Is Squalane the ‘Fountain of Youth’?

Is Squalane the Closest Thing to a ‘Fountain of Youth’? Depends
iStock/keira01

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of ingredients vying for space in our skincare regimen, promising that coveted glow we’re all chasing. The MVP title, though, is still arguably open for the taking, but one contender is squalane. But before you go shopping, there are several factors you need to consider if you’re serious about using squalane to turn back time on your skin.

First, What Is Squalane (Or Is It Squalene)?

Squalane is a substance naturally found in your skin barrier, the outermost layer of your skin that prevents water from evaporating and protects you from bacteria, allergens, and other unwelcome invaders.

The ingredient itself plays a vital role helping skin cells to reproduce, which keeps skin hydrated, balanced, smooth, and less prone to developing sensitivities, wrinkles and age spots. But here’s the catch: Like your desire to take shots of Jääger for no reason, your natural squalane diminishes with age—starting in your 20s (yes, that young… so unfair). If it’s not replenished, you get dry, rough, sensitive skin.

To avoid that, get squalane back into your skin by slathering it on—with the right kind. It’s very easy, though (we mean incredibly, spectacularly easy), to grab a bottle that isn’t sustainably sourced or even isn’t squalane.

That’s right, there’s a squalene, too (notice the “e” instead of the “a”). “People misuse the two terms, and spellcheck doesn’t even catch it,” says Carley Klekas, head of sustainability and marketing manager at skincare brand Biossance. “Squalene is a less stable molecule, and you can only formulate it into products in a lower percentage. Squalane, on the other hand, is very stable and very safe and noncomedogenic. You can use it at 100%.”

The molecular structure of squalane resembles our own skin’s closely enough that it can penetrate deeply without clogging pores or leaving that residue of reflective oil. It’s also transparent, which makes it an excellent choice for all skin tones. Once you apply it on your skin, you’ll reap many benefits that may help you get a bit of your youth back (if that’s what you want, that is).

Finding Squalane That’s Truly, Madly, Deeply Sustainable

If you’re a conscious consumer, you might be surprised to know that the supply of squalane in skin care is a bit more complicated than you’d think. “Squalane has primarily has been sourced from shark liver since the 1960s. Around the ’80s and more into 2000s, it was discovered we can formulate it from other sources,” Klekas tells Organic Authority.

Most companies now formulate squalane from olives, but even that isn’t always a great idea. According to Klekas, olives are an unreliable source because they produce varying quality (in other words, they’re unpredictable).

So if not olives, then what? Sugarcane. “We use a biotechnology process through fermentation. We use yeast that we feed sugar cane to, and that yeast produces squalane,” Klekas explains, describing how Biossance creates their plant-based squalane. Biossance gets its sugarcane from Brazil, which is especially sustainable since the heavy rainfall doesn’t necessitate additional watering.

How Squalane Benefits Your Face

  • It boasts antioxidant properties, which means it fights those pesky free radicals that cause a cascade of molecular damage leading to premature aging.
  • Perfectly balances the moisture in skin, which optimizes elasticity (the quality that makes it bounce back like a rubber band).
  • Helps encourage circulation in the skin, which results in a healthy, rosy glow.
  • Regulates oil production, so even people with acne-prone skin can benefit.
  • Restores chapped skin and helps alleviate conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Katey Denno, celebrity makeup artist who’s painted the glorious faces of January Jones, Julianne Moore, and Amanda Seyfried, is also a fan. “Squalane can even be added to powder products like eyeshadow. Makeup products with squalane in it tend to blend very beautifully.”

How to Use Squalane

Denno advises us to apply your serum containing active ingredients first (for example, if you have a vitamin C serum). Then you can apply pure squalane over it. Finish with moisturizer to lock everything in place. You can also always use the squalane on its own, too!

Will You Try Squalane Now?

If you’re now on the squalane train, consider calling the company and asking those tough questions about where the squalane is from. After all, it’s possible to be beautiful without making our environment less so. Denno, who’s also a renowned green beauty expert, believes Biossance is the way to go, noting that the external packaging is “extremely eco-friendly—right down to the nonmetallic ink.”

Either way, replenish your squalane and, with the right product, your might very well be able to take your skin back to its teens (without the acne and angst). What’s there to lose?

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Sarah Ban
Sarah Ban

Sarah Ban is a beauty, health and wellness journalist, editor and copywriter who works with the world's best indie brands and publications. Her work has been published in NYLON magazine, The Kitchn and Living Healthy and she has worked with some extraordinary brands such as Odacité Skincare, CO Bigelow Apothecaries, Kopari Beauty and Seaweed Bath Co. When she's not writing or reading, you can find Sarah eating brunch alfresco in her green and gorgeous hometown of LA.