Squalane: What Is It, Skin & Hair Benefits, Cosmetic Uses & Side Effects

Priya Singh
Fact-Checker: Priya Singh
This article was last updated on: October 20, 2023
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Navigating the world of cosmetics can often feel like stepping into a science classroom. The ingredient lists on our favorite products are teeming with complex scientific names that can leave many of us feeling bewildered.

One such ingredient that pops up frequently is Squalane. Don’t be fooled by its exotic name, Squalane is a powerful active ingredient that you can find in many skincare products.

This article aims to demystify Squalane, giving you a deeper insight into what it is, where it comes from, and why it holds a prominent place in the cosmetic industry. We will closely examine its skin and hair benefits, its cosmetic uses, and potential side effects.

What is Squalane?

Squalane, also known as 2,6,10,15,19,23-Hexamethyltetracosane, is a highly effective emollient and natural antioxidant. This means it moisturizes our skin and hair while protecting them from oxidative damage caused by harmful free radicals. Its unique molecular structure is similar to our skin’s natural oils, allowing it to absorb quickly without a greasy residue.

Produced from a modification of Squalene, an organic compound found in a variety of sources including plants, animals, and our own skin cells, Squalane is preferred in cosmetics due to its stability. Unlike squalene, Squalane doesn’t oxidize easily, which makes it an ideal ingredient in skincare and haircare products, ensuring a longer shelf life.

Squalane is commonly found as part of a wider formulation of ingredients in various products such as moisturizers, serums, and lotions, usually in concentrations ranging from 0.5% to 5%. However, you can also purchase it as a standalone product in its pure form, which can be directly applied to the skin or added to your preferred cosmetic products.

Who Can Use Squalane?

One of the best features of Squalane is its universal usability. It’s suitable for all skin types – be it oily, dry, sensitive or combination skin. It mimics our skin’s natural oils and doesn’t irritate or clog pores, making it an excellent choice for those struggling with acne-prone or sensitive skin – this is why it’s used so commonly.

Moreover, Squalane is a plant-derived ingredient, often sourced from olives, sugarcane, or rice bran, which makes it perfectly suitable for vegans and vegetarians. It’s important to note that not all Squalane is plant-derived, as some can be sourced from shark liver oil. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check the source before purchasing if you’re following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

As for pregnant and breastfeeding women, Squalane is generally considered safe. However, as with any new product, it’s always a good idea to consult a healthcare provider before introducing it into your skincare regimen.

Squalane Skin Benefits

Squalane is a champion ingredient that offers an array of benefits for the skin:

  • Moisturizing: Being an exceptional emollient, Squalane doesn’t just moisturize the skin—it helps retain that moisture for an extended period. Dry skin occurs when the skin’s upper layer loses its ability to retain water. Squalane, with its extraordinary ability to hydrate, helps combat this dryness, leading to improved skin texture. It’s remarkably similar to the skin’s own natural oils in molecular structure, allowing it to delve deep into the skin and hydrate at a cellular level. This ensures that every layer of your skin is nourished, resulting in overall healthier and more hydrated skin.
  • Antioxidant properties: Squalane isn’t just a moisturizer. It also boasts natural antioxidant properties that help it combat harmful free radicals generated by exposure to UV radiation, pollution, and other environmental stressors. These free radicals can damage the skin on a cellular level, leading to premature aging and uneven skin tone. Squalane’s antioxidant properties neutralize these free radicals, protecting your skin from their destructive effects and helping to maintain a healthy, vibrant complexion.
  • Skin Conditioning & Softening: Just as a good conditioner works wonders for your hair, Squalane serves as a fantastic conditioner for your skin. When used regularly, it helps soften the skin, leaving it smoother than a baby’s cheek. But that’s not all. It also enhances the skin’s elasticity, aiding in maintaining a healthy skin barrier. This boosted elasticity helps to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and the fortified skin barrier is better equipped to protect the skin against environmental aggressors.

Remember, though, that your relationship with Squalane is a marathon, not a sprint. The beneficial effects of Squalane are not permanent and require regular, continued use.

