What Is Squalane?
Squalane is a lighter weight derivative of squalene that is better for acne and congestion. Squalene makes up 10-12% of your skin’s natural oils or sebum. It is one of the natural lipids that help to keep the skin hydrated and the oil levels balanced.
Squalane and squalene have very similar uses in skincare and body care formulations. The main differences are that squalane is more stable and better for congested skin types. Squalane doesn’t oxidize as squalene does, so it can last longer and is slightly lighter in texture and feel.
Squalane and squalene are derived from either animal or plant-based sources. The primary source of animal-based squalene is shark liver. The issue with the animal-based squalene is that it is often hard to trace an ethically or sustainably origins. Generally, most ethical brands will source their squalene from olives, wheat germ oil, or rice bran oil. Given that squalane is not subject to oxidation due to its hydrogenated form, it is more stable and therefore preferred in skincare formulations.
the good: Helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduces flakiness and dryness, and is non-comedogenic, making it great for congested or oily skin types.
the not so good:Can be derived from non-vegan sources, always check which source is used by the brand you are looking to use if you are vegan or vegetarian.
Who is it for?All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.
Synergetic ingredients:Works well with most ingredients
Keep an eye on:There is a difference between squalane and squalene products. Make sure you are using the type that is best for your skin type.
Squalane vs. Squalene
The main differences between squalene and squalane:
|– Made from vegetable oils such as olive and shark liver oil||– Is a hydrogenated form of squalene, meaning that any double bonds become saturated by hydrogen atoms|
|– Is less stable and doesn’t last as long in the formulation||– Is more stable and has a longer shelf life|
|– Helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles||– Great for congested or oily skin types as it has a light texture and doesn’t clog the pores|
|– Works as an antioxidant, preventing free radical damage||– Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles|
What Are the Five Benefits of Squalane?
- Free radicalsA review article published in the journal Molecules discussed the benefits of squalene and squalane to the skin. One of the main benefits seems to be that squalene protects the skin against damage from free radicals. Free radicals are produced during oxidative stress, a natural reaction in the body. When the balance of free radicals is disturbed, it can lead to damage to your cells. Free radicals have been linked with many of the visible signs of aging.
Squalene and squalane seem to help to reduce the damage that free radicals may cause to the skin. In the Molecules article, it was discussed that similar compounds such as β- carotene, coenzyme Q10, and vitamins such as; A, E and K, also have similar benefits when used topically. Both squalane and squalene have
- EmollientAn emollient helps to reduce the appearance of dry and flaky skin. They provide the skin with a thin film that protects the skin from moisture loss and maintaining a healthy skin barrier. Skin barrier health is particularly important for sensitive skin types or skin experiencing skin barrier disruption such as skin affected by eczema, dermatitis, or psoriasis. Squalane and squalene are both emollients. As for skincare ingredients, they are absorbed quickly into the skin and can penetrate deeply, leaving the skin with a slight protective barrier without the heaviness of thicker products.
- Hydration Squalene and squalane help to prevent transepidermal water loss or TEWL. TEWL is caused when moisture from the top layers of the skin is lost to the air. This can lead to dryness or can exacerbate existing dryness or flakiness. By preventing this water loss, squalane and squalene can improve the appearance of dryness and flakiness. Squalane and squalene are both occlusive ingredients, which means that they act as a physical barrier between the skin and the air to prevent water loss.
Several studies conducted in recent years show that squalane not only hydrates and softens the skin but may also be an effective anti-aging ingredient. Because squalane spreads smoothly over the skin and penetrates so deeply, it may help to lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Antioxidant Squalene has been identified to have antioxidant properties for the skin. This has been suggested due to squalene’s ability as an oxygen-scavenging agent. This means that squalene counters some of the effects of oxidative stress on the skin. Oxidative stress often occurs when the skin is exposed to sunlight and other forms of environmental stress. Antioxidants may help fight aging by protecting the skin from UV rays and free radicals, which damage skin cells and damage the skin’s natural collagen. Squalene’s characteristics as a potential antioxidant have a second benefit as it may help to reduce irritation.
- Oil balancingSebum or the natural oils your skin produces, help to protect the skin from becoming dry. When the skin is dry through environmental factors, harsh cleanser, change or imbalance in hormones, the skin can overproduce sebum to compensate for the dryness. This compensation can congest the skin and leave it feeling greasy. One of the potential solutions to this is to use oils that mimic the skin’s natural sebum, such as jojoba, squalene, and squalane oils. Squalene makes up 13% of the skin’s natural sebum.
Who Should Use Squalane?
Both squalene and squalane can reduce the appearance of dryness, prevent moisture loss, and help alleviate some of the visible signs of aging. However, due to the slight difference between the two ingredients, squalene is slightly better for dry or aging skin. As squalane is lighter, it’s better for congested or acne-prone skin types.
Is Squalane Vegan?
Squalene and squalane are usually vegan being derived from vegetable oils such as olive, wheat germ, or rice bran oil. However, it can also be sourced from shark liver oil. This is particularly common in dietary supplement forms of squalene. Make sure to confirm the source of the squalane or squalene in your product if you are making vegan or vegetarian choices.
There is the environmental concern that animal-based squalane sources threatening specific shark populations. If you want to take advantage of the purported benefits of this ingredient without damaging the ecosystem of the ocean or causing harm to animals, then you have an option. Read product labels to see if the squalane was derived from plants, such as olives, or if it was harvested from captured sharks.
Is It Safe?
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel reviewed the available safety data for squalane and squalene in 1982, 2001, and 2019 as the incident of usage in skincare and cosmetic products increased. In all three reviews, the Expert Panel determined the ingredients to be safe for their indicated uses in skincare and cosmetics.
Sethi, A, Kaur, T, Malhotra, S. K, & Gambhir, M, 2016. ‘Moisturizers: The Slippery Road’, Indian Journal of Dermatology, vol. 61, is. 3, pp. 279–287
Huang, Z R, Lin, Y, & Fang, J. Y, 2009. ‘Biological and pharmacological activities of squalene and related compounds: potential uses in cosmetic dermatology’, Molecules, vol. 14, is. 1, pp. 540-554.
Lozano-Grande, A, Gorinstein, S, Espitia-Rangel, E, Dávila-Ortiz, G Leticia Martínez-Ayal, A, 2018. ‘Plant Sources, Extraction Methods, and Uses of Squalene’, International Journal of Agronomy.
Cosmetic Ingredient Safety Assessments, 2003. ‘Squalene and Squalane’, International Journal of Toxicology.