Riding in the wake of hydrating hyaluronic acid (HA), sqaulane (a.k.a. the hydrogenated derivative of squalene) is the next ingredient every beauty brand seems to be on board with. An antioxidant and emollient, sqaulane can be a great addition to a skincare regimen. But it’s important to understand how it works to make sure you get the most out of it. Here’s your sqaulane in skincare cheat sheet.
What Is Squalane?
Squalene — with an ‘e’ — is part of what Ava Shamban, MD, a board certified dermatologist and founder of Ava MD, calls “the trifecta” of building blocks of sebum (real: oil). The other two are triglycerides and wax esters. “Squalene is one of the key natural and essential lipids of the natural cellular lubrication and moisturization system in our body,” she explains. “It penetrates to lubricate the cells of our intracellular matrix and is essentially part of the ‘mortar’ between the bricks from the stratum corneum layer into the epidermis and dermis layers of our skin.”
Squalane — with an ‘a’ — is the hydrogenated form of the compound, which is “skin-friendly and increases the shelf life [of squalene] so it becomes viable for formulation in OTC skincare,” she says. While it’s found in sharks, these days it’s usually derived from plants, as that’s a more sustainable option (and, yes, it matters). Where else might you find squalane? In hair products, to help mimic the effect your strands get from the scalp’s natural oils.
And, while you might think of it as a swap for hyaluronic acid, the two actually work in different ways and can be used in tandem, with squalane coming second in your routine. “Moisturizers are broken down into humectants and emollients,” explains Morgan Rabach, MD, a board certified dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical in New York City. “Humectants pull water into the skin and emollients seal the skin on the outside, which keeps hydration in the skin.” HA is a humectant, while squalane is an emollient.
What Are the Benefits of Squalane in Skincare?
Squalane is rich in antioxidants, which makes it a nice addition to an anti-aging routine. But a lot of its magic comes down to what it does for the skin barrier. “The composition, size, and structure of squalane can be very useful to aid as a buffer, diffusing into the spaces between cells and providing the lubrication as well as the filling in any breach or damage to the skin barrier,” Dr. Shamban explains.
In this way, she says, you can think of it as “a sealant” or “caulking” at the stratum corneum layer of the skin to prevent the transepidermal water loss. Because of this, it’s often recommended for folks with atopic conditions like eczema.
Who Is Squalane Good For?
When it comes to both the face and body, squalane works for most skin types — especially those with dry skin. It is, however, a bit of a question mark for acne patients. Some research indicates that it has a positive impact on acne, and many derms, including Dr. Shamban, recommend it to their breakout-prone patients. But some docs, like Dr. Rabach, feel that since it’s mimicking a part of the skin’s natural oils, it’s best to stay away. As she explains, “people that overproduce sebum often have clogged pores and acne, and, in these patients, I would not recommend using squalene or any other oil.”
Depending on your skin type, check in with your dermatologist to see if it’s a good fit. At the very least, you may want to patch-test a new product (the inner wrist and jawline are two good spots) for a few days. Beyond that, there’s not much to know. As we mentioned, if you are layering squalane and HA, squalane comes after. Generally speaking, think of it as a sealant that drops into the end of your routine.
How to Add Squalane into Your Skincare Routine
Now that you know what squalane can do for your skin, here are some ways to add it to your beauty arsenal:
In A Face Mask: JLo Beauty That Limitless Glow Sheet Mask
Jennifer Lopez’s entire skincare line revolves around an olive-derived complex that includes — you guessed it — squalane. It’s prominently featured in this two-piece sheet mask, which can help you nab her famous glow in 10 minutes. $48 for 3 masks, sephora.com
In A Cleansing Oil: Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil
This makeup-removing cleanser gets big love for having eight plant-derived oils (think: orange, lavender, oat, sunflower, evening primrose) plus sugarcane-derived squalane and hemisqualane to nourish and soothe while lifting away debris. $30, sephora.com
In A Cleansing Milk: Milk Makeup Vegan Milk Cleanser
Whether you use it alone or as the second step of your double cleanse, this face wash has a silky smooth texture that leaves skin soft and supple thanks to argan oil, oat milk, and plant-derived squalane. $30, sephora.com
In A Face Oil: The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane Oil
Attention purists: It doesn’t get more stripped-down than this vegan oil. As the name suggests, its only ingredient is 100 percent plant-derived squalane. $8, sephora.com
In A Facial Moisturizer: Goop Beauty GoopGlow Glow Lotion
Thanks to the combo of sugar-derived squalane and Brazilian curupay extract, this cream was shown to leave skin hydrated for 72 hours. $58, sephora.com
In A Body Lotion: Mario Badescu Skin Care A.H.A. Body Lotion
A head-to-toe treat, this body cream resurfaces the skin below your neck with alpha hydroxy acids, moisturizes with glycerin (a humectant), and seals it in with squalane. We call that a win-win-win. $14, mariobadescu.com
In A Hair Care Routine: SEEN Blow-Out Cream
Yep, squalane has benefits for your locks, too, and here we present what will be your new go-to for a smooth blow dry. The sugar-derived squalane in this hair styler provides heat protection while reducing frizz. $24, helloseen.com
All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.
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