Squalane: Spotlight On The Best Face Oils
by Heather Smith on Dec 27, 2021
Squalane is our ultimate favourite oil for your face.
While it's not a carrier oil (more on this below), it is a 100% pure lipid that is almost bioidentical to the squalene produced in your skin naturally. It doesn't clog pores, allergic reactions are essentially unheard of, and it functions as an occlusive emollient that directly improves the health of your skin barrier.
What more could you ask for?
Keep reading to learn why squalane is the best face oil of all.
Squalene (with an "e") is a lipid that your body produces naturally. It makes up about 12% of our sebum which is a critical component to waterproofing and maintaining a healthy skin barrier. Squalene is also produced by our livers and plays essential roles in steroid hormone production and cholesterol synthesis.
As you get older, your body generates less squalene, your natural moisturizer. This is one reason it's become so widely used in cosmetics. It is known for its moisturizing and anti-aging properties and is ideal for all skin types.
Squalane is one of the best face oils and is found in innumerable skincare products. This article is part of our series about the best face oils for all skin types and how to choose and use them.
Squalene vs. Squalane
Squalene and squalane are identical with the exception of a hydrogen bond. Squalene is quite unstable and prone to rapid oxidation so it can go rancid quickly. After hydrogenation, into squalane, the molecule is more stable.
The two oils can be thought of as essentially the same with the same benefits and functions. The main difference is that squalane is a stable molecule that won’t rapidly degrade.
What Is Squalane Oil And How Is It Made?
Squalene was first obtained from shark livers. An estimated 100 million sharks are killed per year, with 3 million of those attributed to squalene production for cosmetic use.
Due to ethical and animal cruelty concerns, the squalene used for many skincare products is now plant-based from sources including rice bran, olives, wheat germ, and amaranth seed. When compared to squalene from shark, plant based squalene has an identical chemical structure.
Plant-based squalene is expensive to process for various reasons, one of which is the lower content found in plants. It costs at least 20% more to use plant-based squalane, but the cost of using shark products is extinction.
The production of squalane has multiple steps:
- The oil that is used as the feedstock is first collected. This could include shark oil, but plant-based options include olive oil, amaranth, and others.
- Pre-treatment processes prepare the oil so that separation of components is possible
- Fractionation involves heating and cooling the oil to separate out the squalene.
- Purification occurs (such as de-odoration and de-waxing), to produce a high-quality product
- Pure squalene then undergoes the hydrogenation process to chemically saturate the oil. The added hydrogen molecules makes squalane a more stable and shelf-stable ingredient compared to squalene, and it also improves its performance as a moisturizer.
What Does Squalane Contain?
Unlike carrier oils like rose hip pressed from seeds or nuts, squalane doesn't contain multiple extracted phytochemicals and vitamins. Instead, the squalane is a pure lipid hydrocarbon - a single substance with many skin benefits and functions of its own.
The chemical structure of squalane is a hydrocarbon. It's very comparable to mineral oil. This makes it an occlusive emollient that won't clog pores and a great alternative if you don't want to use petrochemicals.
Does Squalane Oil Have Benefits for Skin?
Squalane has many benefits for skin. When used as a face oil, squalane is an emollient that results in significant moisturization and a healthier skin barrier.
Squalane is non-comedogenic, which means it will not clog pores. Its key role as a component of sebum implies that it will help regulate your natural oil production and potentially help improve acne.
What does squalane do for skin?
By using squalane as an oil-regulator, antioxidant, and powerful emollient, you would expect the following results for your skin:
- softening and improved texture
- soothing and reduced inflammation
- improved skin barrier health and healing
- moisturization but also hydration because it prevents water loss
- reduction in fine lines and wrinkles
- healthy glow and decreased redness
Does Squalane Clog Pores?
Squalane is suitable for all skin types. It's non-comedogenic, which means it won't clog your pores. In addition, it absorbs quickly without making your skin feel heavy.
A study revealed that squalane provides an anti-inflammatory effect that can help relieve swelling and redness. If you suffer from clogged pores and congested skin, a skinimalism routine that includes cleansing, exfoliating, and a squalane face oil will likely result in visible improvements.
