Sometimes, I think about writing a letter to the entire internet. It would start something like: “Dear readers, are we kidding?” Don’t get me wrong, I love a hair hack and an out-of-the-box skin-care tip just as much as the next person, but the things I’ve been seeing online lately have been throwing me for a loop. Recently, Jonathan Otto, an investigative journalist, filmmaker, and, clearly, DIY skin-care enthusiast, went on the “Digital Social Hour” podcast and told host Sean Kelly that he uses urine as a moisturizer.
“Urine is the number one antiaging resource, as far as I’m concerned, by far,” Otto said. “Urea is the only clinically proven skin moisturizer in the world.” He went on to say that he rubs urine directly onto his face every day, and that not only does his face not smell afterward, but the liquid actually absorbs quickly.
I won’t lie — Otto’s skin does look pretty good. But unless he’s secretly decades older than I think he is, his skin doesn’t look that much better than mine, and my face has never touched urine.
Otto is listed as an investigative journalist, filmmaker, and humanitarian on his website, but it doesn’t seem like he has any relevant experience in the medical or cosmetic chemistry fields. So, to figure out whether or not his claims are actually true, I tapped a skin-care expert.
Keep reading to learn more.
Can You Use Urine as Moisturizer?
So, is it true? Can you actually use urine as a moisturizer? “While some people might find that convenient and others disgusting, like much information purveyed on social media, it is incorrect, yet it does contain a kernel of truth,” Peter Lee, MD, the CEO of Wave Plastic Surgery, tells POPSUGAR.
Here’s the deal: “Urea is a chemical byproduct of the breakdown of proteins in the liver, from which it is carried by the bloodstream to the kidneys, where it is filtered into the urine,” Dr. Lee says. However, Dr. Lee notes that the concentration of urea in human urine is too low to have any clinical impact on the health of the skin.
“Urea in higher concentrations can be a very effective moisturizing agent and is commonly present in many body cleansers and moisturizing agents,” he adds. This is because urea can act as both a humectant (an agent that helps the skin attract and retain moisture) and an emollient (a chemical that softens skin).
“In even higher concentrations, urea can act as a keratolytic agent, [which means] it can remove the dead skin cells that accumulate on the skin surface over time,” Dr. Lee says.
While Dr. Lee recommends using synthetic urea as a skin-care ingredient, he suggests staying away from human urine. “Bacteria present in urine might cause infection of the skin with chronic application, especially in the face of inflammation or a break in the skin surface.”
Whew — I’m not gonna lie, I was a little nervous I was gonna have to start rubbing my own pee on my face in the morning. I’m sure we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief that that isn’t the case. For now, your run-of-the-mill moisturizers will do the trick.