Move Over Hyaluronic Acid, There’s A New Super-moisturiser In Town

In the skincare world, no ingredient is more lauded for its hydration abilities than hyaluronic acid. However, there’s an often overlooked and underrated ingredient that works to effectively support and restore moisture to your skin; squalane. So, should you be adding it to your skincare routine? Read on for everything you need to know about squalane (and its very close relative squalene).

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Squalane vs. squalene

Similarly spelt and easy to confuse, squalene (with an ‘e’) is a colourless lipid naturally produced by the sebaceous glands in our skin. “It is an oily triterpenoid hydrocarbon that lubricates and protects the skin,” explains dermatologist Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan. Unfortunately, as we age, our ability to produce squalene slows down significantly.

Squalane (with an ‘a’) is formed when squalene is hydrogenated, which prevents it from oxidising and losing its benefits. Basically, “squalane is a derivative of squalene which is much lighter and more stable,” Gunatheesan tells us, qualities which are key to its use in skincare products. 

Where does squalene come from?

Naturally found in large quantities of shark liver, sharks used to be the most common source of squalene (which was then hydrogenated to form squalane). Fortunately, the squalene found in skincare products today is commonly derived from plant sources, like olives, sugarcane, wheat germ, and rice bran.

What are the benefits of squalane for skin?

“Squalane works to trap moisture and forms a fortified antioxidant barrier over the skin,” says Gunatheesan, adding that squalane is beneficial “for all skin types, [although] acne prone skin and oily skin types will need to be judicious in its usage.”

Due to its emollient (ability to trap moisture) properties, squalane is particularly beneficial for those with dry or mature skin. One of the key benefits of squalane over other oils, is that it’s recognised by our bodies as a substance produced by the sebaceous glands, which allows it to effectively penetrate the skin. 

Some of the key benefits of squalane are:

  • Acts as an emollient to form a protective barrier over and lock moisture into the skin
  • Improves skin elasticity, reducing wrinkles and fine lines over time
  • Can aid in neutralising damage from free radicals 
  • Soothes inflamed skin
  • Is predominately well-tolerated and unlikely to trigger an allergic reaction
  • Lightweight consistency, so it doesn’t leave behind a greasy residue

How does squalane differ from hyaluronic acid?

Both squalene and hyaluronic acid are produced by the body, however they work in very different ways. Squalene or squalane acts as an emollient which softens and locks moisture into the skin, while hyaluronic acid is a humectant that holds over 1000 times its weight in water, working to retain moisture. 

The best products with squalane

Keen to start using this super moisturiser? Here are our 8 favourite products to incorporate into your skincare routine, stat.

1. Biossance 100% Squalane Oil

biossance squalane

From the brand that brought squalane into our collective consciousness, Biossance 100% Squalane Oil is derived from renewable sugarcare. The most lightweight squalane we’ve tried, Biossance’s iteration can be used to moisturise the face, body (after showering on damp skin is recommended), and hair.

2. The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser

squalane cleanser the ordinary

A gentle moisturising cleanser, The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser is targeted towards makeup removal, cleansing efficiently while without stripping the skin of its natural oils. This cleanser starts with a balm-like consistency which turns clear on application, dissolving makeup and impurities on the skin. 

3. Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil

vitamin c squalane

One of our favourite products, this lightweight oil combines Biossance’s signature sugarcane squalane with the skin brightening properties of vitamin C. With chios crystal oil to restore your skin’s elasticity and damascus rose petal extract to calm and soothe irritated skin, this beautifully-scented oil works perfectly layered over serums and moisturiser, or in lieu of moisturiser on warmer days. 

4. Medik8 Retinol 10TR Intense 

medik8 retinol 10tr intense

Retinol can often be irritating, making its combination with squalane in Medik8 Retinol 10TR Intense an apt one. Squalane works to deeply hydrate the skin and support the skin’ natural defence barrier, while anti-ageing hero vitamin A plumps and refines the skin to promote a more youthful complexion.

5. Youth To The People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask

This nourishing overnight mask combines brightening vitamin C with an antioxidant-rich superberry blend, moisturising squalane, and hydrating hyaluronic acid. Perfect for dull skin in need of a refresh!

6. Caudalie Vinosource S.O.S Intense Moisturizing Cream

French skincare label Caudalie combine their signature calming grape water with soothing plant extracts and moisturising squalane in this rich, thick cream.

7. The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane

A budget option, The Ordinary’s version contains plant-based squalane that works to prevent hydration loss and restore the dermal barrier. 

8. Medik8 Mutiny Squalane-Based Alternative Lip Balm

medik8 mutiny squalane lip balm

This lip balm harnesses the restorative power of squalane to nourish lips and prevent moisture from escaping. Omega-rich sea buckthorn oil aids in supporting the skin’s natural lipid barrier, while hyaluronic acid draws moisture in, keeping lips hydrated and supple. 


Words by Esmé Duggan
Feature image courtesy of Emmie America