Meagan Muses: I love your site– it makes me feel smarter all the time. I’ve got a question about diazolidinyl urea. I see it on labels for lotions and cleansers all the time. Doesn’t urea come from urine? That seems disgusting to me. What’s the story?
The Right Kidney, uh, Right Brain, Replies:
You’re sort of right Meagan, but not really.
What is urea
Let’s start by explaining that “diazolidinyl urea” is a preservative and it’s used in many cosmetics to keep microscopic bugs from spoiling the products you bought with your hard earned money. It so happens that urea is one of the compounds used to make this ingredient. In addition, urea is also used in some creams and lotions as a moisturizer. So urea is used in cosmetics, but does urea really come from urine?
What is urine
Well, urine DOES contain urea. That’s because urea excretion is just one of the ways your body gets rid of the excess nitrogen waste material that it generates. Different animals process this waste in different ways: Aquatic organisms excete it in the form of ammonia. Reptiles and birds excrete it in the form of uric acid. And we humans excrete it in the form of urea.
Does urea come from urine
But fret not – the source of the urea used to make cosmetic ingredients is not someone’s bladder. Industrial urea is synthetically made in large chemical reactors which are rarely, if ever, peed into. As a matter of fact, urea was the FIRST organic chemical ever to be synthetically created from inorganic starting materials. Back in 1828 chemist Friedrich Woehler reacted potassium cyanate with ammonium sulfate to create urea! Ah, there`s nothing quite like a piece of chemical trivia like that to put a sparkle in my eye!
So in summary, the basic message of today’s post is that we should all get down on our knees right now and thank Dr. Woehler for inventing urea so we don’t have to worry about whether or not some stranger had to pee in our Clinique lotion in order to stop bacteria from growing in it.
Or something like that.