Ever wondered about the Squalane oil benefits for skin and whether you should try it? Before The Ordinary put it on the map, no one had heard of it. Now, it’s EVERYWHERE. Like, in all your skincare products. Check your labels. I dare you find one without squalane in it.
Not that I’m complaining… This oil has a lot going for it. It’s fast-absorbing. Non irritating. Non comedogenic… It literally works for everyone. But… what the heck is it? And what does squalane oil do for skin exactly? Is there a best way to use it?
Let’s unravel the mystery! Here’s everything you need to know about squalane oil to make the most of its skincare benefits:
What Is Squalane Oil?
Squalane is the hydrogenated version of squalene, a natural component of human sebum. Your body makes it. But you can’t put it in skincare products. It’s too unstable and goes bad quickly. When it does, it makes you breakout faster than you can say “zit!”. So scientists hydrogenate it, i.e. turn it from a liquid to a semi-solid (using hydrogen gas in the process). This extends its shelf life and makes it easier to use in skincare products.
Where Does Squalane Oil Come From?
You may have heard that the Squalane oil used in skincare comes from shark livers. That was true in the past. Fun fact: Squalane gets its name from Squalus, a genus of shark (and did you know that “squalo” is shark in Italian?). Thankfully, Thankfully, these days most beauty brands have stopped using shark-derived Squalane oil in favour of Squalane oil derived from plant sources, such as olive oil and sugar cane. Phew!
Although the structure of squalane oil is the same, no matter its origin, there are differences in purities that can remain after hydrogenation, leading to subtle difference in its thickness, absorption rate and even performance.
Squalane Oil Benefits For Skin: What Does It Do?
Yo’ve guessed it, Squalane oil is super moisturising. Because it’s so similar to human sebum, a substance your body naturally produces, your skin recognises it instantly. Translation: it sinks in quickly without leaving a greasy residue behind. If you’re tired of oils that stay on the surface of your skin for ages and make it shiner, you’ll love this.
Once on your skin, squalane strengthens the skin’s protective barrier so that moisture stays in and germs, pollutants and irritants stay out. When your skin’s protective barrier is damaged, all hell breaks loose. Skin dries out to a wrinkled old prune. Everything it comes in contact with irritates it. Pimples rear their ugly heads.
But reinforce the protective barrier and everything changes. Now that skin has all the moisture it needs, it plumps up so your wrinkles look smaller. Its texture is super soft. Its glow comes back. I know I’ve said it a thousand times, but hydration is the foundation of skincare. Without it, all your antiaging efforts are worthless.
In other words, Squalane oil is so moisturising, it plumps up fine lines and wrinkles so they look smaller to the naked eye; it makes your skin softer and smoother; and gives the complexion a lovely glow. It even helps to reduce redness. When it comes to hydration, squalane oil is hard to beat.
Related: If Your Skin Is Perfectly Hydrated, Do You Need To Worry About Antiaging, Too?
Who Should Use It?
Squalane oil is one of those rare oils that works well for ALL skin types. Its highly moisturising and soothing properties make it ideal for dry skin and inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema. Unlike most plant oils that contain fragrant components that can irritate sensitive skin, Squalane oil is free of irritants, so it’s highly unlikely to cause a negative reaction. Its lightweight, fast-absorbing, non-greasy texture means it’s not like to cause breakouts either. “While most oils clog pores, squalane is one of the few that may be used even on acne-prone skin,” says Dr Birnbaum.
Squalane Oil For Hair: What Does It Do?
Squalane oil isn’t just a good moisturiser for your skin. It’s a good moisturiser for your hair too. What makes it unique is its lack of grease. It adds plenty of moisture to your locks without giving it a greasy, oily feel. Here are all the squalane oil benefits for hair you need to know about:
- It moisturizes hair: Squalane oil deeply hydrates hair, adding extra moisture to your hair strands that gives it a soft and smooth texture.
- It adds shine: Squalane oil coats your strands, making them smoother. When the light hits them, it reflects on them in a way that makes your hair look shinier and healthier.
- It prevents breakage: Dry, brittle hair is more prone to breakage. When your hair has all the moisture it needs, it’s way smoother. You can comb or brush through your hair so easily, there’s no extra breakage.
- It tames frizz: Harsh weather, curling or straightening irons, and other factors can make your hair so dry and brittle, it’s frizz galore. Thankfully, a good hair moisturiser like Squalane oil can fix all this and tame your frizzy hair.
What’s The Best Way To Use It?
If you want to incorporate squalane oil into your skincare routine, how should you use it? Do you apply before or after moisturiser? I recommend you use it at night, as the last step of your skincare routine. Even though it’s lightweight and fast-absorbing, it may still be a bit too thick for daytime compared to other serums and moisturisers.
Can you use squalane oil as moisturiser? Yes. You can use squalane oil alone in place of your moisturiser or mix a few drops with it. If your skin is very dry, you may want to apply Squalane oil after your moisturiser for an extra hydration boost.
