You've probably noticed squalane popping up in some of your favourite skincare products and there's a good reason why the beauty industry is enamoured with it.
Squalane is a moisturising ingredient that mimics your skin's natural oils and can be found in products like lip gloss and sunscreen as well as anti-ageing formulas. Squalane, with an 'a', is derived from squalene, with an 'e', an oily substance found in people, animals and plants.
Let's dive into everything you need to know about squalane.
What is squalene?
Squalene (with an 'e') is one of your skin's natural oils, so it's naturally present and produced by your skin cells and is found in sebum — the oil your skin makes. However, as you age, the amount you are able to produce begins to decline, with peak production being reached in your teenage years.
The amount of squalene your body produces declines in your 20s and 30s, leading to moisture loss, making your skin drier and less supple and plump as you get older.
Your skin's moisture retention is enhanced by squalene, which is non-irritating and anti-inflammatory and helps rebuild the skin's barrier if it becomes dry or sensitive by delivering fatty acids.
It also helps keep the skin's appearance bright and fresh. About 60 per cent of dietary squalene is absorbed by humans, where it is then distributed to our tissues, with the greatest concentration going to our skin.
Squalene is also used in pharmaceutical products and vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines. It has also shown protective qualities against several carcinogens, with research finding that squalene may prevent skin tumours.
However, this study was not performed on humans, so we cannot definitively say squalene is helpful in cancer therapy.
Where does squalane come from?
So you're across squalene (with an 'e') but what is squalane (with an 'a')? Squalane is the more stable form of squalene. Before it can be used in skincare, squalene must undergo a hydrogenation process — adding hydrogen — to turn it into squalane.
Besides our own skin production, squalene is found in olive oil, rice bran and sugar cane. It is also found abundantly in fish liver oils, including shark liver oil from deep-sea sharks.
However, most major companies within the cosmetics industry have shifted away from using squalene from shark livers and are instead choosing cruelty-free plant-based squalane.
The reason for the hydrogenation is because animal and plant squalene is too unstable to be used in skincare products directly. When exposed to oxygen, it can spoil very quickly, so it must undergo a bit of a transformation before it's ready!
Hydrogenation converts the squalene from an unsaturated oil into a saturated oil, known as squalane. This process makes the product useable for the skin and increases its shelf life.
What is squalane oil?
Squalane oil is simply the final product of the squalene to squalane production process, and it is the product found in your favourite squalane skincare products.
Squalane is a very effective moisturiser — you only need a few drops — and because your skin produces its own form of the substance, your skin recognises it immediately.
This also means that the oil can be absorbed into the deepest parts of your skin quickly and easily, leaving you feeling and looking moisturised and supple!
Squalene vs squalane?
- Made from vegetable oils and fish liver oils
- Less stable and doesn't last very long
- Helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Works as an antioxidant, preventing free radical damage
- A hydrogenated form of squalene
- More stable and longer shelf life
- Great for all skin types, even oily skin
- Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
What are the skin benefits of squalane?
Besides being a great moisturiser, squalane oil can also lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduce redness and increase the vibrancy of your skin. Squalane oil also helps repair the barrier of your skin, so you're preventing water loss and helping to protect your skin from environmental factors.
Squalane oil is ideal for all skin types, including oily or acne-prone skin, dry skin and sensitive skin. It is non-comedogenic, so it won't clog your pores.
And, it has been shown to be as powerful as retinol in terms of its ability to reverse damage caused by the sun and fight free radicals, which are produced during oxidative stress — a natural reaction in the body.
When the balance of free radicals is disturbed, it can lead to damaged cells, which is linked to the visible signs of ageing. It can also be helpful for acne sufferers because squalane oil can help fight bacteria on your skin, causing it to relieve symptoms and prevent blemishes.
This hardworking ingredient is also great for your hair as it mimics your hair's natural sebum. This is particularly useful if you live somewhere with extreme weather and need more moisture to sustain hair softness.
