Have you ever checked out the ingredients of your favorite skincare products and spotted a word that sounds like it was borrowed from a Science fiction movie?
Brace yourself, as we take you on a journey through the universe of squalane and its stellar role in sun protection.
What Exactly is Squalane?
Squalane is a hydrocarbon compound that our bodies produce naturally in very small amounts in our sebaceous glands (aka your oil glands).
It’s actually a lipid — a type of fat that is present in small quantities in our skin.
Why Squalane Rules the Skincare Universe
Whether you’re a beauty novice or a seasoned skincare astronaut, you’ve probably heard the phrase “hydration is key.”
And rightly so! Hydration helps keep your skin plump, radiant, and less prone to wrinkles.
Squalane, being the super emollient it is, is a stellar hydrator that imparts and retains moisture in your skin. Since moisturization is a huge selling point in beauty products and sunscreens, squalane has become a bit of a celebrity — which is why you see it in so many products!
The Controversy & Ethical Concerns Around Squalane
Controversy surrounding squalane largely has to do with its source.
Historically, squalane was derived from the liver of sharks, particularly deep-sea sharks. And as a result, many sharks were inhumanely harvested for their livers.
In fact, it’s estimated that at one point, millions of sharks were killed annually for their squalane, resulting in significant impacts on shark populations and overall marine ecosystems.
Thankfully, this troubling squalane harvesting method isn’t as much of an issue today — the beauty industry now largely sticks to plant-based sources of squalane—primarily olive oil, but also sugarcane, wheat germ, rice bran, and amaranth seed.
This sustainable squalane maintains the same benefits for the skin without the associated ethical issues.
That being said, not all companies made this shift, and shark-derived squalane is still found in some products. It’s always a good practice to research and ensure the squalane in your skincare products is sourced ethically and sustainably.
Squalane vs. Squalene: What’s the Difference?
You’ve probably stumbled across these two similar-sounding terms: squalane and squalene.
Squalene, with an ‘e,’ is the OG — it’s the lipid produced naturally by our own skin cells. The problem is, squalene has a few drawbacks. It’s unsaturated, meaning it can oxidize when exposed to air, which leads to a shorter shelf-life and could possibly contribute to skin damage if used in its pure form.
Because of these reasons, squalene isn’t typically used in skincare products.
Instead, we tend to use squalane, with an ‘a’.
Squalane is what squalene becomes when it goes through a process called hydrogenation, which makes the compound more stable and skin-friendly. And best of all, the process maintains the emollient and moisturizing benefits of squalene without the potential for oxidation — making it a bit of a golden ticket in terms of desirability in skincare products.
In short, it’s squalane that you’ll most likely find in your serums, moisturizers, and other skincare products.
Benefits of Squalane: Why is Everyone a Fan?
Why does squalane have such a big following? Let’s break down the reasons why:
- Natural Moisturizer: Squalane mimics the body’s natural oils, providing superior hydration. It helps to seal in your skin’s moisture, maintaining its balance, and keeping it hydrated.
- Non-Comedogenic: It doesn’t block pores, making it ideal for all skin types, even those prone to acne or breakouts.
- Skin Protection: Squalane creates a barrier between your skin and the environment, keeping harmful elements on the outside. This fortified barrier helps prevent damage from outside aggressors like dirt, pollution, and even UV rays.
- Soothing Properties: It’s gentle and soothing, making it ideal for sensitive skin types. It contains anti-inflammatory properties that help with redness and inflammation.
- Anti-aging Advantage: It boosts collagen production and slows skin’s aging process by protecting it from oxidative stress, a key contributor to signs of aging.
- Improved Skin Appearance: Due to its quick absorption, it helps improve your skin’s texture and even reduces the appearance of fine lines.
- Helps with Oil Control: It can help regulate excess oil production. While it is an oil, it doesn’t have a greasy feel and it helps keep your skin’s oil levels balanced.
- Long Shelf Life: Squalane is typically stable, meaning it has a longer shelf life than some other skincare oils.
Risks & Side Effects of Squalane
Squalane is generally considered safe even for sensitive and acne-prone skin, as it’s a lipid naturally produced by our bodies. It’s also non-comedogenic, meaning it doesn’t block pores and hence, less likely to cause breakouts.
However, like any other skincare product, it’s not completely without potential side effects. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:
- Skin Reactions: While rare, some people might experience redness, irritation, or allergic reactions from using squalane, especially if they have reactive or allergy-prone skin. This is why patch testing any new product before use is always recommended.
