What Is It?

Urea is a colorless or white crystalline powder; it can also occur in the form of small white pellets. In cosmetics and personal care products, Urea can be found in many product types including skin care, coloring and noncoloring hair care products, and eye makeup.

Why is it used in cosmetics and personal care products?

Urea minimizes the change in the acid/base balance of a product when other ingredients are added to that product. It also slows the loss of moisture from a product during use. When used in the formulation of skin care products, Urea increases the water content of the top layers of the skin.

Scientific Facts:

Urea, sometimes referred to as carbamide, is produced in mammalian systems when proteins are broken down. It is excreted in the urine of mammals. The Urea found in cosmetics and personal care products is synthetic and not animal derived. In addition to its use in cosmetics and personal care products, Urea has a number of food uses, including its use as a fermentation aid in bakery products and wine.

Safety Information:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes Urea on its list of direct food additives affirmed as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). The safety of Urea has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR)Expert Panel. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that Urea was safe as used in cosmetics and personal care products.

More safety Information:

CIR Safety Review: The CIR Expert Panel determined Urea was safe for use in cosmetic and personal care products. Acute, short-term, and chronic toxicity studies demonstrated little evidence of adverse effects, even at high exposures. Dermal irritation was not significant. Reproductive and developmental toxicity studies raised no concerns. Carcinogenicity studies were negative. In vitro, Urea can cause uncoiling of DNA, a property used in many laboratory studies of DNA. This in vitro activity is not linked to any in vivo genotoxic activity and Urea was not considered by the CIR Expert Panel to be genotoxic, except at very high concentrations. The CIR Expert Panel did note that Urea can increase the percutaneous absorption of other ingredients and that this should be taken into account when conducting product safety assessments.

FDA: Link to the Code of Federal Regulations for Urea 

Urea may be used in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union. 

Link to the EU Cosmetic Regulation: 

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives has evaluated the use of Urea at levels up to 3% in chewing gum and found these levels to be acceptable and of no toxicological concern. 

In Canada, Urea is permitted in cosmetics and personal care products at concentrations equal to or less than 10%. 

Australia’s National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) has prepared an Existing Chemical Information Sheet for Urea

More Scientific Information:

Urea is an amide that functions as a buffering agent, humectant and skin conditioning agent – humectant in cosmetics and personal care products.


Find out more about the regulation of Food Additives by the Food and Drug Administration

Food Ingredients and Packaging: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/default.htm

Food Contact Substances: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/PackagingFCS/defaul…

Substances Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS): http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/default.htm

Search the Code of Federal Regulations http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm

EU Cosmetics Inventory http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/cosmetics/cosing/