Squalane Hair Benefits

Moving on to hair, Squalane also presents several notable benefits:

  • Improves Hair Hydration: Just as it deeply hydrates the skin, Squalane does the same for your hair. It sinks deep into the hair shaft, providing much-needed moisture from within. Dry, brittle hair is often more susceptible to breakage, and here’s where Squalane steps in. By replenishing the hair’s moisture levels, it combats dryness, preventing hair breakage and split ends. It essentially quenches your hair’s thirst, providing hydration right where your hair needs it the most.
  • Enhances Shine & Softness: Have you ever dreamt of having shiny, silky-soft hair? Squalane could help you achieve that. Due to its emollient properties, Squalane works like a charm in enhancing your hair’s natural shine and softness. It smoothens the hair cuticles (the outermost layer of the hair strand), leading to a smoother, glossier mane. As a result, your hair not only looks healthier but also becomes easier to manage and style.
  • Protects from Heat Damage: If you frequently use heat styling tools, you’re subjecting your hair to potential heat damage. This is where Squalane can play a protective role. As a natural conditioner, it forms a protective barrier around each hair shaft, fending off potential damage caused by heat-styling tools. Doing so helps maintain the overall health and structure of your hair, reducing the chance of heat-induced damage and breakage.

Just like with skin, the benefits of Squalane for hair are not everlasting and require regular and sustained use. Integrating Squalane into your hair care routine can help maintain the health and appearance of your tresses over time.

Squalane’s Non-active Cosmetic Uses

In the realm of cosmetics, when we say “non-active,” we’re referring to roles an ingredient plays that won’t directly affect the biological characteristics of your skin or hair but instead influence the overall performance, formulation, or sensory experience of the product.

One significant non-active function Squalane serves is as a refatting agent:

  • Refatting Agent: Squalane is used in cosmetics to replenish the oils that are removed from the skin during the cleansing process. Washing your face or body, particularly with harsh soaps or cleansers, can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness or irritation. As a refatting agent, Squalane helps restore these oils, improving skin’s moisture levels and maintaining its protective barrier. This can result in skin that feels softer and looks healthier, without the greasy feel often associated with oil-based products.

In the context of hair care, it can replenish moisture lost due to heat styling or harsh shampoos, resulting in hair that’s hydrated, shiny, and less prone to breakage.

Essentially, the role of Squalane as a refatting agent represents its function in maintaining the balance of your skin and hair’s natural oils, reinforcing its status as a valuable ingredient in various cosmetic products.

Squalane Potential Side Effects

While cosmetics are generally formulated to be safe for use, reactions to ingredients can vary from person to person. This is because everyone’s skin is unique and has its own set of characteristics and sensitivities – this is known as your “skin type”. Factors like your skin’s oil production, sensitivity level, and hydration can influence how it reacts to specific ingredients like Squalane.

As far as Squalane is concerned, it’s generally well-tolerated, but some potential side effects could include:

  • Allergic Reaction: While rare, some individuals may have an allergic reaction to Squalane, which could result in redness, itchiness, or hives.
  • Skin Irritation: For some, particularly those with extremely sensitive skin, Squalane could cause minor irritation or breakouts.

If you experience any of these side effects, it’s essential to stop using the product immediately and get in touch with a healthcare or skincare professional for advice.

However, it’s important to note that adverse reactions to Squalane are quite rare. On the whole, it’s a safe and effective ingredient that has been used in cosmetics for many years.

Before introducing any new product into your skincare routine, it’s advisable to do a patch test. Patch testing can help you determine how your skin will react to a new ingredient. Here’s our patch testing guide that can guide you through the process.

Comedogenic Rating

Squalane has a comedogenic rating of 0/5, meaning it’s non-comedogenic.

This rating is attributed to its unique molecular structure, which closely resembles our skin’s own oils. Unlike some ingredients that can clog pores, leading to breakouts, Squalane is easily absorbed and doesn’t leave any residue that could block pores. Therefore, it’s an excellent ingredient for those prone to acne or breakouts, as it provides hydration without contributing to the accumulation of excess oils on the skin’s surface.


Successful skincare and haircare often require a mix of experimentation and consistency. Finding ingredients that work for you and continuously incorporating them into your routine is critical to achieving lasting results. Squalane, with its active and non-active benefits, has the potential to be one of those successful ingredients.

Active benefits of Squalane, like moisturizing, conditioning, and antioxidant properties, provide immediate advantages to your skin and hair. Its non-active effects, particularly its role as a refatting agent, contribute to the overall efficacy and feel of the product. Its versatility makes it a valuable addition to various cosmetic formulations.

Squalane may not be as ubiquitous as some ingredients, but its popularity is growing due to its numerous benefits. It’s similar to other emollients like jojoba oil and shea butter, but its non-comedogenic property sets it apart.

Results from incorporating Squalane into your routine can vary, but generally, with consistent use, most individuals start to see improvements within a few weeks. The key is patience and regular application.

As for any concerns, remember that reactions to Squalane are rare, and it’s generally well-tolerated by all skin types. However, if you have extremely sensitive skin or specific allergies, it’s always a good idea to consult with a skincare professional before trying out a new product. With proper usage, Squalane offers a safe and effective way to boost your skincare and haircare routines.

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