Urea Cream: Everything You Need to Know

Urea cream is an over-the-counter (OTC) topical medication used to treat various skin conditions that can cause dry, rough, or scaly skin, such as eczema (dry, itchy, inflamed skin), atopic dermatitis (the most common type of eczema), psoriasis (skin condition that forms scaly, itchy patches), xerosis (dry skin), and others.

The main component of urea cream is urea. Urea is an organic molecule naturally produced when the body breaks down proteins. It also is made synthetically using ammonia and carbon dioxide.

Learn more about how urea cream is used, potential side effects and interactions, dosages, and more.

Young man using urea cream on eczema.

Tanja Ivanova / Getty Images

Urea Cream Uses

Urea is one component of what’s known as natural moisturizing factor (NMF), a combination of substances that help keep the skin adequately hydrated. Urea helps bind water to rehydrate skin, improve skin barrier function, and regulate keratinocyte production.

Keratinocytes are the main cell types in the outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis, and play an important role in protecting skin integrity and maintaining skin structure. For this reason, urea cream helps treat dermatological conditions that cause the skin to become dry, flaky, or rough by rehydrating and strengthening the skin barrier. 

Conditions that urea cream often helps treat include:

Side Effects

Urea cream is generally safe and has few side effects. However, some people may experience mild and temporary skin irritation in higher concentrations. This typically goes away on its own.

Contact your healthcare provider to rule out an allergic reaction if you have a more serious reaction, such as severe burning, itching, redness, or hives.


Urea cream comes in concentrations ranging from 2% to 50%. Depending on your condition, low-dose or high-dose urea may be more appropriate.

Low-dose Urea

Low-dose (2% to 10%) urea cream is used primarily as a hydrating agent. This makes it best for treating xerosis; preventing and treating ichthyosis, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis; preventing radiation-induced dermatitis; and maintaining healthy skin.

Medium-dose Urea

Medium-dose (10% to 30%) urea cream can be used as a hydrant, a keratolytic (an agent that helps break down skin flakes and scales), and a topical drug enhancer. These doses are also used to treat xerosis, ichthyosis, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis and to maintain healthy skin.

High-dose Urea

High-dose (30% to 50%) urea cream is used as a keratolytic or a topical drug enhancer. In higher doses, urea is used to treat the following:

  • Localized hyperkeratosis (thickness of the skin)
  • Psoriasis
  • Keratoderma (thick epidermis)
  • Calluses and corns
  • Dandruff (flaky skin on the scalp)
  • Nail disorders
  • As a pretreatment for hyperkeratotic actinic keratoses (sun spots)


Follow all instructions on the package's instruction label when using urea cream. Do not use urea cream if you are allergic to it. Consult your healthcare provider before using urea cream on broken, inflamed, or burnt skin or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Discontinue use and contact your healthcare provider if you notice any extreme changes to your skin after using urea cream.


There are no known interactions between urea cream and other medications. However, urea may increase the absorption of other compounds. So, talk to your healthcare provider if you are using other topical medications before using urea cream.


Urea cream is an over-the-counter topical medication used to treat various skin conditions by rehydrating and strengthening the skin barrier. Urea comes in doses ranging from 2% to 50%; different concentrations are used for different conditions.

Urea is generally safe and typically has few side effects or medication interactions. If you have questions about whether urea cream can help your skin condition, are unsure about dosages, or are worried about an allergic reaction, speak to your healthcare provider to determine what treatment is best for you. 

A Word From Verywell

Urea cream can help treat skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, xerosis, and more. However, it may not work for everyone. If urea cream does not resolve your skin issues, don’t feel discouraged; other options can help you achieve healthy skin.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you use too much urea cream?

    Urea cream is generally safe, even in higher doses. However, contact your healthcare provider if you experience side effects, such as itching, burning, or redness.

  • What should not be used with urea cream?

    Urea cream does not have any known interactions. However, it can increase the absorption of other substances, so talk to your healthcare provider before using urea cream with other topical medications.

  • Can urea cream be applied anywhere?

    You should only apply urea cream to the skin. Do not put it in your eyes, nose, or mouth. Talk to your healthcare provider before applying urea cream to broken or irritated skin.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dirschka T. Mode of action of urea. International Journal of Clinical Practice. 2020;74(S187). doi:10.1111/ijcp.13569

  2. Piquero-Casals J, Morgado-Carrasco D, Granger C, et al. Urea in dermatology: a review of its emollient, moisturizing, keratolytic, skin barrier enhancing and antimicrobial properties. Dermatology and Therapy. 2021;11(6):1905-1915. doi:10.1007/s13555-021-00611-y

  3. Celleno L. Topical urea in skincare: a review. Dermatologic Therapy. 2018;31(6). doi:10.1111/dth.12690

By Rebecca Valdez, MS, RDN
Rebecca Valdez is a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition communications consultant, passionate about food justice, equity, and sustainability.