Squalane is one of the most searched for skincare ingredients of 2020 – a testament perhaps to its brilliant moisturising properties, but also to the confusion around what the ingredient is and how exactly it can help your skin.
From the differences between ‘squalane’ and ‘squalene’ to who exactly can benefit from this readily absorbed hydrator, here’s everything you really need to know about squalane – including how to add it into your routine.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SQUALANE AND SQUALENE?
“Squalene (with an ‘e’) can be found naturally in our bodies; it is synthesised in our livers, circulates our bloodstream and is released through sebaceous glands,” reveals the skin expert Dr Janet Mason. “Squalene is an incredible moisturising substance for our skin. It is commonly found in skin-surface lipids which help to protect and moisturise.”
Squalane (with an ‘a’) however is what you are likely to see on your product’s ingredient list. But, don’t worry: this is because in skincare, squalene is converted to squalane to make it more stable.
“Squalene is the primary substance and squalane is its derivative,” explains the dermatologist and founder of Meder Beauty Science, Dr Tiina Meder. “If you need to remember one thing about the difference between them, let it be the oxidation. Squalene oxidises easily, making it unusable in skincare, whereas squalane doesn’t at all because of the change of chemical structure. This makes it stable and much more effective as a skincare ingredient.”
“Squalane is created by hydrogenating squalene,” continues Dr Mason, “which basically means treating it with hydrogen to give it a non-reactive, saturated structure. That structure makes it great for inclusion in hydrating products for your skin or on its own as a gentle natural moisturiser.”
WHY IS SQUALANE GOOD FOR THE SKIN?
A highly versatile fatty molecule, squalane (like squalene) is a brilliant emollient that works to moisturise and soften your complexion. “It is great for skin barrier support, suppleness, hydration, and texture improvements,” says Dr. Charlene DeHaven. M.D., the clinical director of iS Clinical.
“Squalane is excellent at helping to keep skin hydrated and moisturised,” agrees Dr Meder. “It is easily absorbed and prevents water loss from the skin, while also helping repair the barrier of our skin, protecting it against external environmental aggressors. Its ability to reduce inflammation provides relief to those with acne, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, and rosacea too. It is even great as part of an anti-ageing regime, increasing skin’s luminosity and vibrancy, lessening the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and can also reduce redness.”
Simply speaking, it’s the definition of a real skincare ingredient multi-tasker.
WE NATURALLY PRODUCE SQUALENE, SO WHY DO WE NEED SQUALANE IN SKINCARE?
“Your natural squalene production starts to deplete dramatically at around 30 (like many other skin components, such as collagen), so using squalane helps to replenish these stocks to keep skin moisturised and looking youthful,” explains Dr Mason. “It does so by absorbing into the lipidic layers of your skin and helping to prevent moisture loss whilst aiding the restoration of the skin’s suppleness and glow.”
WHO IS SQUALANE ESPECIALLY GOOD FOR?
“Squalane is an adaptogen, which means it adapts to your skin type, and what your skin needs,” reveals Dr Mason. “This makes it is a versatile product for all skin types. Not to mention, because we already naturally produce squalene, squalane is super gentle for sensitive skin.”
“Squalane is safe to use and beneficial to all skin types, even the most sensitive skin and those prone to acne,” agrees Dr Meder. “It is also hypoallergenic – there is no known allergy to squalane because of its skin-identical nature.”
IS SQUALANE VEGAN?
“Squalane was first sourced from deep-sea sharks, as their livers are filled with squalene (the unhydrogenated version of squalane) to help them maintain depth underwater,” says Dr Mason. In that form, the moisturising ingredient obviously wouldn’t be vegan but for anyone conscious of oceanic diversity, luckily that’s not always the case.
“Squalene is also naturally present in olives, rice bran and sugarcane,” says Dr Meder, and this form can also be hydrogenated to squalane to be used in skincare.”
That said: “even now, squalene derived from olive oil or amaranth oil is not used by all brands worldwide as plant-based squalene is 30% more expensive than that obtained from sharks,” Dr Meder worryingly reveals. “90 per cent of the worlds shark liver oil goes to the cosmetic industry: that’s 2.7 million sharks dying yearly. Plant-based squalane is modern, eco-friendly, effective and a skin-identical ingredient. so do your research and ensure your squalane is plant, not animal derived.”
AS AN OIL, WILL IT BLOCK MY PORES?
The short answer is no. Squalane is a very lightweight oil and it is non-comedogenic, meaning it doesn’t block pores.
“The fact that it is so similar to our own squalene means it absorbs extremely quickly and gets to work as if it had always been there,” reassures Dr Mason. “That means the oil is ideal for acne-prone or oily skin, as it can help moisturise and regulate sebum production.”
WHAT PERCENTAGE SHOULD I USE IT IN?
“100% pure squalane oil is a great choice for a facial oil that focuses on moisturisation and anti-ageing,” reveals Dr Mason. “Because it is such a light oil, you won’t get the same heaviness other oils have, and it can be used both morning and night. Squalane can also be a great base for a variety of skincare products because it is so light and absorbent and will still have some great applications when combined with other actives. Look out for it in cleansing balms and oils too.”
WHERE CAN I USE SQUALANE?
“Squalane mimics the excellent results achieved by our bodies’ natural moisturiser – sebum,” says Dr Meder. “That’s why it’s so effective as a skincare ingredient and can be used on the face, body and hair. When used on the hair, it can increase shine and prevent future breakage. For the body, it can provide relief and hydration to dry skin.”
Dr Mason agrees: “Squalane can be used on your face and entire body, as well as your hair, lips and cuticles. It can help speed up sunburn recovery, soothe dry heels or cracked skin, nourish dry ends of hair and even be used as a natural highlighter for some extra glow.”
That’s why you’ll find it in everything from face oils and cleansers to body products and even eye creams.
WHEN SHOULD I USE SQUALANE IN MY ROUTINE?
“It’s important to remember that your oil should go on last in your routine,” says Dr Mason. “As a result of its protective capabilities, products layered on after an oil won’t have as much success getting through your skin barrier. Use it as the last step of your routine, either after or instead of a moisturiser, morning and/or night. Follow the rule of heaviest product last, and you’ll end up with squalane in the right spot.”
From Harper’s Bazaar UK