Meet Squalane: The Hydrating Ingredient All Skin Types Can Enjoy

A new day, a new trendy skincare ingredient, am I right? With all of these crazy skincare additives popping up left and right, it’s becoming harder to decipher what will truly work. And while skincare is far from a “one size fits all” mindset, there are a few ingredients that can provide a few benefits to most (if not all) skin types. Enter: squalane.



What’s Squalane?


In the broadest of terms, squalane is a light oil and emollient, according to Victoria Fu and Gloria Lu, the cosmetic chemist duo behind Chemist Confessions. They state that the oil is helpful for smoothing the skin, retaining moisture, and giving your complexion a radiant glow.


“It is an emollient, a great moisturizer, and helps carry other nutrients deep into the skin,” says Dr. Lamees Hamdan, dermatologist and creator of Shiffa. “Olive oil is rich in squalene and that is why it is used in aromatherapy as a ‘carrier’ oil. It is a great antioxidant helping to protect the skin and helps the skin’s barrier function.”


“Squalane is a fantastic ingredient that replenishes skin’s moisture barrier,” adds Mollie Jensen, Senior Sustainability & Compliance Manager at BIOSSANCE. “This barrier is what keeps our skin healthy so it can do its very important job of protecting us against the outside world. When our skin’s barrier becomes compromised—whether through severe climates or harsh products—it shows in irritation, redness and other sensitive skin issues. Squalane helps keep your moisture barrier in optimal condition and your skin smooth, soft and healthy-looking.”


Squalane Vs. Squalene


Squalane, squalene; tom-ay-to, tom-ah-to; same thing right? Not exactly. According to Fu and Lu, the former is derived from the latter, and squalane is a more stable version of it’s predecessor, making it easier to add into skincare products without going bad.


“Squalene is present in the skin and occurs during cholesterol synthesis,” adds Dr. Hamdan. “It is an antioxidant and helps protect the skin from environmental stress. The issue with squalene is when put into skincare, it is unstable and oxidizes very quickly and goes rancid. So, squalene is hydrogenized to produce Squalane, which is much more stable.”


Is Squalane Ethical?


Squalane is now appreciated by all skincare fanatics, but it used to have a bad rep. No, it didn’t cause anyone (that we know of) to break out in hives or irritation, but it used to be derived in a very unethical way: from sharks.


“Squalane first attracted researchers’ attention because they thought it might prevent cancer,” says Dima Steesy, esthetician and founder of Dima Steesy skincare. “Shark livers are made up of as much as 40% squalane and they assumed this ‘miracle’ ingredient was why sharks don’t get cancer.” Thankfully, my fellow animal lovers, Steesy notes that after some more research, scientists discovered that sharks can and do get cancer and squalane has not been proven to prevent cancer, so squalane is no longer derived from our finned friends.


So, where does this hydrating ingredient come from now? According to Jensen, the ingredient is now derived from a slew of natural, vegan alternatives. “Squalane is a deeply moisturizing ingredient that traditionally was harvested from shark liver,” she says. “Though through biotechnology we found a way to create highly stable and sustainable squalane with sugarcane. Another plant source is from olive, which can have quality and availability issues due to varying environmental conditions.”



Who Can Use Squalane?


The best part about squalane: all of our experts agreed that it’s beneficial for every skin type to use! Steesy notes that it’s beneficial for dry, combination and normal skin types to help retain moisture, while the Chemist Confessions duo adds that it’s a great lightweight oil for oilier skin types to use as an introduction to facial oils.


“Because it’s a natural component of our natural moisture barrier, our skin knows what to do with it,” says Jensen. “Even oily skin types, which are often dehydrated from harsh, stripping products, can benefit from squalane since it is non-comedogenic, meaning, it won’t clog pores.”


However, just to play it safe, Dr. Hamdan, Fu and Lu all suggest to patch test any new ingredient on your skin before you fully devote to it.


So, want to give squalane a try? We thought so. Check out our favorite squalane-infused picks, below.


BIOSSANCE Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil


Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil


This facial oil has a trifecta of skincare goodies. Containing a mixture of good ol squalane, depigmenting vitamin C, and the antioxidant power of rose oil, it’s great for when your complexion is calling for a pick-me-up.


INDIE LEE Facial Cream


Squalane Facial Cream, Size 1 oz


If your skin is beckoning for some moisture, grab this hydrating moisturizer. It contains everything you could ask for when your pores are feeling parched. Squalane, hyaluronic acid,  rosehip seed oil, and more? Oh, f*ck yeah.


Herbivore Botanicals Emerald Deep Moisture Glow Oil


Emerald Cannabis Sativa Hemp Seed Deep Moisture Glow Oil


This one’s for all of my canna-beauties. Containing squalane, hydrating meadowfoam seed oil, and its skin-balancing hero ingredient hemp seed oil, this facial oil will give your skin a hydrating and calming treatment, sans the cyph session.


TULA Revitalizing Eye Cream


Revitalizing Eye Cream, 0.5 oz./ 15 mL


We’re a fan of designer bags, but not so much with our undereye bags. Your undereyes are extremely delicate, so they need an extra hydration boost to stay firm and bag-free. Enter: this nourishing eye cream, which contains squalane to retain precious water for a firm and buoyant look.


Youth To The People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask


Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask


This overnight mask will kick your beauty sleep into high gear. With ultra-quenching properties from squalane, plus the invigorating benefits of vitamin C and the Maqui superfruit, you’ll wake up with a fresh, radiant glow that’s ready to take on any day (yes, even Mondays).

No more articles