Have you ever read the ingredients to your favorite beauty products only to discover the word "urea" on the label? If so, you’re probably wondering why that word sounds so familiarâ€¦ then it hits you; urea sounds like urine! As gross as it sounds, the majority of your favorite products contain urea, but before you throw them away in disgust, you should keep reading.
Urea, also known as carbamide, is an organic compound that is essentially a waste product of digested protein that gets filtered through the kidneys and is expelled from the body through urine. However, the urea that is often found in cosmetics is made from synthetic ammonia and carbon dioxide.
Initially, urea was discovered by the French chemist Hillaire Rouelle in 1773. Just 55 years later it became the first organic compound to be created synthetically.
So why is it used in beauty products? Urea slows down the loss of moisture from a product; when used in skin care products it increases the water content of the top layers of the skin. Urea also minimizes the change in the pH balance of a product when other ingredients are added to that product.
One important factor of urea is that it acts as a preservative; it helps to control the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. Without urea, our beauty products wouldn’t last nearly as long as they do once they are opened.
Some beauty products that contain urea include Nair, Veet, hair conditioners, body lotions (such as Eucerin), teeth whitening products, skin softeners, bath oils, facial cleansers, and cosmetics such as eye makeup, facial makeup, makeup removers, tanning/bronzing lotions, and cuticle removers.
The ingredients you should be looking for are urea, carbamide, imidazolidinyl urea, and diazolidinyl urea (which is found in the preservative Germaben).
Diazolidinyl urea can also be found in baby wipes, household detergents, and bubble baths.
Imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea are chemically related, therefore they are used in the same way. Both preservatives act as formaldehyde releasers (this is what makes them preservatives).
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review board (CIR) has found urea to be safe as used up to 10 percent, imidazolidinyl urea safe as used up to one percent, and diazolidinyl urea safe with qualifications up to a maximum of 0.5 percent.
Allergic reactions to imidazolidinyl urea may result in a rash on your skin; however it is not a common cause of allergic reactions when compared to other preservatives. Therefore it is often found in beauty products that are labeled "hypoallergenic."
If you are unsure about the ingredients found in your beauty products your best bet is to contact the company that makes the product. They will be able to provide you with all the pertinent information.
You can relax though, there is no one peeing in your favorite beauty products.