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What is squalane and what are the skin care benefits?

By Cynthia Bailey MD.

what is squalane and what are the skin care benefits

What is squalane and what are the benefits that have this ingredient trending? Squalane is actually an important ingredient in skin care. It's been a silent sweetheart for years in quality skin care products. Now squalane is gaining the recognition it deserves.

Squalane has many surprising benefits when you add it to your skin care routine - and it is easy to do. 

What is squalane?

Squalane is a normal lipid component of human skin that is also present in sebum. It acts as an emollient to keep skin soft, supple and reduce flakiness. It helps skin trap water and reduce Trans Epidermal Water Loss, the phenomenon where skin water is lost to dry air.

Your body produces squalane and it is found throughout your body with the highest amount being in your skin. Importantly, your body's production of squalane starts to drop off after about the age of 30. This puts your skin at greater risk of becoming easily dry and less supple. 

Squalane is derived from squalene. Squalene is a major component of sebum but not an ingredient you want to add to your skin care routine! 

What is the difference between squalane and squalene?

They are chemically related but they are very different when it comes to skin care ingredients. The chemical structure between the two are not greatly different but the functional consequences of the difference is huge for skin care.

  • Squalene clogs pores and goes rancid fast.
  • Squalane, on the other hand, is noncomedogenic (does NOT clog pores) and resists becoming rancid.

What are the skin benefits of squalane?

why is squalane great for your skin

Squalane is popular for good reason:

  • it is light-weight, non-greasy and feels great on your skin,
  • it is a great skin moisturizer to help prevent moisture loss and maintain skin suppleness,
  • it is proven to reduce free radical damage to skin following sun UV ray exposure,
  • it prevents free radical damage that leads to skin aging from a broad range of other non-UV exposures and causes, 
  • it helps resist lipid peroxidation on the skin and in the pores which can lead to acne
  • it is hypoallergenic and well tolerated by sensitive and reactive skin,
  • it has some degree of antibacterial effect,
  • it plays well with other important skin care ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, retinoids and acne medicines,
  • it is proven to help heal some common rashes like seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff), acne, psoriasis, eczema and others.

This is why my two favorite facial moisturizers are rich in plant-derived squalane.

Best squalane facial skin care products

My popular Daily Face Creams have always offered your skin a nice dose of squalane in a great daily moisturizer.

best daily face cream with squalane for oily to normal skin

Daily Face Cream for Oily to Normal Skin

This light-weight moisturizer is my top choice for youthful, oily and acne prone complexions. Squalane is the 5th ingredient, accompanied by aloe vera, glycerin vitamins E, A and C, green tea extract and the antioxidants CoQ10 and superoxide dismutase.

I applied an older version of this well loved facial moisturizer until my perimenopausal misadventures in my 40s, when I switched to my Dry to Normal formula.  This moisturizer is a top performer and well-loved by people with a broad range of complexions.

I have sensitive reactive skin. Over the years I have had rosacea, teenage acne, adult cystic acne, and most recently, perioral dermatitis. Because of this, I am very wary of what I put on my skin, but this moisturizer is nice and light and hydrates my skin with no negative side effects. Susan

best face cream with squalane for dry skin

Daily Face Cream for Dry to Normal Skin

A richer moisturizer thanks to the addition of ceramides and phospholipids (a skin identical lipid). Squalane is the third ingredient formulated with glycerin, soy extract, yucca root, green tea, vitamins A, E and C and CoQ10. 

My skin craves the Dry to Normal Daily Face Cream. I'm not alone!

After years of using high-end French and German skincare products, I finally found the best moisturizer of all and also for half the cost. It's light but highly effective and with zero fragrance. Thanks so much, Dr. Bailey. Frances  

Both of my Daily Face Creams are hypoallergenic, fragrance free and rich in squalane among other great ingredients for your skin. The high-tech formulation of these moisturizers is designed to be compatible when layered over your serums and other products you use to correct complexion problems or fight skin damage and wrinkles.  During the day, layer your sunscreen right on top for my dermatologist-recommended Complete Skin Care™.

who should use squalane

Who should use squalane?

Squalane is an ingredient that fits every skin care routine. It's broad list of benefits, non-comedogenic and weightless nature, along with the fact that it is non-irritating mean that squalane fits into a simple health maintenance skin care routine or a robust goal-oriented routine such as one aimed at anti-aging, acne care, rosacea, eczema or skin cancer risk reduction.

Even oily complexions benefit from squalane to keep skin supple and reduce skin dehydration and UV skin damage. The light weight nature of squalane allows it to work well with any layered skin care routine. 

Where does squalane in skin care products come from?

Squalane can come from both plant and animal sources. Originally squalane, and squalene from which it is derived, was sourced from shark liver. Squalane from shark liver is a popular health food in traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean medicine. As a skin care ingredient, this source of squalane is neither sustainable nor cruelty-free.

Fortunately, we now have cruelty-free, sustainably sourced, botanically-based squalane available for skin-care-product formulation. Botanical squalane often comes from olives (as mine does) or fermentation of sugar.

Is squalane vegan?

It can be. Plant sources of squalane include amaranth, olive, walnuts, wheat germ, rice bran and other seeds and nuts. The squalane in my Daily Moisturizing Face Creams is sustainably sourced olive-derived vegan squalane.

Is squalane safe for use in skin care?

A Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel in 2019 found that squalane is safe, non-irritating and hypoallergenic when used in skin care products. Concentrations found in products typically range from under 0.1% to up to 50% concentration. Squalane also resists rancidity making it a stable ingredient in a skin care formulation.

The bottom line with squalane and skin care

Squalane is an ingredient that all complexions can benefit from. It supports skin hydration, keeps skin supple, may aid in reducing acne, is light weight, non-comedogenic and even helps fight free radical skin damage from sun and other causes. Squalane is often vegan and sourced sustainably. Look for skin care products with squalane listed high in the ingredient list to know that significant amounts of squalane are included in the formulation.