Want to use Squalane oil on your hair? You can massage it into your scalp and then comb it through your hair strands. You can also do a pre-shampoo treatment: you soak your hair in squalane oil for 20 mins to 60 mins, and then wash your hair as normal.
Finally you can use squalane oil to remove your makeup. Squalane is a great oil for the oil cleansing method. It works according to the principle “like attracts like”. The oils in your makeup attach to squalane oil, so they can be melted away. Plus, it’s cheaper than other oils, so you don’t feel like you’re wasting your money when you use it for cleansing.
Does Squalane Have Any Side Effects?
That’s the best part. Squalane is safe for EVERYONE. It’s NON irritating and NON comedogenic.
A lot of natural oils can cause irritations, especially in sensitive skin. That’s because olive oil, lavender oil, chamomile oil & co are made up of hundreds of different substances. Yep. For real. Some of these substances are good. They give these oils their moisturising and antiaging properties. But others – like fragrant components – can be irritating.
Squalane is a simpler oil that’s pretty much identical to human sebum. Your skin instantly recognises it without throwing a tantrum. Don’t take my word for it. Studies show that squalane is non-irritating up to 100% concentration. Now, that’s not something you can say about any ingredient.
But what if you have acne-prone skin? Does squalane oil cause breakouts? This question is harder to answer. Typically, squalane is also one of the few oils that doesn’t clog pores and give you pimples. It’s safe even for fungal acne! However, some people have reported breakouts from olive-derived squalane oil, which is thicker and richer than sugarcane-derived squalane oil. If you have acne-prone skin, pick your Squalane oil carefully.
Related: How To Prevent And Treat Fungal Acne
Squalane Oil Or Hyaluronic Acid: Which One Is Better For You?
If you have dry skin, you may wondering if you should use squalane oil or Hyaluronic Acid. The answer is simple: use both. They’re both hydrating, but they work in a different way. Let me explain.
Hyaluronic Acid is a humectant, a fancy way of saying it attracts and binds to your skin up to 1000 times its weight in water. Squalane oil, on the other hand, creates a protective barrier on the skin that seals moisture in.
This is why it’s best to use Hylauronic Acid and Squalane oil together (in this order). Hyaluronic Acid adds moisture to your skin while Squalane oil keeps it there, preventing it from evaporating. The results? Plumper, softer, brighter skin.
Squalane Oil Vs Rosehip Oil: Which One Is Best?
Squalane oil and Rosehip oil are the two best oils for acne-prone skin. If you’re dealing with acne and want a natural moisturiser, which of the two should you go for?
Rosehip oil (not to be confused with rose oil) is the oil extracted from the hip of roses (the radish-like ball the rose leaves behind after it blossoms). Rosehip oil is my absolute favourite oil for all these reasons:
- Moisturising: It’s rich in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that’s very moisturising. It creates a protective barrier on the skin that slows down water loss and heals dryness.
- Anti-aging: It’s a natural source of Vitamin A (the family retinol belongs to), a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals and boosts collagen.
- Acne-fighter: Studies show that applying linoleic acid on your skin reduces the size of mini-comedones (mini pimples). While it can’t single-handedly treat acne, it does help reduce it.
- Non-comedogenic: While there are exceptions (everyone’s skin is different), rosehip oil is very unlikely to cause breakouts.
Squalane oil is a wonderful oil, but it’s only moisturising. Rosehip oil goes the extra mile. But then again, it depends what you’re looking for. If you want the best anti-aging oil, rosehip oil is it. If you’re looking for a cheap oil to use as a cleanser or makeup remover, squalane oil is better.
Can You Use Squalane Oil And Retinol Together?
The Ordinary was the first brand to popularise the combination of Squalane Oil and retinol. The reason is simple: retinol is an anti-aging superstar that fights wrinkles and dark spots. It works in three ways: it destroys the free radicals that lead to wrinkles; helps skin exfoliates itself faster; and boosts collagen, the all-important protein that keeps skin firm.
The catch? Retinol is irritating, especially when you first start using it. It can cause dryness, flakiness, and redness. Squalane oil is so soothing and moisturising, using it as a base in retinol products counteracts the side effects. You get all the anti-aging benefits without the irritation. Amazing, right?
Which Squalane Oil Is Best?
