One of the Best Ingredients for Dry Skin Is Found in, Um, Your Pee

Photo: Getty Images/ GrapeImages
As a beauty editor, I frequently find myself having to tell people: "Please, don't put that on your skin." Case in point? Kombucha. But one freaky thing that actually might be worth slathering all over, particularly during the colder months of the year? Urea, which is a nitrogen-rich compound that's naturally excreted through urine, folks.

Before you freak out (or worse pee in a cup for an au naturel skin remedy), it's important to note that while urea is excreted when you go number one, the stuff that's used in cosmetics to help with dry skin and keratosis pilaris (aka chicken bumps) is synthetic and manufactured in a lab. I repeat: It's not like someone is actually extracting it out of the toilet (and neither should you!).

The best way to describe urea is that it's a moisturizer and a chemical exfoliant wrapped up into one. "Urea is a great winter ingredient," says board-certified dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, MD. "It's a moisturizing humectant, which helps keep skin hydrated, but also a keratolytic, which means it can get rid of dry skin (particularly thicker buildups), and is really good for softening the skin in general." And there's science to back it all up:  One study discovered that urea can help with the permeability of other topical ingredients (aka: it can help make the serums that you use alongside it more effective), and research has also found that it can help with conditions like dermatitis, excessive dryness, and can help to restore the skin barrier.

According to Dr. Bhanusali, the ingredient is particularly helpful for the areas of your body that have thicker skin—like elbows, feet, and palms—which tend to need a little more hydration. He's also a fan of integrating it into steroid treatments for conditions like eczema and psoriasis, because it helps soften skin lesions while aiding in the penetration of the potent skin-care ingredients.  In case the research behind urea isn't enough to prove how effective it is, it's worth noting that the ingredient is a fixture on the label of some of the strongest, most commonly derm-recommended moisturizers out there. But, Dr. Bhanusali says, this stuff is strong, so be sure to use with care—your scaly skin will thank you.

Eucerin Advanced Repair Cream, $13

From a brand that's known for its dry skin saving products, this advanced repair cream pairs urea with ceramides to strengthen your skin barrier so that it can stand up to the harshest elements.

urea for skin
Photo: Eucerin

La-Roche Posay Iso-Urea, $34

The combination of urea with La Roche Posay's signature thermal water makes for a skin-softening lotion that you'll want to slather on all over. The result? Smooth, soft skin without a dead skin cell in sight.

urea for skin
Photo: La Roche Posay

Skinceuticals Body Retexturing Treatment, $61

With a jelly texture made up of a hydrating triple-threat of urea, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide, your skin will drink this right up after you shower. The result? A head-to-toe "lit from within"  glow that you'll want all year round.

urea for skin
Photo: Skinceuticals

PurSources 40 percent Urea Foot Cream, $16

This stuff a is a real treat for your feet. It will moisturize and soften them, while also getting rid of calluses, making it the perfect pick for days when you're dealing with a high heel hangover.

urea for skin
Photo: PurSources

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA, $8

Packed with natural moisturizing factors like phospholipids, ceramides, and—yes—urea, this is the best hydration money can buy for only $8.

urea for skin
Photo: The Ordinary

Real talk: do "moisturizing" body washes actually make a difference? Here's what a pro has to say. Plus, the three ingredients derms want you to double down on for the sake of dry, winter skin. 

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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