Squalane at a glance

  • An emollient that helps prevent moisture loss and restores suppleness to skin
  • Also functions as an antioxidant and helps strengthen skin’s barrier
  • Can be derived from olive, wheat bran, rice bran, and amaranth oils
  • Despite its sebum-like nature, squalane feels surprisingly lightweight and non-greasy
  • Biocompatible ingredient, meaning skin instantly recognises it and knows how to use it

Squalane description

Squalane is an emollient that helps prevent moisture loss and restores suppleness to skin. It is also a source of beneficial fatty acids that replenish skin. One unique aspect of squalane is that it’s a modified form of squalene, one of the key components in our sebum (oil). This makes squalane a biocompatible ingredient that skin instantly recognises and knows how to use.Most skin care brands use a plant-derived source of squalane such as olive, wheat bran, rice bran, and amaranth oils. It can also be produced from _Saccharomyces cerevisae_ (a type of yeast) or animal-derived, but this not the source Paula’s Choice Skincare uses.Despite its sebum-like nature, squalane feels surprisingly lightweight and non-greasy. Squalane can also help strengthen skin’s barrier to help it be less prone to sensitivity and reactiveness.Beyond its moisturising properties, squalane also functions as an antioxidant. The antioxidant benefit of squalane also helps it protect skin’s oil from what’s known as lipid peroxidation, a process that damages skin’s surface and deeper in the pore lining where oil originates. This peroxidation is also believed to play a role in blemishes.Note that because it’s highly saturated, squalane is less prone to breaking down in the presence of air than less-saturated squalene. That said, it’s still wise to choose products whose packaging limits light exposure and contamination issues (i.e. don’t buy squalane in a clear jar.)Squalane has been in use as a cosmetic ingredient for decades and has a long track record of safety. In 2019, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel determined squalane continues to be a safe ingredient (their report looked a maximum concentration use at 96.8%). Usage levels in skin care vary depending on desired aesthetics and other emollients present.

Squalane references

  • Cosmetics Ingredient Review, 2019, ePublication
  • ACS Open, July 2017, pages 3,989–3,996
  • Indian Journal of Dermatology, May-June 2016, pages 279-297
  • The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, June 2014, pages 25-32
  • Journal of Cosmetic Science, January-February 2013, pages 59-66
  • Advances in Food and Nutrition Research, 2012, pages 223-233
  • Molecules, January 2009, pages 540-554
  • Journal of Investigative Dermatology, November 2006, pages 2,430-2,437
  • Free Radical Research, April 2002, pages 471-477

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not Rated