What Is Squalane and What Does It Do For Your Skin?
Our Whipped Squalane Face & Eye Cream is our best selling product. Great for all skin types, young and maturing, dry and oily. So what is squalane and why is it a great skin care ingredient?
Squalene is a natural organic compound found in various sources, including shark liver oil, plant oils, and human skin oil.
A light, emollient and skin-friendly oil, squalane works to moisturize and keep skin soft, smooth, and flexible.
The emollient and hydration properties of squalane oil and its compatibility with our natural skin oils, make it an excellent skin protector.
Squalane is often used in skincare products to ease eczema, help with damaged hair, and provide anti-aging and wrinkle protection. Squalane is an excellent under eye moisturizer for maturing skin.
The Squalene Origin Story
Squalene was discovered in the early 1900s when Dr. Mitsumaro Tsujimo, a chemist from Japan, isolated the substance from the livers of deep-sea sharks. It was named “squalene” after Squalidae, the shark family from which it was first isolated and is still sourced. By the 1950s researchers discovered that it had incredible benefits because of its similarity to oils naturally found in human skin.
Apparently deep-sea sharks possess a very oily liver that helps them maintain their buoyancy and survive the crushing pressures of the deep. The livers of an estimated 3,000 sharks are required to produce about one ton of squalene (about 1.5 shark livers for every pound of squalene).
According to a 2012 investigation by the marine conservation coalition Bloom Association, cosmetic use accounts for 90% of shark liver oil production worldwide, contributing to the death of approximately 2.7 million deep sea sharks each year.
As more and more consumers are looking for beauty products made of ingredients whose production does not negatively impact animal welfare, there has been a shift away from shark-derived squalene in the beauty industry. Another study by Bloom in 2018 revealed that at that time about 80% of all squalene used in the U.S. and Europe came from olives.
However because the amount of squalene yielded from shark liver is much greater as well as cheaper, there are still many manufacturers that use shark squalene. Since companies are not required to specify the origin of the squalene in their products, you may have to do some research to ensure that the company is only using squalene from 100% plant-based sources. (More about that later)
Note: You may think that if a product is labelled “cruelty-free” then it does not contain shark squalene – but that is not true. Cruelty-free means only that an ingredient or final product was not tested on animals, but it does not prevent the cruelty or destruction of species in order to obtain animal-derived ingredients.
What is Squalene?
Besides being a natural component of shark liver and plants, squalene (with an “e”) is an oily compound naturally produced by our skin cells. Synthesized by our liver and released by the sebaceous glands in our skin and scalp, it makes up about 10-13% of our natural skin oil, or “sebum" which is the lipid barrier that helps lubricate our skin. Squalene has moisturizing properties, helps prevent moisture loss from the skin, helps diminish the appearance of fine lines, and attracts oxygen which it delivers deep into the skin to help accelerate new cell growth.
The amount of squalene in the body declines with age. Since newborns have the highest level of squalene, it functions as baby’s first moisturizer. Peak production of this natural moisturizer occurs in the teen years when it composes up to 15% of skin fats, and peaks around age 25. As production slows drastically after age thirty, the amount of squalene present in our skin oil begins to drop rapidly. By the time we are age 50 it can be as low as 5%. As a result, your skin becomes drier and rougher as you age. (source)
Squalane has been used in cosmetics for decades. So, why is it such a sought after ingredient? When used topically, shark and plant-based derived squalane mimics the effects of our body’s natural moisturizer.
Squalene vs Squalane
You may have noticed two different spellings—squalene vs squalane. There is often confusion between Squalene (with an "e") and Squalane (with an "a"). While both have incredible emollient properties they are not the same.
Squalene (with an "e") is a polyunsaturated oil found naturally in plants and plant oils such as olive and in animals like shark livers.
Since squalene is one of the most unsaturated lipids, it highly unstable. When exposed to oxygen it oxidizes, becomes rancid, and spoils quickly.
In order to make Squalene more stable, it is combined with hydrogen.
This hydrogenation converts Squalene from an unsaturated oil to a saturated oil now called Squalane (with an "a"). Hydrogenation not only prevents oxidation and increases the shelf life but it also makes a lighter more skin-friendly oil.
So, olive squalane is a light and stable version of olive squalene that is hydrogenated to make it stable and non-oxidative.
I have seen websites that offer “organic squalane oil.” I would definitely question these companies and ask to see their USDA certification for that product. Since USDA organic certification was designed for food, hydrogenated oils cannot be certified organic.
Sources of Squalane: Where Does Squalane Oil Come From?
The squalane used in the cosmetic industry can come from natural or synthetic origin.
To produce natural squalane manufacturers turn to living organisms that are naturally rich in squalene. The most abundant source of squalene is found in the livers of deep-sea sharks.
However, squalene can also be obtained from certain plants that have a high squalene content. While the olive tends to provide the bulk of the natural plant squalane, other plants such as amaranth, soybean, sunflower, grapeseed, and corn are also potential sources. Squalane of plant origin is the most environmentally-friendly.
Fossil Hydrocarbons: This type of synthetic squalane, synthesized from petroleum, crude oil, and other fossil fuels, was launched in Japan in 1978.
Sugar Cane: You will see companies selling “natural squalane derived from sugar cane.” Although sugar is a good alternative to petroleum-based hydrocarbons, there is NO squalene in sugar cane. This type of squalane is made using variety of steps to create synthetic squalane from a natural ingredient.
