Squalane Oil: Skin Care Benefits & Our Favorite Products
It's not often that a "new" ingredient comes along in the beauty market and completely envelops the space. Well, not too long ago, that's exactly what squalane oil did. Now, you can find it in a wide variety of products and at a wide range of price points. In a shockingly short amount of time, this ingredient went from buzzy to almost ubiquitous.
So why did the skin care industry fall so hard and so fast for it? Well, to put it bluntly: It's a really great ingredient with several high-impact benefits. Here, we explain.
What Is squalane oil?
Let's revisit why I put quotes around "new." Squalane oil comes from something called squalene (notice the "e" in the middle versus the "a") and this is actually as old as humans are: It's found naturally in our skin's barrier. "Squalene is a natural oil produced by the sebaceous glands in your skin. It plays a role in skin hydration and barrier protection," says board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D. "But squalene is easily oxidized, which means it is not stable in cosmetic formulas. However, squalane is a cousin to squalene that can be produced in the lab from botanical sources. Squalane can give similar emollient benefits to its cousin squalene but is more stable and responsibly produced."
As for the last point (the "responsibility produced" part) this comes up because squalene oil was traditionally extracted from less-than-ethical sources. "Squalene was produced from the livers of sharks," says Zeichner. "Because of ethical and environmental issues, it is not commonly used anymore." And what came in its place is botanically derived squalane—like from olive oil, rice bran, and sugar cane—that is abundant in products today.
Squalane oil skin benefits.
Clearly this is a coveted ingredient since the beauty industry has gone through such lengths to find a stable and ethically sourced variation. Why? "It's a fatty molecule that is highly versatile," says board-certified Rachel Nazarian, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC.
- Protects the skin barrier: The primary benefit of the skin care ingredient comes from the primary goal it plays in the skin: It supports and enhances the skin barrier. "It is used as an emollient in skin care, which maintains the skin's moisture barrier and hydration," says Nazarian. Skin barrier health is one of the most important functions of skin, as it keeps moisture in (or stops transepidermal water loss, a phenomenon in which water literally evaporates from the skin) and blocks environmental irritants from getting in.
- Has antioxidant properties: "It is also an antioxidant that has healthy-aging properties for neutralizing environmental damage," says Nazarian. Antioxidants are beloved in skin care as they help fight free radicals, manage oxidative stress, protect us from UV and pollution.
- Replenishes our natural supply as we age: Like many good things in our skin—collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid, and the like—we lose squalene as we age. So by incorporating its derivative, we are able to help replenish our barrier. "Again, it's something that our skin has normally and can benefit from as we get older," says Nazarian.
Who should and shouldn't use squalane oil?
Those with weakened skin barriers will benefit from squalane. How do you know if that's you? Chronically dry, inflammation-prone skin is a dead giveaway that you suffer from a compromised skin barrier. So if your skin is easily irritated, sensitive to products and external aggressors, or you have inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea or eczema, squalane oil is a great choice for you.
However, it may not be great for people who have easily clogged pores. "Generally speaking, I do not recommend squalane for people who have acne-prone skin. It is a fully saturated fat and may cause breakouts in some people," says Zeichner.
The 3 best squalane products to use right now:
You're in luck: Squalane, being highly popular, tends to show up in a lot of products from face to body. Here are some of our favorite selects.
Biossance 100% Squalane Oil$48
m-61 Hydroboost Body Oil$44
Honest Beauty Hydrogel Cream$19.99
Squalane oil is a great skin care ingredient, as it's naturally found in your skin. It supports your skin barrier function, acts as an antioxidant, and can help replenish moisture as you age. Plus, the oil is found in a wide range of formulations, from serums and creams to body lotions.
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