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The use of urea in contemporary dermatology

        Urea, also known as carbamide, has the chemical formula (NH2)2CO. It contains proteolytic properties which can disrupt protein connections between corneocytes and effect a breaking down of amino acids found in filaggrin. Urea acts as a humectant and can improve barrier function. Although urea has been used in various forms for skin care since biblical times, its current use in dermatology began in 1906. It has periodically enjoyed popularity as the active ingredient in compresses, creams, and solutions, plus being used as an adjuvant for administering corticosteroids. As a keratolytic and hydrating agent, urea has been shown to be effective in the treatment of a number of other dermatologic conditions; however, limitations to the use of many traditional preparations containing urea included a greasy consistency and the ability to produce irritation. The introduction of foam technology has made urea a more useful and acceptable agent for treating a wide-variety of dermatologic conditions, ranging from keratosis pilaris to hyperkeratosis and callosities to xerosis. A patented water-lipid–based aerosol foam that mimics the natural skin barrier (15% water and 85% lipid) has been developed. This product not only delivers the active ingredients into the viable epidermis, but also provides physiological lipids into the skin that are needed to restore natural skin barrier function; hence, reducing increased transepidermal water loss.
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