The human body produces its own version of squalane called squalene, but the amount made and retained decreases as you get older.
What Is It?
The sebaceous glands are responsible for producing sebum, which is a cocktail of wax esters, triglycerides, and squalene, Dr. Stevenson says. Together, these things create a protective coating on top of the stratum corneum, the protective outer layer of skin. Sebum helps moisturize the outer layer of skin and keep that barrier intact, Rajani Katta, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in Houston who specializes in sensitivity and allergic reactions.
The first thing to know about squalane is that it’s a hydrogenated version of squalene, a compound produced naturally by our sebaceous glands, Mary L. Stevenson, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center. The hydrogenation process makes squalane more shelf-stable than squalene and, therefore, easier to use in skin-care products. According to the article on Self.
Squalene is estimated to make up about 10 to 12 percent of your skin’s oil. Naturally in many animals and plants, including human sebum. Essentially, it’s one of the many natural lipids your body produces to lubricate and protect your skin.
Why Use It?
Over time, using squalane in skincare can reduce wrinkles, eliminate scars, reverse UV damage, lighten freckles and erase skin pigmentation, all while fighting free radicals. On some people it can even be used as a spot treatment.
Squalane is a derivative of squalene and is much lighter (and thus a better option for acne-prone skin). It also has a longer shelf life than squalene as it does not go through oxidization, which is why it’s more commonly used in skincare.
Squalene & Sharks
Because of its efficacy, it’s often harvested in unethical ways—however, as long as you’re responsible about where you get it, it’s all good. It can be, and is commonly, harvested from plant sources like olives, wheat germ oil, and rice bran. The ingredient comes in two forms: squalene and squalane.
Squalene is also found in high amounts in shark livers, which is traditionally where we got squalene (and squalane) from. Thankfully, most major companies have shifted away from using shark-derived squalane and it’s unlikely you’ll find it on the market in the U.S.
Instead, many companies now get their squalane from plant sources, such as olive oil, Dr. Stevenson says.
Who Should Use It?
People with dry or combination skin who are looking to add a lightweight moisturizer may want to check it out.
From what we do know about squalane, “it would be fine as a moisturizing ingredient,” Dr. Katta says.
Because of the fact that it’s such a strong lipid, it should help lock moisture into the skin.
If You Have Acne
Because squalane is a part of sebum and excess sebum can contribute to acne, you probably want to exercise some caution with it if your skin tends to be oily or acne-prone.
Dr. Stevenson says. You’re likely making plenty of sebum already and adding more could just cause breakouts.
Better for you to use Squalane.
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