Urea (Eczema)

Urea is an important component of the epidermis (upper skin layer) that serves to keep healthy skin hydrated by attracting and binding water as a part of the skin’s natural moisturising factor1. In dry skin conditions, water loss from the upper skin layer is linked to a reduced skin barrier function, which may be worsening the disease symptoms. In moisturisers urea is typically added for its humectant properties.

What does the science say?

Level of evidence: A

In atopic dermatitis, the use of urea containing moisturisers (either 5% or 10%) has been shown to reduce disease severity by about 20% after applying the moisturisers twice daily for 42 days2. Also, in eczematous skin urea has been shown to improve hydration of the upper skin layer as well as its water binding capacity, and to reduce water loss across the skin surface3.

Following skin clearance by use of corticosteroids, a recent study in people with atopic dermatitis showed that the subsequent use of a 5% urea cream compared with a control emollient significantly prolonged the eczema-free time compared with the reference cream and decreased the risk of eczema relapse4.

The concentration of an ingredient is important for its efficacy, and therefore products containing the same ingredient may not necessarily have the same effect as in the studies mentioned above. Updated: July. 2017

Updated: July 2017


1J Drugs Dermatol. 2016

2[J Cosmet Dermatol. 2010

3[Acta Dermatol-Kyoto 1989

4[Acta Derm Venereol. 2015