Squalane has become one of the most popular face oils—and it’s not hard to understand why. With its thin and lightweight texture, it softens and seals in moisture, without looking or feeling greasy.
While it’s incredibly healing on dry, rough and chapped skin, it’s also unlikely to clog pores and is non-comedogenic for most people. The fact that it’s anti-inflammatory and non-irritating makes it perfect for sensitive skin, too.
No wonder everyone is buzzing about squalane oil... even people who normally hate oils!
That’s why I’ve put together this guide to the best squalane oils on the market. Read on to find out what they’re made of, whether there’s any difference between brands, and the best options for your skin.
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What to Look for in a Squalane Oil
So what is squalane oil, anyway, and how do you choose the best one?
Squalane (with an “a”) is the stabilized form of squalene (with an “e”)—a hydrocarbon naturally found in human sebum, which keeps our skin hydrated and protected.
Traditionally, it was derived from shark livers. But due to the obvious ethical and sustainability concerns, virtually all skincare companies have now switched to plant sources, most commonly olives or sugarcane:
- Olives: During olive oil processing, squalene is extracted from the olive pulp, skin and pits, and then combined with hydrogen to become squalane.
- Sugarcane: Rather than being extracted directly from the sugarcane itself, squalane is produced by bioengineered yeast that feed on the sugarcane.
Does the Type of Squalane Oil Matter?
|Olive Squalane||Sugarcane Squalane||Shark Liver Squalane|
May contain sterol esters and paraffin after hydrogenation
May contain isosqualane and monocyclosqualane after hydrogenation
No significant impurities after hydrogenation
Technically, the chemical structure of squalane is the same regardless of the source. However, there can be differences in purity.
Researchers have found that both olive-derived and sugarcane-derived squalane can range between 74-95% purity. Since each has different impurities that can remain after hydrogenation, this could account for subtle variations in oil weight, absorption rate and even performance.
Anecdotally, some people have reported getting breakouts from olive-derived squalane, which is often thicker and richer, but not from sugarcane-derived squalane, which tends to be lighter and faster to absorb.
Personally, I’ve used both types and neither have triggered acne. However, if you want to be on the safe side, sugarcane sources might be best for acne-prone skin, while olive sources might be better for dry skin.