Squalane: Properties and How to Use it Correctly
The skin has a natural moisturizing factor that is mainly composed of water and oils. These form a hydrolipidic film that provides protection against external aggressions. However, their function can be diminished by multiple factors, including solar aggressions and aging. Hence the importance of using external moisturizers such as squalane.
We’re talking here about a hydrogenated form of squalene, the main component of the polyunsaturated lipids of the skin surface. The latter is produced by the skin cells themselves, but its concentration is reduced over the years. The result? A dry, dull, and unhealthy appearance.
Fortunately, it isn’t only naturally present in humans, but is also found in high amounts in shark liver oil – its richest source – and vegetable oils such as olive oil, wheat germ oil, amaranth oil, and rice bran oil. We’ll tell you more about its properties and uses.
What is squalane?
This is a hydrogenated form of squalene (C₃₀H₅₀) and is used in skin care products. It mimics the natural oils that protect the skin surface, so it’s considered a good emollient.
In addition, as detailed in a review in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, it’s also anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It has been observed to reduce oxidative damage caused by free radicals; it also moisturizes and protects against aging.
In its natural form – extracted from animal and plant sources – squalene is too unstable to be used in skincare products. When exposed to oxygen, it deteriorates and acquires a bad odor. For this reason, it undergoes a hydrogenation process that gives rise to squalane, a more stable form of the molecule.
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Squalane is often used in the manufacture of moisturizing and anti-aging creams. It’s also a common component in lipsticks, facial serums, sunscreens, and other skincare products.
It’s highly valued for its emollient properties, i.e. its ability to soothe, soften and protect the skin. Also, as highlighted in a publication in Advances in Food and Nutrition Research, it has antitumor, antioxidant, detoxifying and moisturizing potential. Let’s take a closer look at its main applications.
The topical application of squalane is associated with several skin benefits. A study shared in the journal Molecules highlights that this substance is rapidly and efficiently absorbed through the dermis. It restores moisture and suppleness without leaving an oily residue.
The same source states that the ingredient helps restore the skin barrier and boosts hydration. It’s ideal for skin that has suffered water loss, sun damage, or free radical damage.
Regular application is also linked to increased collagen production. In research reported in Scientific Reports , a combination of vitamin C with squalene exhibited positive effects on skin thickening and collagen production. What does this mean? Firmer, smoother, and healthier skin.
In addition, it’s recommended for skin with eczema, as its anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties help reduce outbreaks.
A study shared through Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine determined that squalane has potential as an ally in the wound repair and healing process. In particular, it was observed to boost macrophage response in inflammation, which is key to wound resolution.
Macrophages are a type of white blood cell, whose function is to destroy antigens, remove dead cells and boost the activity of other immune cells.
The emollient and moisturizing properties of squalane aren’t just limited to skin benefits. Often, hair products employ this substance to increase hair shine and reduce breakage. Its application increases hair silkiness without altering sebum production.
In turn, it decreases moisture loss, protects against heat, and increases elasticity. While it can be found in shampoo or hair cream formulas, it’s also available in oil form. This is rubbed in through massaging and removed with regular rinsing.
Other possible uses of squalane
- Due to its high antioxidant capacity and anti-inflammatory properties, squalane is linked to anti-tumor properties. In particular, it’s believed to help prevent skin cancer by mitigating the effects of solar radiation and free radicals. However, the evidence is insufficient.
- It’s recommended for oily and acne-prone skin, as it’s non-comedogenic, despite being an oily substance. In addition, its anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce swelling in cases of acne outbreaks.
- In animal studies, squalane has shown potential to counteract increased body fat, increased cholesterol and triglycerides, and other markers of metabolic syndrome. Because of this, cardioprotective properties have been attributed to it. Even so, larger and more conclusive studies are required.
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How to use squalane correctly
Squalane is available in the form of oil, moisturizers, sunscreens, facial serums, and other dermatological products. Its properties are generally used topically.
However, it can also be found in food products, dietary supplements, and some over-the-counter medications. Squalane is sometimes used as part of certain vaccine formulations.
Risks of using squalane
In most cases, squalane is safe and well tolerated.
However, as with other skincare products, some people may experience irritation or allergic reaction after application. To avoid this, a small patch test is recommended before full application.
Simply place a small amount of the product on the inner arm. If after two hours there are no adverse effects, use can be continued without problems.
Symptoms of a possible allergy include the following:
- Burning sensation
When purchasing products containing squalane, choose those derived from 100% vegetable sources. Although this substance is abundant in shark liver, its production is neither sustainable nor environmentally friendly. Please be aware when making your purchase.
What to remember about squalane?
This hydrogenated form of squalene is often used in the manufacture of skin care products due to its emollient, moisturizing, and antioxidant properties. It’s an active ingredient recommended for the prevention of aging, the relief of dryness, and the reduction of UV damage.
Right now, it is available in the form of cosmetics and supplements. Experts recommend that you only choose those made from 100% vegetable sources, such as olive oil, wheat germ, rice bran, and olives, among others.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
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- Huang ZR, Lin YK, Fang JY. Biological and pharmacological activities of squalene and related compounds: potential uses in cosmetic dermatology. Molecules. 2009 Jan 23;14(1):540-54. doi: 10.3390/molecules14010540. PMID: 19169201; PMCID: PMC6253993.
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Lippi G, Targher G, Franchini M. Vaccination, squalene and anti-squalene antibodies: facts or fiction? Eur J Intern Med. 2010 Apr;21(2):70-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ejim.2009.12.001. Epub 2009 Dec 29. PMID: 20206873.
- Lou-Bonafonte JM, Martínez-Beamonte R, Sanclemente T, Surra JC, Herrera-Marcos LV, Sanchez-Marco J, Arnal C, Osada J. Current Insights into the Biological Action of Squalene. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2018 Aug;62(15):e1800136. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201800136. Epub 2018 Jul 19. PMID: 29883523.
Ronco, A. L., & De Stéfani, E. (2013). Squalene: a multi-task link in the crossroads of cancer and aging. In Functional Foods in Health and Disease (Vol. 3, Issue 12, p. 462). Functional Food Center. https://doi.org/10.31989/ffhd.v3i12.30
- Sánchez-Quesada C, López-Biedma A, Toledo E, Gaforio JJ. Squalene Stimulates a Key Innate Immune Cell to Foster Wound Healing and Tissue Repair. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018 Sep 30;2018:9473094. doi: 10.1155/2018/9473094. PMID: 30363968; PMCID: PMC6186384.
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