December 22, 2022/Skin Care & Beauty

What Is Squalane?

This oil helps amp up hydration and fight signs of aging

Person applying facial oil to forehead.

When it comes to powerhouse skin care ingredients there’s plenty to choose from, like alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), retinol, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide.

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While these specific ingredients can help fight fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin texture, and tone and boost hydration, it never hurts to have another all-star on your skin care team.

Squalane, a saturated oil that’s used in skin care products as a moisturizer, helps increase hydration, and thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, can help with acne and eczema.

Dermatologist Alok Vij, MD, explains what squalane is, how it can benefit your skin and hair, and how best to use it.

What is squalane?

“Squalane comes from a lipid that occurs naturally in your skin,” says Dr. Vij. “It’s one of the more common chemical compounds that make up your sebum or the oil that’s secreted from your sebaceous glands.”

That makes squalane a great moisturizer that helps slow down the signs of aging when it comes to your skin and helps prevent split ends or breakage in your hair.

Squalane vs. squalene

Squalene (with an “e”) is an oily compound that’s found naturally in our bodies, in other animals and in plants. How much squalene your body makes declines with age, leaving your skin dry.

Squalene from plants and animals can be unstable in skin care products. To avoid the ingredient from spoiling or becoming rancid, it’s converted or hydrogenated into squalane (with an “a”), making it a stable form that can be used for skin care purposes.

Environmental concerns

It’s important to know that there are some environmental concerns when it comes to squalene.

“There are concerns about animal welfare. Sharks have increasingly been poached or trafficked illegally for the squalene that’s found in their livers,” says Dr. Vij. “This isn’t environmentally conscious or sustainable.”

Dr. Vij recommends looking for products that contain 100% plant-derived squalane. This should be noted on a product’s label or packaging.

“Most of the products I’ve seen source squalane from olives in Europe,” says Dr. Vij. “But it’s always a good idea to check and verify.”

Does squalane contain retinol?

Retinol isn’t in squalane. But the two ingredients can be used together or may both be found in a single skin care product.

Retinol is derived from vitamin A and can improve acne or even acne scarring. Additionally, it can help lessen fine lines and wrinkles, and boost collagen and elastin.

Squalane oil benefits

Your hair and skin are the main benefactors when it comes to squalane. Here’s what it can do:

Hair benefits

Squalane has a natural moisturizing factor that can be great for your hair, says Dr. Vij.

“That’s going to help keep a nice glossy shine on your hair,” he continues. “Squalane sits on the outer surface of hair to help smooth everything. Hair follicles generally grow in association with sebaceous glands around it, so naturally, there’s going to be a little bit of that oil sitting on top of it.”

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But factors like weather, age, heat damage and your diet can lead to dry hair, breakage and split ends. Try applying a couple drops of squalane oil to your scalp, massage it in and then rinse out.

Skin benefits

So, what does squalane do for skin? Just like squalane can help boost moisture in your hair, it can do the same for your skin when applied topically. The results? Healthier-looking skin.

“You can use it on your face to help seal in cosmetic products like lighter serums or toners that you’re using,” says Dr. Vij.

Dr. Vij also says he sees people who complain of really dry skin, even after applying moisturizer.

“Squalane may be good for those kinds of people,” he continues. “Or if you don’t like the feeling of a thicker face cream, squalene can be really good for you, too, since it’s lightweight.”

And if you have oily or acne-prone skin, you may have shied away from oils in the past. But Dr. Vij says that squalane is safe to use. It’s noncomedogenic so it won’t clog your pores. In fact, research shows that squalane’s anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce redness and swelling in acne and even other skin conditions like eczema.

Side effects

Squalane by itself is very safe, says Dr. Vij. But you should pay attention to any additional ingredients found in the skin care product.

“The risk with topical products always comes from what else is in the product,” he adds. “Fragrances, preservatives and dyes are common factors that could be a trigger for people who have allergic contact dermatitis, eczema or sensitive skin.”

While squalane won’t clog pores, if there are other kinds of oil in a product, it may cause blocked pores and acne.

And if you’re using retinol in addition to squalane, and you notice that your skin is dry, you may want to use a milder form of retinol.

“You could consolidate products and use a squalane oil with retinol,” Dr. Vij suggests. “It could be better for you than an over-the-counter retinol cream or lotion.”

How to use squalane

How do you work squalane into your skin care routine?

“I would recommend putting on your lighter products first,” says Dr. Vij. “So, if you’re going to use a serum or toner, I would use those first and then layer squalene on top. The squalane will sit on the surface of your skin and act as a barrier to prevent moisture from leaving.”

Overall, using squalane is a safe way to boost hydration in your skin and hair. Just remember to look for products that contain 100% plant-derived squalane. You may like squalane so much that it becomes the No. 1 ingredient in your skin care regimen.

“Squalane could even replace your day moisturizer,” says Dr. Vij. “There are some lightweight creams that contain squalane and would be a great moisturizer to use for your face.”

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