Is Squalane Safe for Eczema?
If you don't have a known sensitivity to squalane, (which would be exceedingly rare) then using it when you suffer from irritated skin is safe.
Since squalane is a normal part of your skin oils and lipid barrier, it is unlikely to be a culprit for worsening your irritation. It is always best to do a patch test if you are prone to allergies or irritation; however, squalane is one the best oils for sensitive skin.
Helping the skin barrier strengthen and repair will help people with conditions like eczema. Dry skin is one of the common symptoms of these skin issues.
Can I Use It Under My Eyes?
You can use squalane oil to minimize the appearance of fine lines around the eyes. It’s always important to avoid eye contact with any products.
Can I Use Squalane Oil and Vitamin C Together?
Since squalane is a calming moisturizer and vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, it's a fantastic combination to use. If you're going to use vitamin C serum and squalane, make sure you layer them. Apply the vitamin C serum and massage it into the skin before applying the squalane oil on top.
Rosehip Oil vs Squalane: Which is Better?
Adding squalane into products provides an alternative to mineral oil. It's an occlusive emollient that won't clog pores. If you're looking for vegan alternatives to emu oil or natural alternatives to petrochemicals, squalane wins hands down!
Mixing squalane with rosehip oil is a great strategy as neither oil needs to be used at 100% strength to see the benefits. They can be mixed together to create a really effective face oil.
However, if you have highly sensitive or reactive skin or suffer from conditions like eczema, starting with 100% pure squalane is the best first step.
Can You Use Squalane for Hair or Beard Care?
Squalane can be used for hair and beard care in a variety of ways. Some of the benefits include:
- Moisturization: hydrate and nourish hair, scalp, and beard. It can help to prevent dryness and breakage, leaving hair and beard looking and feeling soft and smooth
- Taming frizz: Squalane can help control frizz and flyaways
- Repairing damage: helps repair damage and split ends
- Improving shine: Squalane can help to improve the shine and luster of hair and beard, leaving it looking healthy and radiant.
To use squalane for hair and beard care, simply massage a small amount in the hair or beard after washing. You can also add a few drops to your regular hair products, such as conditioner or styling products, to enhance their moisturizing benefits.
Additionally, some people prefer to use squalane as a pre-wash treatment, applying it to their hair or beard before washing to deeply hydrate and nourish.
What Is The Environmental Impact of Squalane Production? Is It Sustainable?
There is an obvious concern related to shark farming for any reason, let alone skincare ingredients. Any reputable brand will know there is controversy and reassure customers that their squalane is plant-derived.
Unfortunately, there is no legal requirement to declare ingredient origin, so consumers must be aware and knowledgeable enough to ask. Millions of deep sea sharks do not need to die for our cosmetics needs. The European Union has banned shark-based squalane in cosmetics.
Squalane from olive oil can be obtained from the waste by-products of the olive oil industry. Any time you can use waste for another purpose, sustainability is consistently improved. The problem with olive squalane is the relative amount able to be sourced - a shark liver can produce up to 90%, whereas olive oil can only produce a maximum of 15% (by weight), making it more expensive. Another issue is the sheer volume of olive trees required to support the culinary industry. With changes in their refinement techniques, the squalane yield has become lower. There are also issues with the supply chain due to climate change and other unpredictable agricultural factors. Olive oil farming is known to have a high water footprint and a high carbon footprint.
Squalane from amaranth seeds is a great alternative. So is sugarcane, but the crop farmed for this is usually a GMO, which has different concerns. A process using coconut oil has also been developed. It shows excellent promise for being 100% plant-based, affordable, and has the lowest energy use and ecotoxicity related to the refining and manufacturing processes compared to the other plant-based options.
While the vegetable squalane manufacturers compete to produce the most eco-friendly and lowest carbon footprint options, our final word on squalane sustainability is this:
Squalane is an amazing face oil that has many benefits for all skin types. When sourced from plants, it can be very sustainable. When produced from shark livers, it should be banned!
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