Squalane: Spotlight On The Best Face Oils
Squalene (written with an "e") is a lipid that your skin cells produce naturally. It is a critical component of our natural face lipids called sebum, making up about 12%. It 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. For topical cosmetic use, it's 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
In skincare products, squalene needs hydrogenation into squalane, a stable molecule. Squalene is too unpredictable. When exposed to air, it can soon turn rancid and deteriorate rapidly. By changing the chemical bonds slightly, a much more stable version is created. 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 is the same chemical. 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.
Olive oil can be modified so that the squalene is separated and removed. Then the olive squalene goes through the chemical process called hydrogenation (adding hydrogen atoms). This process stabilizes the molecule while preserving its skin benefits.
What Does Squalane Contain?
Unlike carrier oils 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?
Yes! Squalane has many benefits for skin. When used as a face oil, squalane works as an emollient that results in significant moisturization. It is a powerful antioxidant that will help your skin stay protected from environmental attacks. 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.
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 improved barrier function
- improved moisturization but also hydration because it will help prevent water loss
- reduction in fine lines
- healthy glow and decreased redness from irritation
Will Squalane Oil Clog Pores? Is It Good for Acne?
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.
Can It Replace Moisturizer?
For some people, using face oils alone without other products is enough to keep the skin hydrated and moisturized. However, even with the simplest skinimalism routines, you will often find that you need to add a product with humectants. When layering products with face oils, use the oil last, so you seal in all the water-containing products.
Is It 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. 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.
Rosehip Oil vs Squalane: Which is Better?
I've previously declared rosehip seed oil as my ultimate favourite oil due to its many skin benefits. However, squalane is likely a tie. The reason is because of its hydrocarbon structure. 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.
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.
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 this, so consumers must be aware and knowledgeable enough to ask. Millions of sharks do not need to die for our cosmetics needs. The European Union has banned shark-based squalane in cosmetics.
Squalane derived from olive oil can be obtained from the waste/by-products of the olive oil food farming industry. Any time you can use waste or by-products for more purposes, 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.
Amaranth seeds are up-and-coming alternatives. So is sugarcane, but the crop farmed for this is usually a GMO, which has some other concerns raised by some people. 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. It is broadly used throughout the skincare and cosmetics industries. When sourced from plants, it can be very sustainable. When produced from shark livers, it should be banned - nobody needs to smooth their wrinkles out that badly.
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