The Little-Known Haircare Ingredient That Could Change The Game For Your Scalp

Scratching away at your scalp all day is not only unflattering but also extremely annoying. If you are a long-time dry hair and scalp sufferer, you probably have heard of hundreds of home remedies for relief, yet are still struggling. We feel you. This problem not only causes the frustration of constant itching but also the presence of flaking.

Dry hair and scalp have many causes, some of the most common reasons behind dryness include contact dermatitis, dry air, and growing older (via Healthline). It is important to note that dandruff and dry scalp are not the same. Dandruff is directly correlated to seborrheic dermatitis, which is caused by too many oils on the scalp along with an overgrowth of yeast. Whereas dry scalp is caused by dry, irritated skin that begins to flake away, per the Cleveland Clinic. When considering treatment, it is best to first determine which scalp condition you are suffering from, as they both produce the same side-effect of itchy scalp and skin flakes.

If you have determined that your poor scalp health is stemming from dry hair and scalp, the solution can be as simple as a trip to your local drugstore.

The benefits of urea

This under-appreciated ingredient is often forgotten behind other methods of scalp care but truly deserves much more credit. According to Dr. Michelle Henry, a dermatologist and founder of Skin & Aesthetics Surgery of Manhattan, "Urea is a byproduct of protein breakdown naturally found in the skin. It can benefit the hair by promoting scalp health" (via InStyle). Urea works by absorbing moisture from its surrounding environment and drawing it into the skin (via CeraVe).

Urea's benefits are quite miraculous. Not only is it known for moisturizing skin, but also for moisturizing hair. Plot twist! A hydrated scalp actually prevents the overproduction of oils that cause dandruff. Urea is also a natural exfoliant, breaking down Keratin on the outer layer of the skin, according to Keston Muijs, co-founder of the brand Grown Alchemist, per Ipsy. This means goodbye flakes! If you suffer from thin hair as well as a dry scalp, urea can create volume by clarifying the scalp. Finally, Urea has soothing properties that reduce inflammation, minimizing the urge to scratch at your scalp. Overall, urea's properties promote an overall happier scalp and head of hair.

How to incorporate urea into your haircare routine

Urea comes in three forms: hydroxyethyl, diazolidinyl, and imidazolidinyl. The form safe and effective to use on your body is hydroxyethyl, according to the World Health Organization. The other types can be too harsh for the skin and release formaldehyde. Of course, like with any new product, you should first patch-test it on the skin to rule out any allergy.

Urea is suitable for any hair type and is known to be extremely effective for anyone with dry hair and a dry scalp. To incorporate urea into your haircare routine at home, look for shampoos that include hydroxyethyl urea. Use this shampoo once or twice per week until you are sure your scalp has become tolerant of it, especially if you suffer from an extremely sensitive scalp. Ensure you thoroughly cleanse the scalp with this shampoo. Urea can also be found in at-home, leave-in products meant specifically for scalp hydration.

If you are looking to benefit from urea's hair-softening effect, consider getting a keratin treatment at your regularly scheduled salon trip. Many keratin treatments contain urea in order to soften the hair strands and reduce frizz (via Greatist). Keratin treatments are particularly effective for curly girls and can last up to six months. Overall, urea is a very accessible, yet little-known treatment that can change the game for those who suffer from dry hair or a dry scalp.