If you closely follow the beauty world, you most probably have heard about squalane, the so-called “the lightest facial oils.” In fact, squalane is a multitasker, mostly known for its moisture-boosting effects, that all skin types can benefit from, but this is not all this skincare hero is capable of. Lightweight, non-greasy, sebum-balancing, skin regenerating, and moisture trapping, there’s not much squalane in skincare can’t do. Ok, now you want to know it all, don’t you?
Squalane and squalene
You’ll often come across two terms: squalane and squalene. But what’s the difference between these two similar terms? Welp, as you know, our sebaceous glands are responsible for sebum production, which protects and hydrates the skin. One of the three integral parts of sebum is squalene, making up 10-12% of the skin’s oil.
Simply put, squalene is a lipid made by our skin cells to keep it moisturized. On the other hand, squalane is a hydrogenated, stabilized version of natural squalene, as the latter is prone to fast oxidation, hence degradation. In other words, squalane is a stable, lighter squalene derivative.
Hard pass on shark-derived squalene
Sadly, the practice of deriving squalene from shark liver is pretty common. For decades, as many as 50 species of sharks were hunted and killed, causing a lot of controversies. Fortunately, over time, most people have become more aware of nature and began to be aware of the sources of where the ingredients in their skincare products come from. The greatest cosmetics brands have turned to more environmental-friendly alternatives, extracting squalane from plants, such as olives, sugar cane, amaranth seeds, rice bran, wheat germ, fungi, and date palm.
However, some brands still keep extracting squalene from sharks’ livers. For this reason, campaigns like Oceana’s 2008 push for the cosmetic industry to stop using shark liver oil exist, and consumers are joining in urging the cosmetics industry to implement stronger labeling regulations around the sourcing of squalane. I suggest you pay attention to the source of squalene/squalane in your products and avoid the ones that contain squalene derived from shark’s liver. Please.
Is squalane an oil?
Yes, squalane is a lightweight and non-comedogenic oil that’s able to penetrate the skin, making changes at a cellular level without ever feeling sticky or heavy, nor clogging the pores.
The benefits of squalane in skincare
When applied to the skin, squalane creates a barrier between the skin and external factors, protecting the skin from external damage. In addition to its moisturizing and barrier sealing properties, squalane is a great anti-inflammatory ingredient, good at reducing redness and soothing skin.
Since it’s rich in saturated fatty acids, squalane is celebrated for its emollient properties, that not only soften skin, but it traps moisture, preventing transepidermal water loss (TEWL), which in turn keeps skin plump. Also, squalane has antioxidant benefits, working to scavenge free radicals and offset oxidative stress that leads to premature skin aging.
Oily skins can use squalane deliberately since it never clogs pores, but more than that, it balances sebum secretion, so fewer chances for pores to clog hence fewer breakouts. There’s more. Thanks to its antibacterial activity and calming benefits, squalane does great for breakout-prone skin too. As aforementioned, squalane in skincare is a multi-duty ingredient that works for all skin types and conditions.
How to use squalane?
You can use squalane in your morning and evening skincare routines. Since serums can penetrate the skin better, you reap most of the squalane benefits for skin if used in a serum. Ideally, apply squalane after water-based products. As a versatile, gentle ingredient, it’s easy to mix squalane with all powerful actives, like retinol or AHAs/BHAs.