Why Squalane Oil Is the Best Oil According to 40 Studies
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Sup everyone? If you’ve been stalking my comments around the blog lately you’ll notice I’ve been recommending squalane oil quite a lot.
“Hey f.c. I have stubborn acne around my chin. Can you recommend me something to….”
“Hi f.c., I have this stubborn eczema patch that….”
PUT SOME SQUALANE ON IT!
“What’s your opinion of rosehip….”
USE SQUALANE INSTEAD!
“I just went through a bad breakup and don’t believe in love anymore.”
GURL YOU NEED SOME SQUALANE IN YOUR LIFE!
I don’t like to rave and speak prematurely about products on this blog, but I’m gonna have to make an exception here. I’ve only been using squalane oil for about a month now, but OMG… this stuff is magical!
Let’s waste no time and go straight into everything you need to know!
I’ll be doing a squalane review. Or more like OVERVIEW since I’ll be going over absolutely everything you need to know. This includes the benefits of squalane, the controversy around unsaturated oils harming our skin, my experience with squalane and more.
Without further ado….
Table of Contents
- 1 What is Squalane?
- 2 Squalane Oil Benefits: The Science and Research
- 3 Squalane vs. Squalene: The Issue of Oxidation Concerning Unsaturated Oils.
- 4 How to Prevent Squalene Oxidation.
- 5 My Experience With Squalane.
- 6 Olive vs Sugarcane Squalane: Which Is Better? Are Both Safe for Fungal Acne?
- 7 Want to Subscribe for Updates?
What is Squalane?
Amara Beauty Squalane Oil (Sugarcane Derived)
Squalane is the hydrogenated version of squalene. This means it has no double bonds, which considerably extends its shelf life and makes it less prone to oxidation.
Similar to petroleum, mineral oil, and other crude oils, it is a hydrocarbon, meaning it’s made up entirely of hydrogen and carbon.
However, unlike petroleum and its distillates which are sourced from oil drilling, squalane and squalene are both naturally occurring components of human sebum! The latter being one of the most commonly produced lipids by our skin, accounting for approximately 15% of our sebaceous lipid mixture. (1, 2)
Squalane Oil Benefits: The Science and Research
Squalane is non-irritating up to 100% concentration. (3) That means you can literally bathe in this stuff if you wanted!
Squalane pool party anyone? 😀
More impressively, squalene acts as an antioxidant, being your skin’s natural defense against UV radiation-induced oxidative stress, or more simply put — it protects skin against the damaging effects of sun exposure.
“Squalene is thought to act as a lipid sensor for solar UV exposure, and as a photoprotective barrier for the hairless human skin against such oxidative stress, acting as a sacrificial target when other defense mechanisms are exhausted.” (4)
The hero we don’t deserve! The mortal nemesis of wrinkles and aging! The sacrificial lamb of oils!
No, I’d rather have fleeky skin!
Squalene is also a precursor for the synthesis of steroids, is structurally similar to b-carotene, coenzyme q10, vitamins like K1, E, D, and may have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. (5) For this reason, there is some emerging evidence that it could help treat eczema and seborrheic dermatitis. (6, 7, 8, 9)
Because it is a natural part of our sebum, it also enhances the penetration of other ingredients and is a useful drug delivery system. (10)
When taken orally, it acts as a detoxifier (11), and a few studies have shown it has anti-carcinogenic effects, going as far as suppressing tumor growth and being a successful chemoprotective agent. (12)
Yeah, on paper this stuff sounds like unicorn tears….
There is one major caveat though…..
Because squalane lacks the double bonds of squalene, it does not possess antioxidant activity (i.e. has no active oxygen-scavenging / sun-protective effects). (13) Yes, I was sad to learn this too…. :'(
So what are squalane’s primary functions then?
Mainly emolliency, surface occlusion, and TEWL prevention all with extreme cosmetic elegance:
“Squalane / squalene is preferred for skin care due to its notably high emollient properties. It can be easily absorbed deep by the skin acting as a normalizer for flexibility and suppleness of the skin without presenting an oily residue…. squalane-including mixtures were able to increase the barrier to maintain hydration in a comparable manner to vernix caseosa [i.e. the waxy film composed primarily of ceramides that makes a baby’s skin GLORIOUS]…. and is expected to increase skin hydration due to skin surface occlusion.” (14)
In other words, it’s just a damn good moisturizer that absorbs better than any oil you’ll ever try! See “my experience with squalane” section for more details.
With that said, it may not be the best oil if you’re searching for something jam packed with active substances and antioxidants like rosehip oil.
