Everything You Need to Know About Squalane Oil—Plus the Best Skin-Care Products
Spoiler alert: You should most definitely consider making this anti-aging ingredient part of your skincare routine.
Whether you've heard of squalane oil or not, there's a good chance that it's in one (or more) of the skincare products you're currently using. Boasting a host of different benefits—including moisturizing, anti-aging, and even helping with acne—it's become a staple in everything from face serums and body lotions to hair styling products.
Ahead, dermatologists give us the skinny on squalane and whether the skin benefits are worth it.
What Is Squalane Oil?
Squalane is a top-notch emollient ingredient—excellent for sealing in moisture and repairing the skin barrier—but don't confuse it with squalene, another ingredient you may have heard of as of late. While the two are related, that one different letter makes a big difference when it comes to stability and efficacy. (Another great moisturizing ingredient? Meet hylauronic acid.)
"Squalane is the hydrogenated version of squalene, a lipid or fat that's naturally occurring in your body," explains New Jersey-based dermatologist Jason Miller, M.D. It's a key component of the sebum (read: oil) your skin produces, which is made up of triglycerides, wax esters, and squalene, and is super important for keeping skin hydrated. Unfortunately, like so many other things, squalene production declines with age, leaving your complexion dry and lackluster. So it makes sense that you'd want a topical squalene solution.
The problem? "Squalene is too unstable to be included in skincare products, as it can spoil quickly when exposed to oxygen," says Dr. Miller. "To improve stabilization it must be chemically changed—hydrogenated—and turned into squalane, which is a more stable molecule," he adds. And that's exactly why you'll often see the more shelf-stable and effective squalane, and not squalene, in your skin-care products. (Check out more anti-aging products here.)
Where Does Squalane Come From?
If you've heard about squalane, chances are, you've likely heard something about sharks as well. (Yes, sharks.) Besides being naturally found in your skin, squalene is also found in shark liver. Back in the day, shark liver was one of the most common sources for cosmetically-used squalene (which was ultimately turned into squalane).
If that freaks you out, don't worry; given the obvious animal-welfare concerns, squalane is now almost exclusively derived from plant-based sources such as olives, rice bran, wheat germ, and sugarcane. (Related: What's the Difference Between Clean and Natural Beauty Products?)
Squalane Oil Benefits for Skin
First and foremost, squalane is a great emollient, ideal for softening the skin and sealing in moisture, says New York City-based dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, M.D. Because it so closely mimics the oil our skin naturally produces, it's lightweight and won't feel greasy or heavy. Also great? Squalane oil has antioxidant properties, making it a great pick not only for combating a dry complexion but also for those dealing with irritation, including eczema and psoriasis, points out Dr. Bhanusali. Couple that with the fact that it's generally very well-tolerated with a minimal likelihood for any kind of allergic reaction, and you've got a power-house ingredient, ideal for pretty much any and every skin type.
Yes, it's safe for sensitive skin types, but it's also safe for oily and acne-prone skin. "Squalane has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and it's also non-comedogenic," says Dr. Bhanusali. Meaning, it can help calm the redness associated with breakouts, and you don't have to worry about it clogging pores. (Related: The Best Skin-Care Routine for Acne-Prone Skin)
The Best Skin-Care Products with Squalane Oil
Sold on squalane? Check out seven dermatologist-approved products for both face and body.
The Ordinary 100% Squalane (Buy It, $14,
$17, amazon.com): Dr. Miller and Dr. Bhanusali both like this face product, which—true to the name—contains only squalane. Given the ultra-affordable price point, you can slather it on with reckless abandon. Try applying it on its own, or add a few drops to your favorite moisturizer.
Kiehl's Creme de Corps (Buy It, from $12, nordstrom.com): Squalane isn't just for your face. "This is a great full-body product, which uses an olive oil-derived squalane," says Miller. Non-greasy and fast-absorbing, there's a reason why it's been a cult classic for almost forty years.
Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil (Buy It, $72, sephora.com): This brand is all about squalane, the star ingredient in pretty much all of its products. Dr. Bhanusali is a big fan of this oil since it has the same hydrating benefits as the Biossance 100% Squalane Oil (Buy It, $32, sephora.com), but with an added boost, namely in the form of a vitamin C, which furthers the brightening prowess and level of antioxidant protection.
SkinCeuticals Redness Neutralizer (Buy It, $67, dermstore.com): Per the point about squalane oil being ideal for those dealing with irritated skin, this treatment uses the ingredient (along with panthenol, peptides, and caffeine) to help soothe inflammation and minimize redness. Also nice: It's paraben- and fragrance-free, important criteria for those with sensitive complexions.
Youth to The People Superberry Hydrate+Glow Dream Mask (Buy It, $48, sephora.com): Swap your standard night cream for this overnight mask, another of Dr. Miller's picks. Combining both squalane and a powerful punch of antioxidants, it will leave your complexion smoother, softer, and more radiant come morning.
Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil (Buy It, $34, amazon.com): Another great option for those looking for straight-up squalane, the one in this formula is olive-derived. The multitasking oil comes in two different sizes and (bonus!) you can even use a few drops to hydrate dry hair.
Beautycounter Countermatch Adaptive Moisture Lotion (Buy It, $49, beautycounter.com): Another one of Dr. Miller's choices for head-to-toe hydration, this is lotion is clinically proven to hydrate for up to 24 hours, thanks to a blend of squalane, plum oil, and nourishing shea butter.