- Quality Matters: It’s essential to know the source and the quality of the squalane used in your skincare products. While most squalane is now derived from plant sources such as olives or sugarcane, some cheaper, lower quality squalane may still be sourced from sharks, which can have ethical and sustainability concerns.
- Mixing with Other Ingredients: Squalane is generally well-tolerated and can be paired with most skincare ingredients. However, if your skincare routine contains actives like retinols, AHA/BHAs, or vitamin C, you might need to be cautious about layering too many ingredients and overloading your skin, which could cause irritation.
It’s worth mentioning that skincare is highly personal – what works for one person might not work for another.
If you have any concerns or pre-existing skin conditions, it’s always best to consult with a dermatologist before trying a new product like squalane.
How to Use Squalane: A Guide to Maximum Benefit
Squalane is as easy to use and is versatile enough to fit seamlessly into just about any skincare routine.
Here’s how you can incorporate it:
- Serums & Moisturizers: Squalane can be found in both serums and moisturizers, but if you have pure squalane oil, it can be layered into your skincare routine. Apply it after water-based products but before heavy creams or balms. If you’re using retinoids or other potent skincare ingredients, apply those first to ensure they can penetrate the skin, then add squalane to lock in moisture and provide a protective moisturizing barrier.
- Squalane as a Standalone Product: Pure squalane oil is multi-functional and can be used on its own. Apply a few drops to clean, moist skin twice daily, or as needed.
- Body Hydration: Squalane isn’t just for your face; it can also be used as a body moisturizer. Following a bath or shower, while your skin is still damp, apply a few drops of squalane and massage over your entire body for an extra hydration boost.
- Haircare: Amazingly, squalane also has benefits for your hair. Add a few drops to your hair mask or conditioner, or apply directly to your hair ends to help hydrate and reduce frizz.
Always remember, a patch test is recommended before trying any new skincare product. Apply a small amount of squalane on your elbow or wrist and observe for any reactions over 24 hours.
As with implementing any new product into your skincare routine, it’s crucial to listen to your skin. What works for one person may not work for another, so use squalane in a way that your skin responds positively to. Your glowing, hydrated skin will thank you!
Squalane in Sunscreen
Good news! Squalane, when combined with your SPF, could go a long way in providing efficient skin protection.
You see, sunscreens focus on the surface to shield against harmful UV rays, whereas squalane goes deep into those skin layers, moisturizing and counteracting any potential dryness caused by the sun.
Basically, squalane is definitely a nice added bonus to find in sunscreen!
Just make sure the presence is squalane isn’t the only thing you’re looking for in your sunscreen — start first by looking for a solid SPF (at least 30), broad-spectrum protection, and ideally a mineral composition if you have especially sensitive skin (chemical filter sunscreen might be OK, depending on your skin).
If a sunscreen meets all those requirements and has squalane, you’ve found your match!
FAQ About Squalane
Does squalane cause acne?
No, squalane is non-comedogenic, which means it doesn’t clog pores and is unlikely to cause acne. In fact, it can help balance oil production in the skin, which can potentially reduce the risk of breakouts.
Can I use vitamin C and squalane together?
Absolutely! Squalane and Vitamin C can be used together. In fact, they complement each other well.
While Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps even out skin tone and combat signs of aging, squalane can provide the hydration necessary to keep the skin moist and supple. Always apply your Vitamin C serum first, allowing it to fully absorb into the skin before applying squalane.
Does squalane contain retinol?
No, squalane itself does not contain retinol. However, squalane is often included in retinol formulations to reduce dryness and irritation often associated with retinol use.
Is squalane better than hyaluronic acid?
Both squalane and hyaluronic acid have different yet crucial roles in skincare. Squalane is terrific for sealing in moisture and preventing loss of hydration, while hyaluronic acid is a humectant that can attract and hold large amounts of water. For optimal skin hydration, consider using a product that combines both.
Is squalane oil just olive oil?
Squalane oil isn’t the same as olive oil; rather, it can be derived from olive oil. Squalane is a lipid or oil that occurs naturally in certain foods like olives. However, olive oil contains many other components, many of which can cause irritation and breakouts to the skin, while squalane oil is a purer and more stable product.
Tell us your experiences with squalane or share your thoughts about it. Until then, good luck on your skin care journey!