Related reading: Rosehip Oil For Acne and Skin: Everything You Need to Know
However, given how many people are sensitive to comedogenic breakouts and / or malassezia, squalane is the next best thing for extremely acne-prone individuals like myself.
Squalane vs. Squalene: The Issue of Oxidation Concerning Unsaturated Oils.
With all that wonderful stuff said above, there is one major problem with squalene…. it’s prone to oxidation.
Oxidation (via squalene monooxygenase) of one of the terminal double bonds of squalene yields 2,3-squalene oxide, which undergoes enzyme-catalyzed cyclization to afford lanosterol, which is then elaborated into cholesterol and other steroids. (15)
No worries, I’ll explain what the hell all that means in just a bit. But first, let’s talk about unsaturated oils in skincare.
There has been some recent controversy in the beauty space about whether unsaturated oils like rosehip oil, argan oil, sunflower oil etc. are actually aging the skin! Yikes… 😮
For those that don’t know, here’s a brief overview of what happened:
Michelle Villett from the Beautyeditor put on an article titled, “Why Squalane Is the Best Face Oil,” in which she argues that most unsaturated oils are actually harming your skin because they contain triglyceride fatty acids that are prone to oxidation. This process is called lipid peroxidation.
“Lipid peroxidation is the oxidative degradation of lipids (i.e. fats and similar substances). It is the process in which free radicals “steal” electrons from the lipids in cell membranes, resulting in cell damage…. It most often affects polyunsaturated fatty acids, because they contain multiple double bonds, in between which lie methylene bridges (-CH2-) that possess especially reactive hydrogen atoms.” (16)
Michelle from LabMuffin then put out a rebuttal article, essentially saying the other Michelle was coocoo by citing several sources showing that unsaturated oils are all the rage.
It’s like the battle of Michelle’s or something hah! :p
I think they both brought up some interesting points, but I’m not gonna weigh in on the debacle. Instead, I’ll be discussing why I think squalane is better in the context of skincare than squalene for many of us.
Spoiler Alert: it comes down to the simple fact that squalene can oxidize under the right circumstances.
What happens when Squalene is oxidized?
When squalene undergoes oxidation, it produces something called squalene peroxide (SQOOH). This is a highly comedogenic substance and precursor to acne, something that has been known for over 50 years. (17)
“Studies have demonstrated that SQOOH plays a key role in the development of facial acne, by stimulating keratinocyte proliferation and inflammation.” (18)
This is why some prominent beauty gurus like Liah Yoo say sunscreen improves acne! The reasoning being that sun exposure (specifically long UVA rays) leads to squalene peroxidation, (19, 20) whereas sunscreen actively “blocks” the UVA rays that cause this.
To really highlight the important role that squalene peroxidation plays in the development of acne, here’s some additional information:
1. Squalene is the most abundant oxidizable component of our skin surface lipids. (21)
2. The oxidation of squalene leads to inflammation, comedogenesis (i.e. clogged pores), and causes a large reduction of oxygen in our pilosebaceous unit. (22, 23)
Fun fact: one of the ways benzoyl peroxide works to treat acne is by putting this oxygen back into the skin, since p. acne is an anaerobic microorganism (i.e. can’t survive in oxygen-rich environments).
3. The degree of squalene peroxidation correlates to the size of the comedones elicited. (24) In other words, the size of a pimple is related to how much oxidation squalene undergoes. More oxidation = bigger pimple.
4. Acne patients have twice as much squalene in their sebum than healthy controls. This leads to significantly higher levels of squalene peroxide, and therefore acne. (25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30)
5. Squalene peroxidation starts the inflammatory cascade that leads to a pimple, without it acne cannot exist. (31)
Seppo from AcneEinstein put it best by saying,
“Science of the past decade has conclusively shown that every pimple starts with inflammatory damage to sebum; or sebum oxidation. Everything else you may have heard that causes acne; things like diet, stress, hormones and what not, only create the conditions for sebum oxidation to happen.” (32)
And just because we can’t have enough quotes on a blog post, here’s another one. :p
“Research seems to confirm that lipid peroxidation is the driving force behind the progression of comedogenesis and inflammation in acne. Examination of comedo [i.e. blackhead] samples (20-30 comedones from each patient) removed from acne patients shows that lipid peroxidation is evident even in the earliest microcomedo. As the disease progresses to inflamed lesions there is an up to 4-fold increase in lipid peroxide levels.” (33)
Hopefully, you get the point by now. If not, here it is in plain english: if squalene oxidizes we’re F*CKED!
