When you hear the word 'urea' what is the first thing that comes to mind? If you thought about urine, you're not alone and you're certainly not wrong! Although urea is not literally urine, it is a component in the urine produced by mammals. The urea concentration in animal waste is much higher than that of humans. Fortunately, the urea used is not derived from animals or humans, it is produced synthetically. That is great for vegans but of no use to the au naturale beauties.
Urea, also known as carbamide, was first synthesized from inorganic materials in 1828 by Friedrich Wohler who was attempting to make something totally different. Urea was in fact the hands down proof that nature could be recreated in the lab using non-natural starting materials. Urea is mainly produced commercially/industrially as a fertilizer; however, it has significant applications in cosmetics and personal care products.
As an ingredient in cosmetics, urea is used as a preservative and also as a buffer, humectant and skin conditioning agent. A buffer controls the ratio of acids and bases. Typically, personal care products should have a pH close to that of water which is neutral (pH of 7). Humectants draw water to the skin which aids in hydration/moisturization. Urea is an active ingredient in products used to treat dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema and keratosis pilaris (chicken skin).
After review by the CIR urea showed low adverse affects. Dermal irritation was found to be insignificant. There were no reproductive or developmental issues. Urea was also cleared from any carcinogenic risks.