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The Difference Between Squalane and Squalene in Skincare

February 21, 2022

Discover the difference between squalane and squalene, whilst exploring dermatologically approved products.

Author: Charlene Teressa & Georgie Falcone

Reading time: 5 minutes

You may or may not have heard of squalane and squalene. It can be easy to confuse the two, due to the slight dissimilarity in the name. However, the two skincare ingredients work differently and offer their own distinct benefits. As such, if you’re interested in products containing one of these two ingredients, it is vital to know what the respective ingredients can do for your specific skin type. 

What Is the Difference Between Squalane and Squalene?

In short, squalene is an ingredient found naturally in our body, produced by the sebus glands.

Squalane however, is originally produced from squalene through the process of hydrogenation (turning unsaturated oils into saturated oils). Consequently, squalane has a longer shelf life and more stability.

Squalene on the other hand, has more of an unstable nature, with a shorter shelf-life. As a result, squalane is more commonly used in skincare products.

With this in mind, squalane and squalene are suitable for different skin types. Squalene has a thicker consistency in comparison to squalane, and as such is more suited for drier skin types. Whereas squalane is best for combination to oily and acne-prone skin types.

The bottom line is that squalane and squalene are both effective moisturisers, with the ability to lock in moisture and prevent trans-epidermal water loss from occurring.

What Is Squalene?

The ingredient squalene occurs naturally within our lipids (i.e. sebum), and works to keep our skin hydrated. Squalene is naturally sourced from vegetable oils, or sometimes shark liver oil. However, in most cases squalene is sourced from plants such as rice, bran, and olives. Squalene constitutes around 12% of the amount of lipid in our skin, and akin to collagen, it decreases in quantity the more you age.

What Does Squalane Do?

Squalane (and squalene) are also antioxidants. They are able to neutralise free radicals from the skin (collected due to exposure to daily environmental pollutants). As well as this, the usage of squalane on the skin over a long period of time can help to lighten pigmentation, reduce the signs of aging, and diminish sun damage. This ingredient is able to help those with a variety of skin conditions due to its anti-inflammatory properties, such as eczema, acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, and rosacea.

Furthermore, squalane is also effective as a hair oil. It can assist in adding shine to the hair, since the hair can dry out as we age. As well as this, it can prevent hair breakage, as well as protect the hair from further damage.

Can Squalane Dry Out the Skin?

No, this ingredient can not dry out the skin since it does not possess dehydrating or drying effects. In fact, applying squalane to the skin protects the skin's moisture barrier to prevent trans-epidermal water loss. As a result, it actually hydrates the skin, and prevents unwanted drying.

Can Squalane Replace Moisturiser?

While Squalane should generally not replace moisturiser, it does have an abundance of moisturising properties. In a sense, it acts as a lightweight moisturiser, as it maintains skin hydration and prevents trans-epidermal water loss.

However, if you suffer from overly-oily skin, replacing your moisturiser with squalane is feasible since it won't over-moisturise. Although, if you have dry skin, you could mix a few drops of squalane oil into your moisturiser to enhance hydration.

Is Squalane Better Than Hyaluronic Acid?

Neither one ingredient is better than the other, for they have different properties. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, and increases the skin's water content, while squalane is an emollient, and seals in the moisture. Therefore, using the two in conjunction is a great way to maximise hydration.

How Can I Include Squalene in My Daily Routine?

When including squalene in your skincare routine, you should be cautious not to use it at full strength. This is because it can be too much for certain skin types, since it only contains a few essential fats which our skin utilises. As such, it is best to use squalene products already within the formulation of a moisturiser or treatment.

PCA Skin’s Intensive Age Refining Treatment: 0.5% Pure Retinol Treatment includes squalene in its formulation. As the name suggests, this treatment is ideal for those trying to prevent or treat signs of skin aging. While using retinol for the first time can be quite drying, the inclusion of squalene helps maintain the skin’s moisture barrier to prevent this.

Another effective squalene skincare product is the ExLinea Peptide Smoothing Serum. This potent serum is also intended for those wanting to minimise visible signs of skin aging, such as crow’s feet, fine lines, and wrinkles. Furthermore, the added squalene helps to assist with UV damage, which is one of the leading causes of skin aging.

Why Should You Consider Using It?

Those who have a compromised skin barrier should certainly consider using squalane as both an additional treatment, and a moisturiser. If you suffer from acne you may also have a compromised skin barrier. Therefore, using squalane-infused products could help mitigate the effects of acne, as well as with being suitable for oily skin types.

Squalene can help treat dry and mature skin types due to its occlusive nature. This ingredient is ideal for tackling cold, winter weather, and the dryness that follows.

Squalane Products Approved by Dermatologists

Indeed Labs’ Squalane Facial Oil uses 100% pure squalane oil in its formulation with no other ingredients. The squalane contained in this face oil is from sugarcane and acts like a dry oil. As such, it is perfect for those with combination to oily skin types, since it does not leave a greasy layer on the skin. The Indeed Labs’ Squalane Facial Oil has the ability to balance out the skin’s sebum production and restore moisture levels to the skin. It is non-comedogenic and anti-inflammatory, making it ideal for acne-prone skin types. This product is also fragrance-free, beneficial for those with a fragrance allergy or a preference for scentless skincare products.

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