So if you want to treat acne, all you gotta do is prevent squalene from oxidizing! More about how to do this in the section below, “How to Prevent Squalene Oxidation.“
NOTE: squalene is a perfectly fine and amazing oil to use, capable of preventing UV damage, scavenging free radicals etc., UNTIL it becomes oxidized. Once this happens, it catalyzes the inflammatory process that causes acne.
After reading all this info you may be asking yourself the question….
“What the hell causes squalene peroxidation?!?”
There are several things that could cause squalene to oxidize, this includes environmental pollution, (34, 35), sun exposure, (36), smoking (37), alcohol (38), and none other than….
MALA-F*CKING-SSEZIA! Say WAT?!
Yup, it’s true. Two in vitro studies have shown that malassezia is a major source of squalene peroxidation. (39, 40)
This is one of reasons I don’t think acne and “fungal acne” are mutually exclusive. For many of us, they go hand in hand like a tag-team duo from hell. In other words, squalene peroxide contributes to the development of acne, and malassezia causes squalene to oxidize in the first place. 😤
“As yeast [like malassezia] metabolize skin surface fat, they form break-down products that can potentially trigger harmful reactions by the skin.” (41)
One of those breakdown products being SQOOH (squalane peroxide). Dun dun dun.
All of this unwinding discussion was to say this very simple thing: the reason squalane kicks ass over squalene in the context of skincare is because it’s less prone to oxidation.
This is something that has been demonstrated by the fact that squalane increases the oxidative stability of cosmetic formulas vs. squalene. (44)
So go slather squalane on your face! It’s safe for acne, malassezia, has skin-restoring properties, is highly moisturizing, and extremely cosmetically elegant.
Now for the super awesome tips about preventing acne….
How to Prevent Squalene Oxidation.
Just kidding! That’s a blog post for another time. 😉 There’s a lot of ways we can do this, so it’ll be a separate article. Stay tuned! It shall be out soon enough.
My Experience With Squalane.
Amara Beauty Squalane Oil (Sugarcane Derived)
Let me start off by saying that this stuff is magical! I have to thank all of you for encouraging me to try it. 😅
I sorta just listed all the reasons it should theoretically work and be good for malassezia on the fungal acne treatment guide. But it was you guys and gals who went out and put that sh*t on ya faces. 🤓 Thanks for being my little guinea pigs. :p
At first I was skeptical by the messages I was getting. For example, one person said it cured the closed comedones they previously couldn’t get rid of using BHAs, AHAs, tretinoin cream and azelaic acid gel.
Another person said it “seems to reduce appearance of pores.” Then u/svvaffles shared her before and after photos on r/skincareaddiction, and mentioned regularly using squalane. So on and so forth.
After hearing so many rave reviews i was like, “well, damn. Now i gotta go slather this stuff on my face without patch testing.” Cause you know me, I live on the edge and all….
Ordered the cheapest squalane oil I could find and went straight to work when it arrived. Here’s my initial thought when i first put it on:
“HOLY SH*T THIS MAKES MY SKIN SOO SOFT!!”
And it instantly eliminates any dryness or tight feeling you might be experiencing. It works so great for me as a standalone moisturizer that some days I’ve even been so lazy all I do is rinse and put squalane on. It also layers extremely well under other products.
Secondly, the finish. You know that glow we all want? Well, squalane gives you that…. INSTANTLY. I know that sounds like a load of horse sh*t, but someone else who’s tried it BACK ME UP ON THIS!
If I had to guess why, I’d say it’s because of it’s soft light reflecting properties, and the fact that it vanishes upon absorption. In other words, it blends so well into the skin, leaves no noticeable residue, but because it’s still technically there, it provides the slightest sheen that gives off the appearance of glowing skin.
And like seriously, I don’t think anyone’s ever complained about squalane before. Just take a gander at the rave reviews of Biossance and you’ll see what I mean.
Note: that’s just overpriced sugarcane squalane oil. The cheaper stuff from Amara is the exact same thing and works just as well.
Olive vs Sugarcane Squalane: Which Is Better? Are Both Safe for Fungal Acne?
Squalane has the same chemical structure regardless of how it’s derived — olive, plant, shark liver or otherwise. However, there may be issues with sustainability and / or purity depending on the source.
Obviously, the shark stuff is the most morally questionable but hey… I’m not judging. 🤷
Regarding purity, some people with fungal acne have problems with olive-oil derived squalane because it may contain trace amounts of phytosterol esters and long chain waxes. (45, 46, 47, 48) Or as a pair of researches put it,
“Squalene from olive oil wastes can be contaminated with by-products from processing—including plant waxes, free fatty acids, phytosterols and neutralization by-products.”
