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Clear up your acne with urine (yes, pee cures pimples)

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

Surprising new way to cure acne is gross but might actually work

I'll admit it: Reading about urotherapy really made me want to try putting pee on my face.

Let me explain. There is a whole branch of the health industry devoted to the idea that your urine has healing powers. Urotherapy is used to cure everything from cystic acne to wrinkles to gut problems. This requires you to either put your liquid gold on your skin or, oh yes, drink it. People do this. Urophagiacs (I made that up. It sounded nicer than pee-lovers) claim that pee has minerals and nutrients that your body can put to good use.

At first glance, this doesn't seem like such a far-fetched idea. It's just pee. I mean yeah it's kind of gross but Bear Grylls showed us all we could drink it to no ill effect if we were ever stuck in the desert and my toddler proved that getting it all over my skin is really no big deal. Plus, it's free and when's the last time you could say that about a beauty treatment?

Doing it also seems pretty simple. Most sites recommend using a cotton ball or simply a wad of toilet paper and get it a little wet during your first morning pee (first-morning urine is supposed to have more urea concentrated in it) and simply wipe it around your face. I'll give you a moment to picture that. People differ about how long you should leave it on with some saying you just use it like a base layer and put your lotion or makeup or whatever right on top while others say you shouldn't leave uric acid on your face all day and should wash it off after 30 minutes or so.

There are lots and lots of enthusiastic stories on the internet about people using urine therapy to get better skin, shinier hair and even curing cancer. It's often touted as a beauty secret passed down through generations of remarkably young-looking women. It definitely seems to work for some people. In an essay for Jezebel.com writer Vivian Manning-Schaffel decided to try it out:

"I wield the wet, magic wand under my nose and it smells like… pee. It smells like pee. After sipping coffee to steel myself, I dab it all over the immense eruption on my face I've affectionately named Vesuvius. Surprisingly, it tingles for the next hour, like something is actually happening to Vesuvius. A few hours pass and I marvel at how easily I managed to forget I was harboring actual piss on my face. Plus, at the end of this trial period, Vesuvius was noticeably smaller. I went at it with a fresh batch, this time dabbing some miracle flow to my laugh lines. After a few hours, the pee-skin felt remarkably soft. Vesuvius did not shrivel up and die completely, but was somehow reduced from burgeoning volcano to mere molehill."

Sounds pretty good but I don't suffer from cystic acne and lotion makes my face feel "remarkably soft" as well so I went in search of any kind of evidence that wasn't anecdotal. Not surprisingly, there isn't much in the way of actual research. The American Cancer Society reported that two small studies showed no improvement in cancer using urine therapy.

They caution, "Individuals have reported that drinking or injecting urine or applying it directly to the skin is safe and not linked to any harmful side effects, but the safety of these practices has not been established by scientific studies. There have been reports of nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, and diarrhea after drinking one's own urine, especially during the first few days. Some medications are excreted into the urine, and by drinking their own urine, patients can accumulate toxic levels of these drugs."

In the end, it seems like there might be some benefit but the science doesn't back it up yet. Anyone want to give it a whirl, er a whiz, and let us know how it goes?

More on health and beauty

8 Reasons you should pee in the shower today
The (less gross) miracle ingredient that finally cured my adult acne
9 Beauty products you don't really need

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