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Journal of Varna Medical College

Urea in skincare

Svetlana Laskova, Ilko Bakardzhiev, Dian Iliev


Urea is a carbamide with a hygroscopic molecule (one that is able to absorb water). It is present in the epidermis as part of the natural hydrating factor of the skin and is of significant importance for its effective hydration. Urea improves the barrier function of the skin, including antimicrobial protection, by regulating the genetic expression in keratinocytes. The latter have an important function in the differentiation and production of antimicrobial peptides. Depending on the concentration in use, urea plays a central role in regulating keratinocyte proliferation.

Due to its proteolytic and antibacterial properties, urea’s first applications in modern medicine were in the local treatment of wounds. Nowadays, carbamide is widely utilised in dermatology for the improvement of the skin’s barrier functions, becoming one of the most commonly used moisturisers and keratolytic agenents. Products with a variety of urea-containing formulas are available on the market. A wide number of clinical studies on the use of urea in skincare are showing a significant clinical improvement in those with erythematosquamous dermatoses, like atopic dermatitis, ichthyosis, xerosis, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, as well as dry skin.

Urea also improves the skin’s absorbency and thus assists in the action and efficiency of locally applied medications. Products containing carbamide are usually well-accepted by patients. Their side effects are mild and are most commonly observed in formulas with higher concentration of urea.




keywords: urea; keratinocytes; dry skin; atopic dermatitis

Full Text


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