance-free and odorless. With 20% 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.

Best for cracked, dry heels and toes

Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Foot Cream

  • Price: $
  • Skin type: dry, rough, cracked heels
  • Free of: gluten and dye
  • Key ingredients: urea, aloe, vitamins A, C, and E
  • Pros: budget-friendly, ideal for feet and elbows, soothing and hydrating
  • Cons: not fragrance-free

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 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.

Best facial moisturizer for dry or sensitive skin

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

  • Price: $
  • Skin type: dry, sensitive, normal,
  • Free of: vegan, cruelty-free and free from alcohol, silicones, oils, nuts, and gluten
  • Key ingredients: urea, hyaluronic acid, ceramides
  • Pros: budget-friendly, non-greasy, vegan
  • Cons: some reviewers say the texture is too thick

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.

In products, urea is measured by percentages. The higher the percentage, the more exfoliation it provides.

Skin creams containing less than 10% urea are used for moisturizing dry skin. Products containing 10% or more have keratolytic properties and are beneficial for exfoliation as well as moisturizing. Some products contain 40% urea. These are used for sloughing off hard or rough patches of thickened dead skin, such as those found on the heels.

How to find the best urea cream for you

The best way to find a urea cream that works for you is to shop by the area of skin and skin type you are looking to treat.

Some products, including some featured on our list, are only intended for use on the heels of your feet or other localized areas of the body as needed. Some products are gentle enough to use on your face.

Urea cream’s strength comes in a large variety — from 2% to 50% — so if you need or want direction, it’s best to see a healthcare professional as they may know what strength could best fit your needs.

If you want to slough off thick, dense, dead skin, look for urea products containing a high dose — 30%, 40%, or 50% urea. These percentages have the highest exfoliation and will loosen up these tougher areas of skin, creating a softening effect.

If you’d like a gentle urea product to use on your face as a moisturizer, grab a lower dose (no higher than 10% urea) and make sure the label specifies that it’s safe for facial use.

Some urea products specify which skin types will best benefit from the formula. Some are created specifically for psoriasis, keratosis pilaris, sensitive skin, and more.

What does urea do for skin?

It has been found in multiple studies to be highly effective at reducing skin irritation, inflammation, and removal of dead skin. As a sloughing agent, it enables the skin to absorb topical medications more easily. Urea is also a highly moisturizing humectant. All of this makes urea useful for treating conditions such as:

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Sometimes dry skin can interfere with daily life. Here are signs that it’s a good idea to visit a dermatologist:

  • you’re frequently scratching
  • your symptoms are not occasional
  • your dry skin isn’t improving with OTC treatments
  • your symptoms are becoming painful or more severe, including signs of irritation, redness, inflammation, flaking, peeling, cracking

Your doctor can help you determine triggers and causes, and find the best treatment plan for you, so it’s important to see a healthcare professional if you experience these symptoms.

Are there any side effects of using urea cream?

According to the World Health Organization, urea is considered an essential medication, and it’s usually well tolerated. Still, some people may experience an allergic reaction or irritation that can include itching, burning, or stinging. Some folks can also experience redness, but if any side effects become alarming, see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Is it safe to use urea cream daily?

Some urea products can be used daily, depending on the dosage and area of skin you are treating. Read labels carefully before using, and remember to patch test before applying your product to a large area of skin. If you received a prescription urea cream from your healthcare professional, make sure to follow their directions carefully.

Is urea cream effective for all skin types?

Urea cream can be helpful for a number of skin types, including sensitive, dry, cracked, red, bumpy, and more. Still, allergic reactions or irritation are possible for some people.

What is urea 40 cream?

This is a urea product that contains the ingredient at 40%, which is considered to be a high dose. High-dose urea is best for intense exfoliation and softening of thickened areas of skin. It generally should not be used on sensitive areas like the face, however.

Does urea cream really work?

According to a 2021 review, urea is “essential for the adequate hydration” of the top layer of your skin, and it also improves skin barrier function. Still, every skin type has different needs or sensitivities. Your dermatologist can determine which ingredients may work best for your skin.

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.