Nails can also benefit from squalane oil if used in place of cuticle oil, as it absorbs faster and provides an abundance of moisture without being left with oily fingers.
What skincare results can you expect with squalane?
Squalane acts as an emollient, so it retains moisture inside your skin. By adding squalane to your skincare routine, you can expect softer, firmer, smoother and brighter skin.
Squalane is also great for anti-ageing as it brings back the moisture from squalene, which your body slows down at producing in your 20s and 30s. Squalane is beneficial for most skin types, especially those with dry skin. For those with acne-prone skin, squalane is believed to fight the bacteria that cause breakouts.
It's also lightweight and doesn't feel greasy so those with oily skin can reap the nourishing benefits.
Software's Ceramide Repair Balm is enriched with squalane alongside sodium hyaluronate and lanosterol esters to protect the skin barrier against drying environmental conditions and harsh skin treatments.
Our Ceramide Repair Balm treats dull, damaged and dry skin by infusing hydration, reducing redness and irritation and protecting against free radical damage. The addition of squalane helps to plump and revive skin without feeling greasy.
It's the perfect product to use alongside your Software treatment or for those dealing with impaired skin from harsh cleansing or environmental stressors.
Is squalane better than hyaluronic acid?
Squalane and hyaluronic acid (HA) might sound similar — both are very hydrating — but they work in different ways. Essentially, moisturisers can either be humectants or emollients. While humectants pull water into the skin, emollients seal the skin on the outside, which in turn keeps hydration in the skin.
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, and squalane is an emollient, as mentioned earlier.
So if you plan on using both hyaluronic acid and squalane simultaneously, it's best to use squalane afterwards to allow the hyaluronic acid to pull in water and hydrate the cells and then have squalane build a natural moisture barrier, locking the hydration in.
Can squalane break you out?
Squalane shouldn't cause breakouts as it is non-greasy, lightweight and non-comedogenic, meaning it doesn't block or clog pores. It is also known to fight acne-causing bacteria.
Dermatologists generally recommend squalane for all skin types, as it's unlikely to cause breakouts. Research has also found that squalane has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce swelling and redness.
Squalane is unlikely to clog your pores, however, your natural skin oils, bacteria, and dead skin cells can, so it's essential to use a good cleanser to clean your pores before applying the oil.
You will also want to use a gentle, chemical exfoliant, like Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash, two to three times a week to remove dead skin cells and help your squalane-rich skincare penetrate deeper into the skin.
Try to avoid using physical exfoliants as these can be a little harsh for those with sensitive skin.
Given squalene is naturally produced by the body to maintain a protective barrier from free radicals, squalane makes a great alternative to other moisturisers that can be too heavy or greasy as your skin recognises the goodness within it and soaks it up.
Can squalane treat perioral dermatitis?
Perioral dermatitis is a rash that sees bumps develop around the mouth. In some cases, you may see a similar rash around the eyes, nose and forehead, which is known by some experts as a type of rosacea.
In severe cases, dermatologists may prescribe specific treatments for perioral dermatitis. However, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, squalane can soothe various inflammatory skin issues.
Usually, dermatitis causes the skin to dry out, so if you keep your skin hydrated, you're more likely to reduce flare-ups and dry patches.
Is squalane safe?
Squalane is considered safe. However, there is the risk of irritation or an allergic reaction with all skincare, especially as the product may contain several ingredients, not just squalane oil.
If you're using squalane oil for the first time, it's recommended to patch test it to ensure you don't have a reaction.
Is squalane safe for pregnant women?
Certain skincare products are deemed unsafe for pregnant women as some active ingredients may be absorbed into the skin during pregnancy and have the potential to affect the unborn baby.
For this reason, it's always best to be cautious with your skincare while pregnant. For example, you will need to avoid retinoids, salicylic acid and chemical sunscreens, to name a few.
However, you will be happy to know that squalane is pregnancy-friendly! Of course, you will need to ensure that your squalane product does not contain any extra ingredients that may be unsafe, such as retinoids, but otherwise, you're good to go!
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