Curious about using squalene for skin? Since it’s really easy to become overwhelmed when searching for a new product, Ingredient Spotlight is here to break down the basics. Here we’ll teach you how an ingredient works and leave you with product recommendations to help you with your search.
Though squalene has been on the skin care market for many years, it hasn’t received a ton of attention. You’ll find this superstar ingredient in some of the market’s top-selling brands, including Kiehl’s, Murad, Peter Thomas Roth, and Tatcha. Squalene is also becoming increasingly more commonplace as a hero in various Korean skincare products, which we’ll talk about below. Today we’re also discussing what squalene is, how it’s derived, and how it should be used.
What is squalene?
“There are two different types of squalene: one that is derived from shark liver oil, and one derived from olives [and other plants],” explains esthetician Gina Mari.
It may surprise you to hear that squalene is naturally produced by humans, as well, and is found in our sebum (yep, the oily stuff that you often see accruing on your face). Sounds kind of icky, but sebum plays a vital role in the health of your skin by keeping it moisturized and balanced, and by promoting elasticity. We’re born with squalene in our skin when we’re babies, but unfortunately, by the time we reach our 20s, it’s all gone.
“Incorporating this emollient ingredient into your nightly [regimen] will prevent moisture loss and boost cell regeneration,” notes Mari. “It’s wonderfully soothing for sensitive, chapped, or irritated skin.”
Squalene also allows other ingredients to absorb and penetrate more efficiently into the skin. At the end of the day, squalene makes for a more radiant, youthful face.
The two different squalenes:
It’s important to note that both the plant and shark versions are chemically identical to the squalene that we produce. For that reason, Mari advises using plant-derived squalene since it’s more ethically extracted.
One last thing. If you’re paying attention, you’ve probably seen this ingredient spelled as “squalane” instead of “squalene.” Squalane is a hydrogenated version of squalene, and is therefore a more stable version of the molecule. The two words are sometimes used interchangeably, but you will almost always find that squalane is on the ingredient list, even if squalene is in the title or description.
How and when to apply squalene:
Now that you know what squalene is, let’s discuss how to use it.
This ingredient can be found either in pure form, or as an ingredient within a list of ingredients. In its pure form, apply a couple drops directly to your face following cleansing, toning, active ingredient treatments, and serums. You can also incorporate a couple drops into your go-to serum or cream.
If squalane is one ingredient in a list of many, follow the usage directions on the product.
Mari notes: “This ingredient is comedogenic, so if you are prone to breaking out it may congest your pores. Make sure you do a test spot before slathering it all over your face.”
As mentioned, squalene is popping up in K-beauty ingredient lists more and more regularly. For example, Missha’s M BB Boomer Primer combines the powerful ingredient with pink pearl particles, moringa, and adenosine (an ingredient that’s also naturally found in humans that improves cell function). The product’s creamy texture and anti-inflammatory properties create a smooth canvas for your BB cream to go on top of. Squalene is one of the prominent ingredients in the My Skin Mentor Dr. G. Brightening Peeling Cream. It works alongside niacinamide to add brightness back to skin.
The SK-II Facial Treatment Oil is a Japanese skin care product that features squalene as a star ingredient, and it’s not messing around where hydration is concerned. In addition to squalene, it contains a nourishing blend of oils, including avocado, rice bran, olive, jojoba, and riceterol ester.
For a super chic, super sleek addition to your bathroom vanity, wash your face with the Morihata Binchotan Charcoal Facial Soap. Thanks to activated charcoal, it suds up into a dense black hue. It also contains squalane, betaine, glycerin, and a blend of oils and extracts to detox, hydrate, and soothe the skin.