Would You Put Urine On Your Face For Better Skin?

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh.
I want you to sit back, close your eyes, and think long and hard about good skin. Glowy skin. Breakout-free skin. How badly do you want it? Would you give up dairy? Force an orgasm every day? (Okay, that one's easy.) Pee on a cotton pad and rub it on your cheeks?

What kind of sick joke is this?, you may ask. Trust me, I'm not going to do it, either. But don't shoot the messenger. I'm just here to tell you — and the type of people interested in putting leeches and placentas on their faces — about a DIY skin remedy making the rounds on the Internet. It's called urine therapy — and not just because you might need to see a shrink after trying it.

Incorporating urine into a skin-care routine isn't some new hippy-dippy thing Gwyneth Paltrow is touting. It's an ancient Eastern tradition, believed to heal external ailments using the body's natural antibodies released in our urine, which is "sterile, antimicrobial, and has anti-inflammatory properties," says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD.

As expected, there are some caveats to washing or toning your face with urine, says dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD. 1. You should only use your own sample (phew). 2. You must use it immediately to avoid bacteria contamination — no waffling! 3. Do not try this if you're prone to UTIs, have diabetes, or take oral medications which can react with the skin in unexpected ways.

Surprisingly, Dr. Bowe isn't grossed-out by the idea. "It's actually not as disgusting as it sounds!" she says. "I recommend and prescribe different concentrations of urea, one of the main components of urine, all the time for my patients. It hydrates the skin and helps exfoliate away dead cells, giving skin a brighter appearance, smoother texture, and a healthy glow. Urine also has minerals, salts, hormones, antibodies, and enzymes, some of which might actually benefit the skin."

Still, she notes, there haven't been enough studies evaluating the use, so it's hard to measure the true effects. "It's probably not going to have any miraculous benefits, but it's also unlikely to do much harm," she says.

Dr. Zeichner, on the other hand, considers urine therapy more of a last resort, stranded-on-a-desert-island measure. (Major props if you're shipwrecked and still thinking about your micellar water back at home.) "Traditional cleansers and anti-acne treatments are far superior to this natural option," he says.

If you've gotten this far and aren't totally freaked out, here are your instructions, courtesy of Dr. Bowe: Go to the bathroom and collect the specimen in a sterile cup or jar. Saturate a cotton pad with it, and sweep it over your face like you would a toner. Let it sit for 10 minutes, rinse with soap and water, and finish with moisturizer. Now go out into the world and don't tell a soul. This is something you should take to the grave.

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