Squalane is a fascinating lipid that is starting to gain some serious traction as a phenomenal skincare ingredient. We cover in this article everything you need to know about squalane for skin – what squalane is, what it’s good for, and the best ways to use squalane!
In this article:
- What Is Squalane? Squalane vs. Squalene
- What Is Squalane Oil Good for?
- How Does Squalane Work?
- Is It True Squalane Oil Comes from Sharks?
- Are There Any Drawbacks or Side Effects to Using Squalane Oil?
- How Do I Incorporate Squalane Oil into My Skincare Routine?
- Is Squalane Oil Good for the Oil Cleansing Method?
- Is Squalane Good for Hair?
- How to Use Squalane for the Body
What Is Squalane? Squalane vs. Squalene
Squalane is a saturated lipid that is produced when squalene is hydrogenated – in other words, combined with hydrogen. Squalene is an ansaturated oil that occurs naturally in a lot of different species of plants and animals, and it also occurs naturally in our own skin. However, squalene is very reactive and becomes oxidized quickly.
When the squalene in our skin becomes oxidized, it becomes highly inflammatory and can contribute significantly to the formation of pimples. However, once squalene is hydrogenated into squalane it becomes very stable, very moisturizing, and very readily absorbed by the skin.
As far as texture goes, squalane is fairly light, and it doesn’t leave the skin feeling greasy or oily.
What Is Squalane Oil Good for?
Whereas normally I would make a list of bullet points as to the things different ingredients improve, squalane is simply too unique. This highly occlusive, highly emollient oil is non-comedogenic, and yet is super moisturizing.
In other words, it doesn’t matter what skin type or concerns you have – you can feel perfectly safe incorporating squalane into your beauty routine. Those with extremely dry or extremely sensitive skin will benefit from it just as much as those with oily or acne-prone yet dehydrated skin.
How Does Squalane Work?
There are two main ways in which squalane works. First, as an occlusive, squalane creates a protective barrier over the skin, to prevent transepidermal water loss. This thin oil is barely felt on the skin, and yet it blocks a fair bit of moisture from escaping, leaving the skin hydrated.
Squalane is not the most occlusive of oils, though, with castor oil, mineral oil, and petrolatum being significantly heavier.
Second, squalane oil works as an emollient. The role of emollients is to fill in the barriers in between skin cells. Cosmetically, this helps the skin feel smoother and more supple, but it also has an important effect on the health of the skin.
When the gaps between skin cells are filled in, the skin instantly becomes stronger and more elastic, and harmful things like bacteria cannot penetrate it easily. This is fantastic for strengthening and protecting sensitive skin.
The beautiful thing is that squalane does all of these things while feeling light and non-greasy. It rarely causes acne, and because it is so stable it does not go rancid nor does it oxidize on the skin – an issue that might come up with other plant oils that are appropriate for oily skin, like rosehip oil or grape seed oil.
Is It True Squalane Oil Comes from Sharks?
So once upon a time, it is indeed true that squalane oil was derived from shark livers. However, since many shark species are considered critically endangered, and environmental movements have become increasingly vocal about the use of animal-derived ingredients in cosmetics, the overwhelming trend in the industry has been to only use olive or sugarcane-derived squalane.
Some companies will specifically detail where their squalane comes from, but if they don’t, feel free to send them an email and inquire.
Are There Any Drawbacks or Side Effects to Using Squalane Oil?
Since squalane is such a simple oil, there are very few concerns you should have about using it. It almost never causes allergic or sensitive reactions, and is safe for just about anyone.
Acne is a little bit more complicated. It is hard to predict which ingredients will cause acne and which will not, since reactions are very individualized. As far as skincare oils are concerned, squalane is fairly unlikely to cause breakouts, but even so, some people do report breaking out from it.
If you are nervous about breaking out from squalane, make sure to patch test it before introducing it to your routine. Apply it to an area of your skin where you occasionally break out, and if after a week you notice no unusual pimples or new breakouts, you can assume that it will work well with your skin.
How Do I Incorporate Squalane Oil into My Skincare Routine?
Squalane, along with any other botanical oil types, cannot substitute a moisturizer in a two-step routine, because it does not have enough in it. You have to be using some sort of humectant-laden toner, serum, or lotion, which will then be occluded and elevated by the addition of the squalane oil.
An evening routine with squalane oil could look like this:
- (Mandatory) Cleanse your skin to remove dirt, sweat, makeup, and anything else you may have accumulated throughout the day.
- If you don’t use a low-pH cleanser, tone your skin to restore balance.
- Apply any actives you use in your routine, including vitamin C, AHA, BHA, or retinol.
- (Mandatory) Apply a skincare product to your skin that will load it up with much needed water. This can be a hydrating toner, an essence, a serum, or even a light moisturizer. It can even be all of the above, in the order of lightest to heaviest!
- Finally, smooth a few drops of squalane oil all over your skin. The squalane oil with help push all the previous products deeper into the skin, and will create a protective layer that will not let any moisture escape.
- Optionally, if you are also using a heavier cream, skin oil, or balm, you may apply it on top of the squalane for even more occlusion.
In the morning, cleansing is an optional step, but applying a sunscreen (or a moisturizer with an SPF) as a final step becomes critically important. Otherwise, you can follow the exact same steps.
If you are very committed to a simple, two-step routine, you can simply mix a couple drops of squalane with your lotion or moisturizer right before applying them to the skin.
Is Squalane Oil Good for the Oil Cleansing Method?
For the most part, squalane is not great for oil cleansing. It is a very light oil that sinks into the skin quickly, and it is also rather pricey. Oil cleansing is better done with oils that have a thicker texture, like mineral oil, that will quickly melt done makeup, won’t become absorbed by the skin, and will not cost too much.
Is Squalane Good for Hair?
Squalane also works beautifully as a hair oil, by fortifying and conditioning it. It also creates a protective barrier over the hair cuticles, and prevents moisture from escaping them. By smoothing the hair cuticle, it also keeps the hair looking shiny and soft to the touch, without a hint of frizz.
Squalane oil is light enough so that it doesn’t have to be washed out. You can apply it to your hair after heat styling, to keep it smooth. However, it is also perfectly fine to use as a hair mask for an hour or two (or even overnight!) before washing.
How to Use Squalane for the Body
All of the benefits of using squalane on the face also apply to the body. After all, having beautiful skin shouldn’t stop at the face – our bodies deserve just as much love and care!
The best time to use squalane oil on the body is right after a shower. After a shower, our skin is saturated with water that will quickly evaporate if we do not lock it in.
Squalane is an excellent post shower oil, because it helps keep that moisture in place without leaving the skin feeling greasy or heavy. Simply smooth it all over in circular motions while your skin is still damp.
Have you tried squalane on your skin? How did you like it?
Photos via Sephora, Instagram