Everything to Know About Squalane, the Vegan Ingredient That Heals Dryness
Whether you realize it or not, a majority of moisturizing ingredients formulated in skincare, makeup, and hair care are sourced from animals. Beeswax, a humectant, is very common in creams and foundations. Hyaluronic acid, one of our favorite skin hydrators, is often derived from cows and horses. (Don’t worry—ours is synthetic.) Loads of lip balms and glosses use lanolin, an oily ingredient sourced from sheep wool.
When it comes to building a moisturizing and vegan routine, here’s our answer: Squalane. It’s 100% plant-based and effective at creating a baby-soft complexion and strong barrier. Read all about how and when to use squalane below.
WHAT IS SQUALENE?
We can’t explain squalane without first defining squalene (yes, the spelling is quite confusing). Squalene is a lipid found naturally in our bodies. It, along with other humectants like amino acids and ceramides, makes up the skin’s natural moisturizing factor—a.k.a. NMF. Consider NMF as the glue that keeps our moisture barrier intact; the more squalene, the stronger the barrier. “Squalene helps retain moisture from water loss and can enhance the skin's barrier function,” explains licensed esthetician and skincare formulator I’sha Gaines. “Having a stronger barrier can keep bad pollutants out and nutrients in.”
Genetically, dry skin types contain lower levels of squalene. Even if you have a normal or oily complexion, everyone’s NMF depletes over time, which is why aging skin feels drier, looks more wrinkled, and has a crepey-like texture. While there isn’t a biological way to prevent this depletion, you can help restore squalene levels by applying it topically through skincare.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SQUALENE AND SQUALANE
Moisturizers and facial oils made with squalene are incredibly effective at smoothing skin and restoring hydration. The downside? Squalene is extracted from shark liver oil, taken straight from the fish themselves. And they really need these oils to survive in the deep waters they inhabit. 3/4 of the shark population is in danger of extinction, according to the BBC, and while many fear the stigmas attached to them, sharks are an important part of the ocean’s ecosystem, critical for combating climate change.
That’s where squalane comes in. Squalane mirrors squalene’s moisturizing, skin-conditioning capabilities. Besides the slightly different spelling, the only other difference between the two is that squalane is plant-based. The kind we use in our Rich Moisture Cream is derived from olives, but it’s sometimes taken from sugarcane, too.
THE BENEFITS OF SQUALANE
According to skin experts, squalane is a 10/10 ingredient for not just softening the skin, but also preventing premature damage, like fine lines and wrinkles. “Squalane is very similar to the natural oil in the skin, sebum, so it is an ideal ingredient for helping maintain moisture levels,” says aesthetician Alison Angold. “Squalane also contains antioxidants that help fight cell damage which causes premature aging. [This ingredient] is used to hydrate the skin, as well as repair damaged skin cells to promote healthier, younger-looking skin.”
While squalane is ideal for dryness and aging skin, it’s also beneficial for all complexions—including oily, acne-prone, and dull ones. “Squalane oil is non-greasy, non-comedogenic, and helps to reduce hyperpigmentation, redness, and the appearance of fine lines,” says esthetician Anit Hora. If you’re oily, it can help regulate the skin’s sebum production levels for a more balanced complexion. “It instantly sinks into the skin and starts to work for remarkably supple, soft, glowing results,” Anit adds.
HOW TO USE SQUALANE
You’ll typically spot squalane on the ingredient lists of moisturizers, yes, but also overnight masks, eye creams, and facial oils. Squalane can be used every morning and/or night and, because it’s non-irritating, works well with other ingredients like acids and retinol. Squalane (along with cocoa butter) can be found in our Retinol Body Lotion to not only moisturize, but also repair sagging skin and brighten up hyperpigmentation.
If you’re a fan of squalane, you’ll probably want to load up on HA, too. Read all about the benefits of hyaluronic acid next.