Squalane oil is literally everywhere, either in its pure form or as in ingredients in your lotions and potions. Here are the best skincare products with Squalane oil that are worth checking out and investing in:
- Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil ($34.00/£32.00): This pure, olive oil derived squalane oil has a lightweight, fast-absorbing texture that deeply moisturises skin, plumps up wrinkles, and gives skin a lovely glow. Available at Cult Beauty, Dermstore and Nordstrom
- Sunday Riley Good Genes Glycolic Acid Treatment (£85.00): Glycolic acid is a powerful exfoliant for dry and sun-damaged skin. It exfoliates skin, hydrates it, and fades away dark spots. But it can be irritating and dryness. Adding Squalane oil to the mix counteracts the possible side effects. Available at Cult Beauty, Net-A-Porter and SpaceNK
- The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane (£5.50): The cheapest, pure, sugarcanepderived squalane oil in this list, it’s highly moisturising, fast-absorbing, and can be used both on skin and hair. Available at Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty
- The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% In Squalane (£4.90): A medium-strength retinol serum for those who have been using retinol for a while but are not yet ready to graduate to 1% yet. The Squalane base counteracts its irritating potential while delivering all its anti-aging benefits. Available at Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, The Ordinary, and Ulta
- Biossance 100% Squalane Oil (£25.00): This may not be the cheaper 100% Squalane oil on this list, but it’s a beautiful formulation. Derived from sugarcane, it’s the most lightweight oil on the list. It absorbs quickly without being greasy, it deeply moisturises skin, leaving it softer and smoother. You can use it all over your body (lips included) for extra hydration and glow. Available at Cult Beauty, Look Fantastic, Sephora, SpaceNK, and Ulta
All these squalane oil products work and will give you results. But what is the BEST one? That depends on your personal preference. Do you want it to be cruelty-free? Does a beautiful packaging matter to you? Are you price conscious and want the most affordable one? Once you know your criteria, you can pick the best product for your unique needs and preferences.
I personally prefer to use skincare products that contain squalane oil instead of pure squalane oil. Why? Squalane oil is amazing, but it’s just one ingredient. Your skin needs a lot more than that – think antioxidants, Hyaluronic Acid, etc – to stay young and healthy. If I can get them all from one product, why not?
Related: Sunday Riley Good Genes Glycolic Acid Treatment Full Review
The Bottom Line
Let’s recap. Here’s a list of all the Squalane oil benefits for skin:
- It has a lightweight, fast-absorbing, non-greasy texture
- It’s very moisturising
- It protects skin from environmental damage
- It plumps up fine lines and wrinkles so they look smaller
- It has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe redness and irritations
- It’s safe for ALL skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin
- It’s non-comedogenic, so won’t clog pores and cause breakouts
- It’s non-irritating
And here’s a recap of Squalane oil benefits for hair:
- It locks in moisture, making dry hair softer and smoother
- It protects hair from damage
- It tames frizz
- It prevents hair breakage
- Soothes dry and flaky scalp
- It makes hair shiny
If you’re looking for a moisturising, non-greasy, non-comedogenic oil, you’ve found it.
Gio, If I’d have to choose between squalene and niacinamide, what would be the main differences? I have oily prono to breakout skin wich is also dehydrated. Please help!
Maria, I’d go with a moisturiser with niacinamide. Squalane only moisturises, but niacinamide helps with wrinkles, brightness, redness, irritation.. It does a bit of everything.
Love your blogs they are so informative yet I feel like I’m listening to a real person as opposed to reading a text book if you know what I mean!
Anyways, I have question about Vitamin A – I used to use tretinoin to treat my mild acne in my 20s but no longer need it anymore. I am now in my mid 30s and would like to start using retinol and was wondering would I need to start weak or would my skin be able to handle it since I’ve consumed it in the past? I am waiting for my 0.5% retinoid from TO to arrive but not sure if I need to dilute it further with squalane if it is too strong for me or whether I’ll be okay.
What are your thoughts?
Sweta, thank you so much! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog. 🙂
0.5% is an intermediate dose and The ordinary retinol products have squalane to soften the irritating potential. If your skin isn’t sensitive you may be able to tolerate it, but there’s no way to know for sure until you try it. Start slowly a couple of times a week and see how it goes.
I love your blog. It has such good info that’s based on hard facts.
I’ve got combination sensitive skin. Currently my skincare consists of oil cleanser, water based gel cleanser, gentle chemical exfoliant alternated with clay mask weekly, vit c serum, pure aloe Vera moisturiser, SPF.
I think the moisturiser is drying my skin because it feels right after. I am interested in adding squalane & vit b3 to my routine and also a moisturiser that suits my skin. Can you recommend how I should go about this?
Jann, it seems you need a richer moisture. Try one with Niaciamide. Both Olay and Cerave are good options. After that, you can slather Squalane oil on top.
Silly question perhaps but what’s the difference then (in usage) between Hyaluronic Acid & Squalane? Is it just that squalane is thicker (you mentioned it’s semi-solid)? I have sensitive skin that is neither too oily nor dry (combination, perhaps?) & I find that most moisturisers make me break out. I use an SPF but I’m wondering if I can just use squalane as a moisturiser before that step – would it work around the eyes?
(If it helps, my AM routine is: cleanse (micellar water), vitamin C, Hyaluronic acid, Niacinamide, (Squalane?), SPF.) PM routine is similar but switch out the Vitamin C for Retinoid & add a night serum).
A little unrelated but I’m also wondering if Hyaluronic Acid & Niacinamide are safe to use around the eyes? It sucks to find anti-ageing products that can’t be used in the eye area, when that’s where I have crow’s feet!
Zaeobi, yes Hyaluronic Acid, squalane and niacinamide can be used on the eye area.
Both hyaluronic acid and squalane hydrate skin, but in different ways. Hyaluronic Acid draws moisture from the air into the skin, while squalane creates a protective barrier on the skin that keeps moisture in. It’s a great oil that you can definitely use as moisturiser.