What’s the difference between squalene and squalane?
Squalene is a type of lipid (the building blocks of cells) which is found in many plants and animals, including humans. In fact, it’s estimated that 10-12% of human sebum consists of squalene.
Squalane is derived from squalane – squalene is an unsaturated high hydrocarbon compound naturally found in certain oils, while squalane is the hydrogenated and most stable form of squalene.
Cigdem Kemal Yilmaz, a skincare formulator and founder of Skin Masterclass, explains, “Squalane possesses a unique molecular structure, which imparts several notable properties, including excellent stability, low viscosity, and high oxidative stability. Its lack of double bonds renders squalane highly resistant to oxidation and degradation, making it an ideal ingredient for use in skincare products.”
The squalane we use in skincare usually comes from natural sources. “Today, the majority of squalane is sourced from plantderived oils using advanced extraction techniques such as molecular distillation and fractionation,” comments Kemal Yilmaz. “Squalane is a more sustainable and ethical alternative to squalene because it can be sourced from plant-based ingredients like sugar cane, olives, or rice bran, reducing the environmental impact associated with harvesting squalene from sharks.”
What can it help with?
Squalane has emollient properties, so it helps to moisturise the skin and prevent transepidermal water loss. It also has antiinflammatory properties that can soothe and calm the skin, helping to reduce redness and sensitivity. “This makes it great for conditions like acne and eczema, and even helping to reduce redness,” comments Kelly Saynor, clinical director of Medica Forte, which created The Perfect Peel Superblend.
“Squalane also has natural antioxidant properties, which helps protect the skin from free radicals and oxidative stress,” adds Kemal Yilmaz. “By neutralising free radicals, squalane helps reduce the signs of ageing and promote healthier-looking skin.
“Additionally, it can promote skin cell regeneration and renewal by maintaining the skin’s barrier function, supporting the skin’s natural exfoliation process and improving its overall texture of the skin. It is also non-comedogenic, meaning it does not clog pores, and it has a lightweight, non-greasy texture that makes it suitable for a wide range of skin types.”
How should it be used?
Squalane is usually found in moisturisers, lotions, serums and cleansers that are designed to enhance hydration and protect the skin barrier. “It can also be found in facial oils combined with other oils such as argan or jojoba oil to nourish and soften the skin, as well as lip balms and sun protection products to provide additional hydration and improve the product’s texture,” adds Kemal Yilmaz.
Squalane can also be found in professional skincare treatments, including facials and chemical peels. “It’s often used in these treatments for its moisturising and calming properties, making it a great choice to soothe the skin posttreatment,” says Saynor. “It’s also used in some post-procedure products to help promote healing and reduce inflammation.”
Squalane is very stable and isn’t an active, so it pairs well with other skincare ingredients and can often be found alongside other hydrators such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides, as well as antioxidants like vitamin C and glutathione. Squalane has a small molecular size, which means it can penetrate deeper into the skin, so it’s often used as a carrier for other ingredients.
Are there any contraindications?
Squalane is generally well-tolerated and suitable for most skin types. Jane Saint, national trainer at +maskology, says, “This is the TLC of ingredients. It’s suitable for anyone who needs moisture and nourishment such as those with naturally dry skin, eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis. It can be a particularly lovely treatment for any patients receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy.”
However, if a client has overactive sebaceous glands, then squalane might not be the best to use because it is very similar to sebum.
As with any skincare ingredient, individual reactions may vary. “Anyone with known allergies or skin sensitivities should perform a patch test before using new products containing squalane,” advises Saynor.