Urea, it probably brings up images of fertiliser or even urine, certainly not normally skincare for most people unless you are in my field.
Urea is a very important molecule in your body and particularly important in your skin, so much so your skin tries to maintain levels of about 28 micrograms per square centimetre.
Why? Urea is an exceptional hydrator. It acts as a wetting agent for your upper layers of skin. Not the layer that has all your collagen and blood vessels but that top tough layer that you feel and touch everyday. It increases this levels capacity to hold water. Skin that is very low in Urea experiences symptoms of dermatitis, psoriasis, xerosis. It feels dry and rough with excessive shedding.
In skins that have adequate levels of Urea the skin feels hydrated and soft but it also feels smooth because Urea keeps the surface of the skin shedding correctly. Not too much, not too little.
I actually prescribe Urea lotions to people who say to me "No matter how much I moisturise, my legs are always dry". What I've just heard is most likely a skin that has low levels of Urea. It has a low capacity to hold water and the surface is powdery or flaky as the surface cell shedding is excessive and uneven. Think of it like the edge of fabric. Left unprotected it frays and separates.
The great thing about Urea is that your body makes it itself, it is a crucial component your skin so there is no sensitivity. It also is a simple crystal that dissolves in water so it has no weight, no oiliness.
Quite often when I mention a Urea skin supplement to someone they show a slow enthusiasm and I really need to talk its virtues and earn their trust. In fact they would show more excitement if I mentioned some exotic plant species from deep in the jungle than they would for urea. But you see that's just the thing, your human body, this amazing machine that runs itself most of the time perfectly already knows what the ideal product is. It's been making it itself ever since that tiny bundle of cells that became you started to grow skin. the perfect answer is often very very close to home.
Although I make my products from natural ingredients like plant oils and butters or clays I do very much rely on knowledge of how the body runs itself and what it needs to function well.
So back to my customer who has dry skin she cannot get on top of. I recommend her a Urea product (HydraLac) and she goes off with fairly simple instructions but I know she isn't a believer yet. Then I wait, usually no more than five days and in she comes. "I had to come in and say my dry skin is all gone! It feels so soft, so smooth. Thankyou so much. So can you tell me what's in it again?"
Yes, yes I can. It's this amazing product Urea. "Urea!!! she says, ewhhh isn't that your urine?" yes it is but let me tell you more than you've known before.