Squalane vs Squalene: Everything You Need to Know

Woman applying serum to hand

Squalane vs Squalene: Everything You Need to Know

If you found yourself rereading “Squalane vs Squalene” and trying to decipher the difference, you are not alone. What may seem like a tiny difference in spelling is actually an important difference in ingredient structure.

We are here to break down the mystery for you. Let us delve into the secrets behind Squalane vs Squalene and everything you need to know.

First – What is Squalene and Squalane?

Woman applying serum

Squalene and Squalane are two very closely related oils that you may find listed on the ingredient label of many skincare products. Squalene is naturally found in your skin and makes up 10% of your skin’s lipids.

When you have ample amounts of squalene, your complexion has enhanced protection against environmental stressors which leads to a youthful, age-defying appearance.

The ingredient was discovered outside of the human body by Dr. Mistumaru, a Japanese researcher for Tokyo Industrial Testing Station, in 1906 and named after the genus of sharks, Squalus. 

Squalane is very similar to squalene and we will explore the key differences throughout this article.

The Ethical Concerns of Squalene

Squalene – note the letter e instead of a – was originally derived from the liver of deep-sea sharks. As a popular ingredient used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry, this created a serious problem for preserving the sanctity of our planet.

Found in their livers, sharks provide the single largest and cheapest source of squalene. Due to the slow maturity rate of sharks and the popularity of this ingredient, the harvesting of squalene began to hurt the population of these beautiful creatures.

According to Bloom, a non-profit organization dedicated to marine preservation, 2.7 million sharks are captured every year for the squalene oil contained within their livers.

Are there any safe, ethical sources of squalene? Thankfully, yes.

There is a way to enjoy the benefits of squalene in a sustainable, vegan-friendly way. Squalene can be derived from plant-based sources such as olive oil. During the refining process of some plant oils, squalene can be extracted.

Unfortunately, plant-based sources do not yield as much squalene and thus it requires more material. More material needs equal higher costs; however, ethical harvesting and preservation practices are worth this price.

It is interesting to note that this precious lipid also occurs naturally in your skin, but production decreases over time which may cause dryness and undesirable aging effects.

Sharks underwater

Advantages of Squalene

Squalene is a wonderous lipid (fat) that helps boost our skin’s hydration reserves and promote a healthy barrier. The benefits of a well-hydrated complexion include:

  • Plumped supple bounce
  • Less irritation
  • Wrinkle and fine line prevention
  • Smooth texture
  • Even tone

It is easy to see why it is vital to ensure your skincare regimen includes robust hydration.

Disadvantages of Squalene

This polyunsaturated hydrocarbon has one major disadvantage that completely negates all of the above benefits.

It is not a stable ingredient…

When exposed to oxygen, such as through skin application, squalene begins to oxidize. The oxidization process may even create “adverse skin conditions,” according to a scientific report published in 2018.

This is where squalane comes in to save your skin.

What is Squalane?

Woman holding serum bottle

Through the process of hydrogenation, squalene can become stable.

What is hydrogenation?

The hydrogenation process can be used to alter properties such as flavor and stability in a variety of oils, making it a common practice in the cosmetic and food industry. In short, a catalyst (sometimes nickel) and hydrogen gas are mixed into squalene and a reaction occurs. During the chemical reaction, various properties are altered in the original oil. One of the properties that can be altered is oxidization speed, also known as shelf life. This means that the oil becomes more stable. When the appropriate alterations have been reached, the catalyst is filtered out for removal and the oil has become something new!

When squalene becomes squalene through hydrogenation, the stability allows you to reap all of the benefits of the powerful lipid without concern over oxidization.

Squalane is the next evolutionary step for squalene. 

The two ingredients are incredibly close in name due to being very closely related, but you will want to make sure you see that second ‘a’ when reading product labels.

Advantages of Squalane

Your body’s natural production of squalene slows down as soon as the age of 30. You will begin to notice this as your skin becomes dryer and the texture roughens. Other signs you may notice that could be caused by squalene depletion are small dark spots from sun exposure or acne, thin lines around the eyes and mouth, or wrinkles. When you see these complexion issues forming, it’s time to refuel your skin lipids.

Squalane helps improve your complexion’s health in a multitude of ways.

  • Emollient – this means that the oil softens and hydrates your skin by creating a thin protective layer that works to trap in hydration and minimize moisture loss
  • Contains natural antioxidants – these free radical blocking attributes form a shield that protects your skin from environmental stressors that cause the signs of premature aging such as wrinkles, fine lines, and uneven tones
  • Boosts collagen – stop your skin from sagging and developing wrinkles by increasing firmness and resiliency
  • Reduces irritation – the anti-inflammatory properties, particularly found in squalene from olive oil, reduces inflammation to soothe angry skin which may reduce redness, itching, and puffiness
  • Rebuilds skin barrier – Exposure to pollutants, irritants, and even over-exfoliation can result in the breakdown of our skin barrier. Squalane rebuilds and protects the skin barrier

Most importantly…

  • It’s stable – unlike squalene, you’ll be able to enjoy all of the benefits without oxidization worries

Is Squalane Right For My Skin?

Woman applying serum to hand

If you are considering adding a new ingredient to your skincare lineup, it can seem like a daunting task. For those with sensitive or acne-prone skin, you have to ensure that anything new you apply doesn’t cause irritation or breakouts.

You can confidently add Squalane to your “Safe and Approved” list of ingredients.

