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Wounds and Urea


Urea is a nitrogen-rich molecule found in urine, but don’t worry, I’m not suggesting any connection between wound care and urine therapy. Urea is the molecule the body makes to get rid of excess nitrogen, but it’s found in other places beside urine. Urea has many uses from fertilizers, explosives, automobile exhaust systems, and skin creams. What a versatile compound. Thank you chemistry! I won’t bore you with the chemistry, but focus on how making sure you have a urea-based moisturizer to help in the prevention of foot wounds.

How does Urea work?
Urea is both hydrophillic (water-loving), and keratolytic (breaks down keratin), which means it’s great for breaking down callouses and softening skin to prevent skin breakdowns. Urea dries out and dissolves the part of the skin called the stratum corneum (the outermost layer, see image), which leads to the callused layer peeling and flaking away. Consistent and proper use of urea-based products will lead to soft, supple, and flexible skin. This prevents problems of cracking and wound formation! Recent research demonstrates that a formulation with 15% urea both thinned callouses and quickly improved dry skin.

How to use it?
Proper application of the lotion is essential to maximizing urea’s effectiveness:

• Remove dry thick skin with coarse sandpaper every other day, (a pumice stone or an emery board will do the trick)
• Bathe, shower, or wash area with warm soapy water daily
• Rinse with clear water and PAT dry, leaving skin moist. Do not rub, pat.
• Apply creams or lotions while skin is moist at least twice daily.

Use a lotion or moisturizer with 10-25% urea added.

Where can you get it?
Urea can be found in varying strengths, from 10-42%. The higher strength lotions are usually prescription only, but many lower strength creams and lotions are available over the counter if your doctor recommends a urea-based cream or lotion.

Other names for urea:
Many lotions and creams contain urea, but list it under a different name: Carbamide, carbonyl diamide, carbonyldiamine, diaminomethanal, diaminomethanone

2. Lodén M (2005) The clinical benefit of moisturizers. J EurAcad Dermatol Venereol 19: 672–88

1. Skin layers