This Under-the-Radar Ingredient Works Wonders on Dry Scalps

Urea doesn't sound sexy, but it sure is moisturizing.

This Under-the-Radar Ingredient Works Wonders on Dry Hair
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When dealing with an itchy scalp, there are a plethora of haircare ingredients that can help balance hydration and minimize discomfort. You've probably heard of salicylic acid, charcoal, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and apple cider vinegar as possible remedies for this common scalp struggle, but urea is another option that can be just as impactful as the aforementioned ingredients that get all of the hype on the internet.

While it doesn't sound sexy, urea can be a beneficial addition to your haircare routine since it's an effective moisturizer and humectant for the scalp. Ahead, all of the details about urea, the under-the-radar ingredient that can work wonders for dry, itchy scalps.

What Is Urea and What Are Its Benefits for the Scalp?

"Urea is a byproduct of protein breakdown naturally found in the skin. It can benefit the hair by promoting scalp health," says Dr. Michelle Henry, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin & Aesthetics Surgery of Manhattan. "Urea at lower concentrations is a great hydrator which allows it to help calm dry, itchy scalps. At higher concentrations, It's a good exfoliant, which is useful as well for balancing the scalp."

Krupa Koestline, a clean cosmetic chemist and founder of KKT Consultants, adds that urea is "especially wonderful in rebalancing the skin after cleansing."

Who Should Use Urea, and How Do You Use It In Your Haircare Routine?

Urea can be used by any and all hair types, which makes it shocking that it doesn't get more airtime in the haircare space.

However, Dr. Henry recommends proceeding with caution if you have sensitive skin. "Those with an allergy to urea should avoid it, as well as those with exquisitely sensitive skin," she adds.

That being said, as with any new ingredient, it's best to integrate it slowly into your routine. "As I recommend for the introduction of any new product, start slowly and judiciously, using the product twice weekly and increasing the frequency as you assess tolerance," Dr. Henry suggests. And if in doubt, consult with a board-certified dermatologist before using a product with urea.

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Is Urea Safe to Use?

If you've heard rumblings of controversy surrounding urea, it's probably because there are a few different forms of it: hydroxyethyl, diazolidinyl, and imidazolidinyl.

"People confuse the form of urea used in beauty products with 'imidazolidinyl urea' and 'diazolidinyl urea' which are well-known formaldehyde-releasing, harmful preservatives," Koestline explains. "There are no safety concerns associated with urea itself."

And no, the urea in your shampoo is not derived from urine. "Urea is an ingredient found in urine, but commercially, urea is synthesized from ammonia," the chemist adds.

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