Again, since companies are not required to specify the origin of the squalene in their products, you may have to do some research to ensure that the company is only using the type of squalane that you are comfortable buying and applying to your skin.
The Source of Chagrin Valley Squalane
Our squalane is 100% olive derived. It is a cruelty-free, sustainable, plant-based source of the compound squalene that is derived from natural olives.
Olive Squalane is a clear, tasteless, and odorless liquid that mimics the squalene component of human sebum.
This lightweight oil eaily flows in between the top skin cell layers to help soften the texture of skin. It leaves a non-greasy after-feel and creates a natural, protective barrier to slow down transepidermal water loss.
Transepidermal water loss (TEWL) is the amount of water vapor that naturally evaporates from the surface of the skin not related to sweating. In healthy skin, TEWL is directly proportional to skin hydration.
How is Squalene Derived from Olives?
The beneficial effects of olive oil are due to its many bioactive compounds which have powerful antioxidant activity, one of which is squalene.
Shark livers supply the richest source of natural squalene. The liver makes up ¼ of a shark's body weight. The oil makes up 50% of the liver weight and 50 to 80% of that oil is pure squalene. Thus a typical deep sea shark that weighs 100kg will yield around 6-10 kgs of pure squalene. That's a lot! (source)
Unlike the rich content of squalene in shark oil, olive oil contains between 0.4-0.7% squalene. To put it into perspective, that's about 1 to 2 teaspoons in every liter of oil. Trying to extract the squalene directly from the oil itself is a very expensive and unsustainable process.
Since research has shown that the squalene is mainly concentrated in the pulp and in the cell membranes, concentrations of 30-50% may be present in the sansa, the solids that remain after pressing olives. The sansa includes the skins, pits and the fibrous flesh of the olive after the olive water and oil has been removed during production.
While this residue was once regarded as a waste product by refineries, since it has no value in the food industry, it represents a valuable source of natural phytochemicals and is a great source of squalene. Phytochemicals are plant-based bioactive compounds produced by plants usually for their own protection.
In order to recover a high amount of squalene from the sansa, eco-friendly extraction methods such as supercritical CO2 extraction are used. This process uses carbon dioxide as a solvent and yields high-quality squalene without the use of toxic solvents like hexane. It is the same process that can be used to extract essential oils.
You can read more about this process in our blog "How Essential Oils Are Extracted."
Squalane Benefits for Skin
Olive squalane may not be the panacea for all that ails maturing skin, but it is a unique ingredient with many skin care benefits.
Although lightweight squalane has moisturizing properties, it does not replace your moisturizer. It is a fat-soluble ingredient that often works best when mixed with other moitsurizing natural plant oils or butters.
Research has shown that there many benefits to using squalane topically here are a few:
Squalane, a lightweight compound, is quickly and efficiently absorbed deep into the skin without leaving behind an oily residue.
Moisturization and Hydration
Although we often use these words interchangeably, there is a difference between skin moisture and hydration. When skin is lacking in moisture it is dry and needs oil. When skin is lacking in hydration it is dehydrated and needs water.
Squalane is a powerful emollient that helps moisturize, soften, and repair dry, rough skin to improve skin texture and appearance. Emollients also help improve skin flexibility and suppleness for smoother, more radiant-looking skin.
Squalane is a great moisturizer for dry skin, but oily skin needs moisture, also. Oily skin may be lacking in water, not oil. When used topically, squalane helps keep skin dry or oily skin hydrated by creating a protective barrier to slow down transepidermal water loss. Our lipid skin barrier is what protects our skin from environmental stressors and is also responsible for transporting nutrients and water to skin tissues.
Good For All Skin Types
Since squalane mimics the composition of the oil naturally produced by our skin it is generally well-tolerated by most skin types including eczema-prone, acne-prone, or sensitive skin prone to irritation. In fact, squalane is recognized by the National Eczema Association for its ability to help calm and protect the skin.
Since squalane is an oil, some may worry about whether it can trigger acne breakouts. However, squalane oil is non-comedogenic, which means it will not clog pores or contribute to acne breakouts.
Helps Balance Natural Oil Production
Squalane can help regulate excess oil production. Since squalane mimics our skin’s natural sebum, or oil, the skin recognizes squalane as a naturally occurring oil and produces less on its own, making it a great choice for anyone with oily skin.
Your skin is constantly exposed to environmental stressors that can cause free-radical damage and oxidative stress which can trigger visible signs of aging, such as wrinkles, fine lines, and rough texture. It can also help brighten and even out your complexion.
Squalene is an effective antioxidant which helps protect against free radical damage and promote softer, more supple-looking skin.
Final Thoughts About Squalane Oil
Since squalane mimics the chemistry of the skin and its natural oil, our skin loves it. Great for all skin types, young and maturing, dry and oily, the moisturizing, hydrating, repairing, and calming benefits of squalane make it ideal for helping many skin issues.
Although squalane is an oil, it actually reduces shine, while smoothing fine lines, calming redness, supporting the skin’s barrier, nourishing dehydrated skin, and plumping and smoothing the complexion.
Although squalane has moisturizing properties, it does not replace your moisturizer.
We discovered that this fat-soluble ingredient works best when mixed with other moisturizing natural plant oils or butters especially for a face cream with squalane.
I hope this article will help you understand why our Whipped Squalane Face & Eye Cream is our best selling product.