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What is squalane? Why you need to know about the natural moisturiser

March 3rd 2020 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru / 1 comment


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We put skincare’s moisture-boosting secret under the microscope to see if it’s really worthy of the dry skin-soothing hype

When it comes to skincare ingredients, which are truly worth their weight in gold? From retinoids to AHAs to BHAs, some do actually prove themselves deserving of their ‘Superskin’ status. One ingredient in particular looking to join the super squad is squalane, having recently made its presence felt on some of our favourite labels - but how does it really scrub up?

Making its mark in a big way, we spoke to Steve Shiel, Director of Scientific and Technical for L’Oréal UK & Ireland to find out more, to see how it differs from squalene, its sources and the skincare benefits it provides that makes it stand out from the crowd.

GTG: What is squalane and how does it differ from squalene? Where do they originate from?

SS: Both squalane and squalene are ingredients that can be found in cosmetic products, where they are highly compatible with the natural oils present in the skin. As the names suggest, they are very similar chemically, and share many properties. Squalene has historically been sourced from shark liver oil, although more recently other plant and vegetable sources have been identified. Squalane is a botanical lipid, with a similar structure to squalene but it is mainly derived from the olive fruit tree (amongst other sources).

They are both similar for pretty much all skin types, including for skin which has a tendency to be greasy or oily. Because of the differences in chemical structure, squalane is less susceptible to oxidation and therefore is more stable. For that reason, today squalane is more commonly found in skincare products than squalene.

GTG: What skincare benefits does squalane provide?

SS: When combined in skincare products, it is effective at providing natural-feeling moisturisation. It also has emollient characteristics as well, lightly coating the surface of the skin to soften and smooth it without irritation and importantly, without leaving a greasy residue. It can also help ensure that products have a smooth, spreadable texture and can help other ingredients absorb more effectively into the skin. It is for these properties that the ingredient was first incorporated into Kiehl’s iconic Ultra Facial Cream.

GTG: What makes it stand out from other skincare ingredients?

SS: One of the factors why this ingredient is so effective in skincare is that it possesses very similar properties to and therefore is very compatible with the natural oils present in the skin. This means that it is very easily incorporated into the skin and its natural lipid layers, and its light molecular weight means that it does not leave a heavy or greasy residue. It is also very effective at helping other ingredients become more easily absorbed and so can help ensure products are efficacious.

GTG: What other ingredients does it work well in combination with and why?

SS: Squalane works well with a wide range of other skincare ingredients – often helping other ingredients to absorb into the skin. The reason that it works so well with other ingredients is that it does not chemically interact with other active ingredients, does not compete for deposition with other ingredients, has a lightweight texture and can be easily blended with other ingredients. For that reason, squalane was chosen as the base of the recent Apothecary Preparations range from Kiehl’s, where it can be combined with a wide range of powerful ingredients such as Vitamins A, C and E, pro-retinols, LHA and salicylic acid.

MORE GLOSS: Should you be using a toner?

The best squalane-containing products

With olive-based and other non-animal derived types of squalane regarded as hero ingredients in many a product, developments in the field make for interesting skincare food for thought. Which products are worth welcoming onto your dressing table though? Here’s our tried and tested edit of the best squalane-containing products around:


Believers in pared-back skincare regimes (i.e. fewer products that work harder), Tandem has created a whole host of squalane containing products including the Cleansing Hero, £16.50, which uses organic rice bran oil, chamomile flower extract and squalane to create a cleanser that doesn't leave your skin feeling coated or clogged, making it perfect for all kinds of skin, even oily and sensitive.


Biossance 100% Squalane Oil, £27: this brand landed in the UK in January 2020, much to the excitement of beauty editors up and down the country. All of the products include squalane, but this multi-purpose oil is GTG's Victoria's favourite. She uses it for everything from an in-shower oil, to a cleanser to a moisturiser and is a particularly big fan of the pump which dispenses the perfect amount.


Q+A Squalane Facial Oil, £10: For beauty on a budget, you can't go wrong with this facial oil from newbie indie brand Q+A. It absorbs quickly and leaves skin looking nourished, not greasy.


Kiehl’s Crème De Corps, from £12: The brand’s most famous product, this non-greasy body cream leaves skin smooth, supple and silky. A truly addictive combination...


Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil, £32: This 100% pure, olive-derived oil pulls no punches in the squalane stakes. Working to help improve skin elasticity and boost cell regeneration, it’s also incredibly versatile, working a treat when added to your day cream to make it richer or used on the ends of the hair to help manage frizz.


Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Cream, £33.50: Perfectly prepping the under-eye area for a touch of well-positioned concealer, this pot of hydrating prowess conditions skin to eye-opening effect.


Murad Skin Perfecting Lotion, £28: Virtually weightless, this oil-free moisturiser works a treat for oilier and blemish prone skin types.


Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate, from £40: Want to boost your beauty sleep? Look no further than this revitalising elixir that combines squalane with evening primrose and lavender essential oils.


La Roche-Posay Toleriane Riche, £16.50: A richer moisturising option for particularly parched skin, this restores, comforts and adds smoothness back to the most dehydrated of complexions.


Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing Balm, £55: Impressively deep-cleansing, without causing dryness, this hard-working balm effectively lifts and dissolves dirt and every scrap of makeup to leave skin looking and feeling its best.


Cover FX Total Cover Cream Foundation, £35: With an impressive shade range, this compact but high coverage foundation makes for the handiest of hydrating handbag essentials.


Pestle & Mortar Hydrate Moisturiser, £43: Great used either day or night, this skin-quenching lightweight moisturiser softens and strengthens in one fell swoop. It also smells incredible too...

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Join the conversation

  • Pedro
  • August 24th 2016

I quite like including squalane in the cleansers in order to minimise the harsh effects of cleansing. In this way you give back to the skin some of the key components that you strip away while cleansing.

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