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Urea: The next big thing?

15.09.2022 | Skincare

If you are looking for an ingredient that has dual benefits of effectively moisturizing and exfoliating dead skin buildup simultaneously, look no further than Urea. At The INKEY List, we believe it is the next trend ingredient! For those with dry or rough skin texture or those that are prone to eczema or psoriasis, we have your Solution. 


Known as carbamide, urea is found in the skin and in, well, pee. In the skin, it helps to support skin barrier health and provides moisture. Not to worry, the urea used in skincare products is lab created, or synthetic, with the first version of this kind produced in 1828. 


Widely used in dermatology, Urea is both a humectant, like Hyaluronic Acid, and a keratolytic meaning that it not only draws moisture from the environment to the skin, but it also helps to slough off dead skin, by softening the outer most layer of the skin, known as the stratum corneum.   

Urea is used in a range of skin care products to tackle concerns of dry, rough, bumpy, or itchy skin. You will find percentages of Urea that range from less than 10% to higher concentrations including 40%. One thing to remember is that “more is not always better.”  Incorporating Urea at 10% is the optimal level to provide both moisturizing and exfoliating benefits to the skin. Our Co-Founder, Mark Curry, explains more.

“We could have gone to 20%...It’s only when you balance at 10% (Urea) that you get the right balance between keratolytic activity and conditioning as well. So, you can really help as many people as possible on that psoriasis kind of spectrum by using this percentage.” 


To understand how Urea works in skincare further, we must first take a crash course in Skin Physiology. The skin is composed of three layers:  

  • The outer layer, the EPIDERMIS, is the thinnest layer of the skin. It serves as a protection from the outside world (think ultraviolet (UV) rays, bacteria, and chemicals). The epidermis is important because it keeps your skin hydrated and produces new skin cells. Within the epidermis you will find cells called melanocytes that are responsible for skin pigment. In facial skin, there are four sublayers, including the stratum corneum. This is the top layer of the epidermis that protects the skin from water loss. 
  • The DERMIS is the middle layer of the skin. In addition to being the thickest layer it contains elastin and collagen which supports your skin’s overall structure. This area includes blood vessels, sweat glands and hair follicles. 
  • And lastly, the HYPODERMIS, also known as the subcutaneous layer, which is composed mainly of fat cells that works to cushion and insulate the body. 

Within the stratum corneum, there are a group of components known as natural moistening factors (NMFs). Among these NMFs are amino acids, lactic acids, sodium PCA, and you guessed it, urea.  

Urea decreases Transepidermal water loss, known as (TEWL), and increases water retention of the stratum corneum. Those with extremely dry and rough skin patches on the face or those prone to eczema or psoriasis may have less than optimal naturally occurring urea in their skin. 


Developed with dermatologists, we created the Dry and Rough Skin Solution 10% Urea Moisturizer to help people suffering from very dry, irritated, and rough or peeling skin. It's fast absorbing, lightweight and suitable for eczema and and psoriasis prone skin. This solution, also formulated with 1% Colloidal Oat, helps to sooth red and irritated skin, while delaying dryness for up to 48 hours. 

Doesn’t sound like you? If you have dehydrated and tight skin? Try our Hyaluronic Acid Serum. 

Photo of Written by JZ, INKEY's own Global Director of Education

Written by JZ, INKEY's own Global Director of Education

JZ is passionate for connecting consumers with skincare knowledge. From the moment he attended his first brand training, he knew he wanted to be involved in skincare education, and is now living his professional dream life at The INKEY List.