These impurities can range anywhere from 6-18% depending on the manufacture. If you want to avoid this altogether, I recommend using sugarcane derived squalane. It’s purity is about 92-94%, and has the remaining byproducts:
- Isosqualane (3–5%)
- Monocyclosqualane (1–3%)
- Hemisqualane (C15; 0–1%)
- Sesquisqualane (C45; 0–1%)
Lastly, the shark stuff. It’s like the blue crystal meth of Breaking Bad…. 99% pure and cooked by Walter White himself.
Just kidding…. But seriously, it’s the most chemically pure variety of squalane we have today, and why some companies still sell it. See Mayumi Squalane Skin Oil for example.
- Avoid olive-oil derived squalane if you’re REALLY sensitive to fungal acne breakouts as it may include impurities.
- Sugar-derived squalane is a better alternative, more environmentally conscious, and purer in nature (i.e. contains less of the nasties we’re trying to avoid).
- If you hate sharks, have a friend who was eaten by a shark, or are carnivorous savage who wants the purest squalane possible…. well, you do you.
For your convenience, here’s a list of different squalane oils and their respective sources.
|Amara Beauty Squalane Oil||Timeless Skin Care Squalane||Mayumi Squalane Skin Oil|
|Biossance 100% Squalane Oil||Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil|
|The Inkey List Squalane Oil|
|Peter Thomas Roth Squalane|
|Indeed Labs Squalane Oil|
|The Ordinary Squalane |
(Note: according to market
and location, this may be
derived from beets)
Alrighty, that does it for this blog post! I hope you’ve enjoyed it. See you next time! 😀
Literally just signed up to leave this comment because this article (and your dehydrated skin article) have saved me from a perilous decade of Pro Activ and skin so oily I couldn’t have bangs. I don’t know who you are or how you do this, but you are my most favorite internet stranger and I’ve recommended your blog to everyone I know. I’m 20 days into a new routine of low pH cleanser, squalane, and cerave baby lotion and I can’t stop touching my face (which I know is bad!) because ITS SO GODDAMN SOFT. Pores that I thought were permanent have started to disappear, and I’m wearing makeup and can keep it on my face for the whole day! Next comes bangs and I’ll be unstoppable!
Keep doing the lord’s work my friend. You really have changed my confidence and I feel far more empowered with my skin care.
Hey f.c, thanks again for an awesome, informative article. You are doing so much for us here!
Just wondering if you know of and have an opinion of The Ordinary’s Squalane peoduct? Also I’m not sure I’ve read anything by you on any of The Ordinary’s products, (although I may have just not found it yet if there is). Do you use any?
“but I’m not gonna weigh in on the debacle”
*cries self to sleep*
Hey F.C! Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been using the oil for a couple of weeks and I really like it. I put it on at night after everything else. Just a few little drops will do ya! I also started to use this instead of argan oil in my hair and it’s amazing! I wanted to add this to the comments in case anyone was wondering!
I know you said squalane is safe for malassezia, but I was wondering if you knew if it was safe for demodex mites in specific? I guess they eat oils and sebum, and I am DESPERATE for a moisturizer that the demodex mites cannot eat.
Is hemisqualane fungal acne safe? The ordinary makes one that’s even cheaper than their regular 100% pure squalane and people say it’s like the superior sister to their 100% pure squalane. But I’m not sure if it’s fungal acne safe
Is squalane safe to use if you have Rosacea?
Holy Cow! Those before and after photos are amazing!!!! Buying Squalane as we speak!! <3 Thank you f.c. !! Also, been much awaiting this article, I've been dying to try this oil!
I'm still having some issues with my fungal acne, but they have greatly, greatly reduced after reading your blog and taking some simple steps in the right direction. Btw! I've read on some comments about donations…Is there a place for that?
So when do I throw this into the mix?? Before or after or in replacement of my moisturizer?
You, sir, are quite the salesperson. I just bought myself a bottle!
The information in this blog is so useful and I really appreciate your effort!
Just want to ask one question about squalane… I read some articles saying that olive oil is bad for SD as it can feed malassezia. So, how about squalane which is derived from olive oil? I worry that it may cause adverse effect on skin with SD.
While some article pointed out that we should avoid using olive oil and organic oil, some people shared their successful experience of alleviating the symtom by using it. I was confused…
So, “stay away from organic oil like jojoba oil, coconut oil and so on, except mineral ,mct oil” Is it the safest way?
Do you put your squalane in the fridge fc?
Hm this makes me want to try the Ordinary products with Squalane even more. They have retinol formulated with squalane at different strengths and I imagine that would be great for acne!
