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It feels like suddenly, squalane is popping up in the ingredients list of all my newly bought skincare products. And there is even squalane oil as a standalone skincare product available.

No doubt, squalane is something you should know about and moreover, consider adding to your skincare. Our bodies have a built-in system to help keep our skin moisturised. It doesn’t always provide enough, which is why we apply moisturisers and creams.

Squalane Vs Squalene

Squalene (note the e) naturally occurs in our bodies. Its made by the oil (sebaceous) glands in our skin. It’s important for the skin barrier helps to keep the skin moisturised, and is also an antioxidant that has anti-aging properties for neutralising environmental damage.

There can be as much as 12% of squalene in our bodies, but just like collagen, this amount plummets with age. Since it’s so potent, this substance can be harvested unethically, for example from shark liver. Hence the beauty industry is transitioning to squalane.

It’s easy to confuse the one with the other, it’s not just the spelling (a or e?). Both are very similar yet distinctly different.

Squalane is a hydrogenated form of squalene. It’s a lighter weight derivative of squalene and less prone to oxidation. Consequently, it’s also more suitable for all skin types, but especially for acne-prone skin.

Squalane is a saturated fat and therefore very stable, even more so than coconut oil. Whereas squalene is a poly-unsaturated fat, highly reactive, and oxidises quickly. Once squalene in our skin is oxidised, it turns inflammatory leading to more acne. In its natural state, squalene isn’t stable and has a short shelf-life. Hence, for skincare products, squalene goes through a saturation process – the hydrogenation – to become squalane.

Photo by Nazar Hrabovyi

Squalane can be sourced from plants, such as olives, wheat germ oil, or rice bran oil.

Benefits Of Squalane?

Since squalane is the lighter weight derivative of squalene, it has the very same properties: It will completely and quickly absorb into the skin. Try putting a drop of squalane oil (of a standalone product) on the back of your hand. You will notice that it will not feel greasy and it will permeate completely in your skin within minutes (with almost no rubbing or patting in).

Once absorbed, the skin uses squalane to form the skin barrier function to protect itself from microbes, pollutants, UV, and other environmental irritants.

As squalane is similar to the natural oils that the skin produces, it’s a very effective moisturizer and emollient. Regular application will help your skin in retaining the moisture level, seeing that it locks in the hydration.

Squalane doubles up as anti-aging. As we age, the squalene level dips, and applying squalane oil to the skin can help to add back moisture. Drier skin appears to have more lines and wrinkles. In addition, squalane is an antioxidant. As such, it prevents UV damage and the formation of age spots and promotes cell growth.

Even if your skin is acne-prone, you will benefit from using squalane oil. It’s non-comedogenic, meaning, it will not clog your pores, yet it will still provide your skin with the much-needed moisture. It’s also oil balancing, similar to jojoba oil.

With its antibacterial properties, it will help control skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, skin rashes, redness, and of course acne.

Since it permeates the skin rapidly, it aids in the absorption of other nutrients and is therefore often included as an ingredient to improve the effectiveness of the product.

Who Should Use Squalane?

As seen in the benefits, people with dry skin, acne-prone skin types, and mature skin can get the most of using squalane.

You can apply skincare products that already contain squalane, or add it as at the facial oil step before applying your usual moisturiser.

You can also apply one drop of squalane oil in your anti-aging face packs such as the Coffee And Honey Face Mask or to your rejuvenating Tamarind And Green Tea Toner.

Squalane oil will also help relieve your dry cuticles, just a drop to your cuticles and massage in with your fingertips. You can also fortify and condition your hair with squalane. Try adding a drop or two to your weekly hair mask.

Squalane is being increasingly used as a beauty ingredient. Unfortunately and perhaps also unsurprisingly, squalene fisheries are still in operation today. Be sure to read the labels to make sure no sharks were harmed in the making it.

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