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What is it: Squalane

Reviewed by Marta July 6, 2013 29 Comments

I have been struggling with a small, but extremely stubborn patch of eczema on my finger for over a month. A prescription cream started to do the trick but at the expense of drying my skin to the extent that two days ago it began to crack and bleed. Yesterday, I had a little brainwave: squalane. I have a bottle of 100% squalane that I bought in anticipation of trying out some homemade concoctions. Two applications in less than 24 hours later, my skin is almost back to normal - even the cuts have closed up completely.

Squalane is frequently used in cosmetics and we often call it out as a good moisturizer. But talk about an understatement. This stuff is magical. Naturally, I wanted to find out more.

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Squalane Vs. Squalene

The first thing to clear up is that squalane and squalene are the same thing. Squalane is basically a more stable version of squalene and, therefore, it is squalane that usually shows up in cosmetics. The second thing is that squalane was originally obtained from shark livers and sometimes it still is. The fish-friendly alternative is squalane made from olives. Unfortunately not all cosmetic manufacturers state the provenance of their squalane.

Anyway, the key question is...

Why Does Squalane Work So Well?

Squalane, whilst not so bountiful in plants as it is in shark's liver, can be found in many vegetable oils. It is also found in human sebaceous secretions, as a precursor of cholesterol. In humans, squalane levels peak in our early 20s and then decline very rapidly.

Highly refined squalane from olive demonstrates the most notable squalane characteristic: its ability to completely and rapidly penetrate the skin. Apparently, it can permeate into the skin at a rate of 2 mm/second. I can vouch for that. I put a large dollop on my finger and it was completely absorbed (with hardly any rubbing in) within a couple of minutes.

Once absorbed it is doing all manner of helpful things. Squalane is an antioxidant, prevents UV damage and the formation of age spots, promotes cell growth and is an antibacterial. Also in animal tests, at 100% concentrations, it was non-irritant to rabbit skin and eyes.

Other studies show that certain carcinogenic chemicals are inactivated when exposed to squalane over a period of time. Hopefully, this means that the squalane will counteract the potentially harmful effects of the junk that all too often gets thrown into skincare creams.

Where to Find Squalane

Indie Lee Squalane Facial Cream ($70); Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil ($32); Indie Lee Calendula Eye Balm ($42). Note: Indie Lee uses only olive-derived squalane.

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  • March 29, 2017

    by Ava

    Buy it from The Ordinary instead. They NEVER test on animals and a 30 ml bottle is less than $8.

  • March 15, 2017

    by Samantha

    I agree with Leeann, good article but the nonchalant mention of testing on rabbits is disgusting

  • March 15, 2017

    by Samantha

    I agree with Leeann, good article but the nonchalant mention of testing on rabbits is disgusting

  • March 1, 2017

    by Lee Ann

    I appreciated the information of squalene, but I was appalled at the casual mention of testing the ingredient on rabbits. There is never an excuse to test cosmetics on animals. Does Truth in Aging have any policy about carrying products that are tested on animals?

  • September 7, 2016

    by Sandra

    I love the Squalene in Botani Olive Skin Serum it's pure olive squalene - 100% vegan and is amaaazing for my dry skin! I also use it in the baby's bath and it makes the skin feel like it's been totally moisturised just from a fee drops in the bath! Also not oily

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