We've been here before. We've had retinol, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C… The list of buzzy ingredients goes on. When beauty falls in love with an ingredient, seemingly in an instant, every single skincare product will include it. The products sell out, there's much excitement, and with some of the more niche ingredients, the trend dies out in a couple of years.
Some of them are all hype and no substance, but most of them are well worth our spending power. Up next? Squalane—an ingredient that you've probably seen on the packaging of at least one of your moisturisers and have heard your favourite influencers raving about.
But is it one to watch, or should we skip it? Keep scrolling to find out.
What is squalane?
First things first, there's squalane and squalene. Unhelpful, I know, but it makes it easier to explain what it is. Squalene is naturally produced by the oil-producing (sebaceous) glands in our skin. We've been made to believe that oils are the bad guys, but they're a wonderful way to keep skin moisturised. So squalene maintains our skin barrier and keeps everything nice and hydrated.
Cosmetic chemist Rachael Polowyj says, "Although squalene is a key component of our skin’s natural moisturisation factor—to keep the skin soft and supple and to prevent transepidermal water loss—it’s a relatively unstable chemical molecule which breaks down quickly, hence why we tend to use squalane in our cosmetic products instead."
So in the same way that the e in squalene is converted to an a in squalane, the natural ingredient goes through a process to stabilise it so we can use it more effectively on our skin. This is important for all manner of scientific and product development reasons.
"Squalane is almost identical to squalene in terms of moisturisation performance and chemical structure, but it is far more stable and can survive in our products for longer periods of time without oxidising. The two oils are clear and colourless, but over time, squalene begins to turn yellow and starts to smell rancid, whereas squalane remains stable," Polowyj adds.
What does it do?
Our bodies are smart little things, but as we age, our squalene production slows down. So squalane, which is usually plant derived, can help us with all of the emollient properties it has. It works with all skin types for hydrating, repairing the skin barrier, and locking in moisture, especially if you have dry skin.
The skin-softening ingredient works well on sensitive skin, and as it's so effective at reducing inflammation, it's a good soothing option if you have redness or are looking to calm the skin down. (Just be mindful of the other ingredients in the product.)
Here are some of our favourite squalane products.
Cleansing and clarifying is the name of the game when it comes to clay masks. But you won't find any face stripping here, as squalane, vitamin E, and a host of prebiotics focus on moisture, antioxidant support, and soothing.
This gentle treatment for blemish-prone skin utilises the hydrating properties of squalane to soothe and calm skin down. Working alongside niacinamide, lactic acid, and succinic acid, this is a must for being kind to and supporting your skin's microbiome.
Get your eyes in on the moisture-boosting action with this cream that's filled with everything your eyes need to look brighter and feel smoother.
Massaging a face oil into your skin at the end of the day is up there as one of life's greatest mini pleasures. This one is especially great thanks to its nourishing blend of squalane, wheatgerm, and vitamin E. The oil is just as wonderful as the packaging, too.
Oh, hello. A squalane-enriched moisturiser for under £10? What a time to be alive. Boasting one of the most satisfying gel textures around, it gives bouncy skin a whole new meaning.
This oil-to-milk cleanser will have you counting down to sink time thanks to its gentle but ever-so-effective formula. With squalane, calming chamomile flower extract, and organic rice bran oil, it's a significant upgrade for every cleansing routine.
If squalane is really your jam, skip all of the other ingredients and get it in its most unadulterated form. You can also apply it to your hair for greater shine and to protect against heat damage.
When a brand includes squalane in all of its products, you know it's time to sit up and pay attention. With omega fatty acids, squalane (obvs), and hyaluronic acid, this cream has holy-grail status for its ability to drench skin in long-lasting moisture.
An oil-meets-serum for all the glow-enhancing, skin-softening, and deep moisture that you need by way of its decadently scented rose water formula. Rose isn't the only star of the show, as squalane, rosehip oil, and camelina oil focus on nourishing in a weightless way.
Soak your skin in this mask to deliver a plethora of powerhouse ingredients that will restore and rehydrate skin while you sleep. Basically, it's the equivalent of the glass of water you keep on your bedside table.