I took your advice and bought squalane oil (Ordinary brand). My constant flaking scalp from seb derm and all the dandruff shampoos has dried out my hair and scalp. I now use a few drops of squalane to massage my scalp after drying my hair and before I style. After the flakes came off, they stayed off! I am thrilled. I also use it on my face as a moisturizer. So far, I continue to use gentle sulfate free shampoos and anti-dandruff shampoos, but the addition of squalane has made all the difference. My hair is shiny too, and not weighed down by the “oil”. Squalane is inexpensive, and so it is definitely worth a try!
UGH. It is with great sadness that I must report that I’m one of those unlucky ones that get clogged pores from squalane. -___-
I’m really bummed by this, because I have a bottle of 100% squalane oil from The Ordinary, and when I mixed a couple drops in with my Hada Labo Premium Lotion, the combination was gloriously moisturising and my skin just soaked it all up like a sponge. It honestly felt like a Eureka moment for me. But alas, after using it for just a few days I started breaking out in my problem areas. I had used squalane in the past and encountered the same problem, but at the time I was introducing several different products within a short timespan (I know, silly me) so I couldn’t ascertain if it was the squalane. This time it was the only new ingredient I had introduced.
Then I started using just a single drop of the squalane as a lip balm, which seemed great at first because it meant I didn’t need to re-apply lip balm throughout the day (I have chronically dry lips after doing a couple courses of Accutane over a decade ago), but I started getting pimples around the edges of my lips. I stopped getting them as soon as I stopped using the squalane, so I can say with absolute certainty that squalane is the culprit.
I know squalane is reported to be comedogenic by a fair number of people. Such a shame, because were it not for that it’d have easily become a staple of my routine.
My skin loves urea though (I regularly use the Hada Labo Premium Lotion and the Eucerin Replenishing Face Cream, which have 3% and 5% urea, respectively), so I can personally attest to at least one of FC’s touted “wonder ingredients”, and makes my disappointing experience with squalane seem a little less tragic. 😛
Hi there! You’re preaching to the choir here, but I will comment on a few products I’ve used with squalane that have helped me. First…sheet mask by My Beauty Diary Squalane Restorative mask. About $2.50-$3.50 each, they do have a decent amount of Squalane and skin soothing ingredients like aloe and licorice root extracts. There are a few fermented items also, so be careful if you have the evil malasezzia. Innisfree’s Olive skincare line has a face cream that has a decent dose of squalane in it. However, I never did like the shea butter in it, it seemed to aggravate the malasezzia I had at the time. Dr. Wu’s intensive repairing serum is mostly squalane, with a dose of lupine extract oil, but I had a hard time justifying the $40 for 15 ml. A $5 sample did last for 3 days, and I had a nice glow.
However, I stick to Asian skin care that is made in Korea or Taiwan, after seeing some bad Chinese knock-offs of Korean brands on the street in Bangkok.
SK-II facial treatment oil is high in squalane, but again, the price kills me!
When I was in the middle of my ‘heal my skin after i killed the evil yeasts’ stage I did one thing in winter to maintain hydration: mix my watery toner with a squalane oil. The mix of Hada Labo Gokujyun Lotion and Biossance squalane oil or Sulwhasoo Essential Balancing Water and the Biossance oil did my skin good – my skin barrier had been compromised from years of the wrong products and harsh cleansers. I was overjoyed to see healthy skin starting to form, vs. a nasty rashy red appearance.
Can you check I’m doing a good routine
Just water or cetaphil cleanser (when i feel the the vaseline i applied last night is still to heavy) or should i switch to using Micellar water from garnier?
Elujai Myrrh Propolis (idk if this is good for fungal acne and if i should stop)
Sebamed + Squalane oil
Cosrx aloe hydrating spf 50
Elujai propolis (or should I change this for Holika holika 99 percent aloe gel?)
Sebamed + Squalane
– I’m trying to fix my skin barrier because I’m currently having a skin crisis. Breaking out (tiny bumps and inflammation cheeks, forehead, & chin), fungal acne, ugly skin texture, and lots of PIE & Ice pick scars :((((( which really affects my self esteem. I think i have oily dehydrated skin. I’ve just started a few days ago. Do I have an okay routine for now? Or should I stop using one of these products? Btw I live in the Philippines so the weather here really has affect on my skin huhu I hope to get a response fron you thank you!!!
Would you recommend squalane for people with oily skin?
Is squalane occlusive like vaseline and mineral oil? I’m so scared to try mine even though it sounds like the best thing and I’ve had some for over a month…
P.s. That spongebob kid has started appearing in my dreams. He is haunting me.
Most squalene is made from olive oil. I would think is your skin reacts to olive oil, squalene might be irritating.