Making the decision for which new products to add to your skincare routine can be challenging enough as is, but understanding the nuances of each ingredient and how it can affect your skin gets complicated.
These days you can’t pull a product off the shelf without seeing the word squalane in it, often accompanied by the term “oil”. I know a lot of us are nervous about adding oils, but we shouldn’t be! Oils can be great for you skin when used properly.
Wondering why so many brands are using squalane in their formulas? Let’s take a look at this new popular ingredient that is totally giving off main character vibes.
What is squalane?
Squalane is the hydrogenated version of squalene. I know that doesn’t answer any of your questions.
Squalene (with an “e”) is a lipid that is found in our skin, produced by our sebaceous glands. Squalene makes up about 13% of your skin’s sebum. So, applying squalene to the skin is very much like replenishing our skin’s supply of natural moisture. So why not just apply squalene to your skin? Glad you asked.
What is the difference between squalene and squalane?
When you spell it, the words are only one letter apart but chemically, they have a much bigger difference.
Squalene is C30H50 and squalane is C30H62, more hydrogen = more stability.
Squalane is the go-to option in skincare products because it is much more stable and lasts longer.
What is squalane made of?
Squalane requires the base of squalene, and squalene is found in nature, but the source of squalene can often be deadly and rather inhumane. Over the course of the years the primary source for squalene has been shark livers. Yes, just the livers. Much like shark finning the process of obtaining squalene from sharks has been considered rather controversial.
With the rise in demand for cruelty free and vegan skincare, sources like olives, amaranth seed, rice bran and wheat germ are being used as sources for squalene. However, plant-based squalene costs more to process due to various reasons one of which being the lower concentration of squalene found in organisms. Regardless, plant based squalane is where we want to be – my personal preference is from olives.
Is squalane just olive oil?
Well yes and no! The most commonly used squalane is hydrogenated olive squalene. It is a very small portion of what the olive is.
So, no! Applying straight olive oil will not work the same way. You need the squalene to be extracted from the olive oil first and then stabilized for it to be anywhere near the structure of the sebum found on your skin.
Like you, I don’t believe for a second that JLO’s secret to good skin is olive oil so let’s stay away from that, kay?
Why use squalane oil?
Squalane is so similar to the lipids that our skin produces that it works perfectly to create a natural barrier on the skin. It does this without being too heavy or occlusive. The molecular structure of squalane allows it to deeply penetrate the skin and make your face feel smoother and better over time.
Who should use squalane?
Most people would benefit from adding squalane oil into their skincare routine. Especially if you have dry or combination skin this might be the key to your woes.
Those with sensitive skin will also largely benefit with the use of squalane oil. It is very unlikely to be an irritant which means it is ideal to lock moisture into almost all skin types.
Squalene in skin care
There are many products out there containing squalane oil. Here are some great options if you are looking for a simple moisturizer.
However, if you are looking to add some active ingredients to your routine here are some squalane based products that you should consider.
- The Ordinary 0.5% Retinol in Squalane
- Biossance Squalane + Glycolic Renewal Face Mask
- BYBI Bakuchiol Booster
Related: Overwhelmed and confused about what your skincare routine order should be? We got the answer
Why is squalane used in cosmetics and skin care?
Squalane works like a carrier oil. It increases the spreadability of active ingredients and dilutes them in many cases.
Since squalane (or squalene) is similar to the sebum produced by the skin it does not interfere with the processes and effects of the other ingredients.
Squalane versus Hyaluronic Acid
Hydration and moisturization are two different things. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that hydrates your skin. Squalane is an emollient that seals in moisture and hydration.
They are both equally great ingredients, but they are best if used together. Especially if you are using hyaluronic acid, you should add an emollient to add on top of it to prevent trans epidermal water loss. What’s the point of adding a humectant that will hold more water in your skin if you are just gonna let it all escape?
Can squalane replace moisturizer?
Squalane oil is effectively a moisturizer for your skin. The serum-like consistency absorbs well into the skin and prevents water loss.
If you are looking for an oil to help you with keeping your skin smooth and supple this should be your go to.
It is the ultimate lazy girl skincare ingredient. Squalane oil moisturizes and protects the skin. Its absorbency and other qualities makes it an ideal solution for dark spots, ageing and other skin concerns that you might have.
Does squalane go before or after moisturizer?
If you are using squalane oil and a thick occlusive moisturizer definitely apply squalane oil first. Because of the molecular structure of the ingredient, you would want it to penetrate the skin with minimal obstruction. Then add your moisturizer over top, only do this if you have really dry and dehydrated skin.
I know that applying an oil underneath a moisturizer seems counterintuitive. It even goes against the guides that I put together based on the opinions of experts. However, the very nature, texture and consistency of squalane oil makes it an exception to this rule. Squalane oil is serum-like in many ways and if we are going by the thinnest to thickest rule it definitely comes before mositurizer.
Can you use squalane oil under eyes?
Yes! It is great to prevent wrinkles and crow’s feet. Squalane oil is light enough to moisturize the eye area without suffocating it.
Can squalane clog pores?
Squalane is one of the least irritating, non-comedogenic oils in market. However, the issue with using squalane with acne prone skin or oily is the lack of need.
Experts are conflicted on whether or not squalane is good for those with oily skin. Some say if your skin is producing excess sebum adding more will not help your skin. It will only exacerbate your symptoms. Others say that since squalane is non-comedogenic it is a safe bet for all to use.
Despite the conflict we can safely say that squalane oil is probably the least likely of all skincare oils to cause trouble for oily or acne prone skin.
Is squalane anti aging?
Research has shown that our skin produces lesser squalene as we age. So, adding squalane based products in our skincare routine can replenish the skin and keep it supple and younger looking.
It won’t fix your wrinkles and signs of aging, but it will help slow the process.
Squalane is no CGI miracle worker, but at least you’ll age better than Captain America.
Mixing Squalane with other products
In general, squalane oil accompanies active ingredients. In the market we see a lot of retinol in squalane or vitamin C in squalane products because it serves as a good base for and protects the skin.
Mixing skincare products to create your own is not something we recommend at all, ever actually. Unless you are a cosmetic chemist and formulator you wouldn’t know the right concentrations of ingredients and without the right tools you won’t be able to determine the safety of the product. So, always carefully layer your skincare products, one after another.
Related: Want to know more about properly layering your skincare? Read this article
Can I use squalane and vitamin C together?
Of course, it is a great combination because vitamin C is a strong antioxidant and squalane is a soothing moisturizer.
If you are using a squalane oil and a vitamin C serum, be sure to layer them on to the skin. Apply the vitamin C serum ensure that it is absorbed into the skin and then apply the squalane oil. We have extensively covered the topic of layering skincare products in this article.
Using squalane and retinol
Squalane oil and retinol are a match made in heaven because squalane can offset any of the drying, peeling or inflammation that retinol might cause.
Either get a product that combines the two ingredients or layer them one after another. Just know that it is safe to do so.
Final Thoughts on Squalane Oil
If you have been wanting to wade into skincare oil pool this should be a starting point. It is difficult to go wrong with squalane. This a very safe oil to test on your skin, especially if you are looking for lightweight moisturizer and penetrates the skin and keeps it supple.
We are always talking about reducing the signs of aging and while we work on that using squalane to prevent anymore visible damage might be a good strategy so think about it and give oil with a fun name a try.