Yes, even if you have a sensitive and acne-prone skin type.

Squalane scores a 0-1 out of 5 on the comedogenic scale. This low rating is a heaven-sent declaration for pores that tend to clog easily.

The lower the rating, the less likely that an oil is going to cause blemish appearances. A high rating oil, such as Wheat Germ (rated at a 5), has a high probability of clogging pores and causing acne. If blemishes are a common occurrence for you, you’ll want to make sure you only use ingredients with a comedogenic rating under 2.

Additionally, this lightweight oil has very little chance of irritating your skin. In fact, it may even alleviate some inflammation thanks to its natural antioxidant load.

There is always a chance of an allergic reaction when trying any ingredient for the first time, so keep this in mind. You may be experiencing an allergic reaction if your skin begins to feel extra itchy, swollen, or looks red.

Does Squalane Help With Eczema?

It can be hard to find natural ways to treat the symptoms of eczema. Squalane has received praise from individuals everywhere for its topical application to eczema irritations.

Supplementing your skin’s lipids with squalane will aid your skin’s natural healing process while lowering the itchy, irritating, redness of eczema.  Since squalane isn’t a heavy oil, you won’t have to deal with a thick, slick layer of grease.

Can I Use Squalane In My Hair?

Squalane is a truly versatile oil and can be useful when applied to your strands. Dry hair is at greater risk of developing split ends and breakage. It can also have a dull and frizzy appearance.

To give your hair a dose of luster, a lightweight oil is necessary. Massaging just a few drops of squalane into your hair can:

  • Tame frizz
  • Give a healthy shine
  • Lessen the appearance of split ends
  • Protect strands from further damage

It is recommended to use squalane as a pre-shower treatment followed up by a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner to improve moisture lock-in. Alternatively, it can be applied to the ends of dry hair.

What Other Ingredients Work Well With Squalane?

Scientist with botanical ingredients in test tubes

Squalane plays well with many ingredients and thus has a lot of versatility. Depending on your concern, there are different ingredient combinations that you’ll benefit from. Here are a few ingredient combinations we recommend if you have:

  • Dry Skin – Squalane + Hyaluronic Acid: Quench the thirst of parched skin with two powerhouse hydrators. Hyaluronic Acid gets deep into the pores thanks to its tiny molecular structure and can hold 1000x its weight in moisture. Squalane helps seal in the moisture with its moisture locking-in capabilities to prevent hydration evaporation.
  • Oily Skin – Squalane + Niacinamide: Even oily skin needs to stay hydrated and nourished. This can be a hard balance to achieve. Luckily, squalane is a lightweight oil that doesn’t lay thick on your complexion. Niacinamide brings harmony to oil vs moisture levels by reducing excess sebum production (a cause of oily skin). You can enjoy balanced skin when combining these two components.
  • Acne-Prone Skin – Squalane + Salicylic Acid: Salicylic Acid is a chemical exfoliant that breaks the glue-like bonds between surface debris (dead cells, impurities) and healthy, glowing skin. This can help prevent breakouts. Some complexions may experience irritation from acne and salicylic acid, so it’s important to use a soothing ingredient (in this case, squalane) to combat the inflammation.

While you may not be able to easily find products that contain the ingredient pairings, you can build your routine around the duo. For example, an acne-fighting routine could use a cleansing with salicylic acid followed by a cream containing squalane.

How To Include Squalane In Your Skincare Routine

You could buy 100% vegan squalane oil, but an easier way to add squalane into your skincare routine is to simply look for products that contain this staple.

Typically, you will find squalane in products that promote hydration and anti-aging benefits. Creams and masks are an excellent choice to find squalane in since you will not be rinsing the product off and can enjoy the soothing properties for extended amounts of time.

Our favorite products to add to your routine are…

Seagrass Cymosilk Masque

Our Seagrass Cymosilk Masque is a luxurious once-a-week treatment to nourish your complexion. Squalane is complimented by Vitamin A to give your collagen production a big helping hand. You’ll notice improved skin flexibility that reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The unique mask formula requires no rinsing as it transforms into absorbable water droplets for a glass-like finish. Your skin’s texture will feel smooth and refined on the outside while experiencing nourishment and purity on the inside.

Coralline Collagen Wrinkle IV Rescue

Give your skin an instant revitalization with the Coralline Collagen Wrinkle IV Rescue. Whether you are headed out for a date or a charity banquet, the people around you will be in awe of your smooth, youthful complexion. Squalane is paired with hyaluronic acid for intense hydration and Vitamin E to improve wrinkle depth as well as double the antioxidant power.

Feeling Confused Still?

If you’re still feeling a little confused about squalane vs squalene, it is OK. Here is a little cheat sheet of everything you need to know. Feel free to refer to these bullet points until you can familiarize yourself more with the details we provided.

  • Squalene was originally found in and extracted from shark livers; however, more sustainable methods are being implemented such as harvesting squalene from plant-based carriers.
  • Squalene oxidizes when exposed to oxygen, which negates any beneficial properties.
  • Through the hydrogenation process, squalene becomes squalane.
  • Squalane is far more stable than squalene and has a longer shelf-life than its predecessor.
  • The versatility of squalane allows it to be lightweight, yet moisturizing and soothing.
  • Squalane is ideal for all complexion types and is vital to an effective anti-aging routine.

If you haven’t already, give squalane a try in your routine. There’s very little to lose and a whole lot of benefits to gain!

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