Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist - Written by Arpita Singh (Beauty Expert) on 23rd Dec 2020
No BS Guide to Using Squalane
What is the first and foremost thing you do when you are thirsty? Pour yourself a glass of water, and drink it. Is that right? No! You go for more water until you have had enough to quench your thirst.
Now, what about your skin? Have you ever wondered that it may, too, feel parched at times? Or why it gets so dry, to the point that it irritates you?
Of course, you have! Winters in general, or if you particularly live in areas where the climate is cold, your skin can run dry.
Your skin has an inbuilt mechanism to keep itself moist. But it is not capable of producing enough hydration for itself, every hour of the day. Blame it on the oxidative damage that your skin suffers, regularly, at the hands of environmental pollution. Or the harmful UV rays that it is exposed to. An unhealthy lifestyle, featuring diets that lack wholesome nutrition and sufficient water, can also make your skin fall short on its hydration game. So what can you do? Take a deep breath, and start mending your skincare routine. Support your skin, and begin with adding better moisturizing ingredients to your cabinet.
Squalane: let's know more about it.
Firstly, you should understand that Squalane (with an 'a') is derived from squalene. They both have the same biology and utility, though.
Squalene (with an 'e') is a polyunsaturated hydrocarbon produced by your skin's sebaceous glands. An oil, or call it a lipid, forms (10-12)% of the sebum, which coats your skin's outer surface and maintains the cutaneous barrier.
There are two types of oils. Let's start with the unsaturated oils, which have one double bond within their fatty acid chains.
One thing that you should remember is, the more the number of double bonds present, the lesser will be the stability of the oil. Squalene, being a polyunsaturated oil, has multiple double bonds. It possesses a high rate of susceptibility to free radicals. When it is exposed to heat and oxygen, they almost "simultaneously oxidize" and become rancid.
Then you have saturated soils, which only have single bonds within their compounds. They are highly stable and don't get bothered by the attack of free radicals. They even have a high melting point, which provides them a considerable amount of shelf-life. Talk about a saturated oil, and you get Squalane as one good example.
Therefore, Squalene is converted to Squalane in a process called hydrogenation (wherein hydrogen is added to the molecules of squalene). This enables the manufacturers to use the more stable ingredient in their skin formulations and make the products more effective for human skin. You commonly find in most of the OTC products is Squalane, which is included as an ingredient. However, squalene may appear in a few of the products' ingredient lists. So, here's a warning - don't go for them! They can do a good job at moisturizing the skin, but they "oxidize like crazy," even if you apply the product on your skin from a fresh bottle.
Now, squalene is mainly extracted from plant oils; some include - olive oil, wheat germ oil, rice brand, sugarcane, amaranth seeds, etc. Almost all skincare companies approach this method.
An interesting fact about squalene -
in earlier times, it was obtained from sharks' liver. It even got its name from a specific genus of sharks known as 'Squalus.'
Also, Squalane has a lighter consistency than squalene, which makes the former go all easy on your skin, not appearing greasy at all.
Squalane is a powerhouse ingredient. How does it help you?
1) It Makes your skin plump-soft and hydrated.
Dr. Andrea Suarez, MD board-certified dermatologist, Colorado, USA. Says,
Squalane acts as an emollient. Its small particles trickle down, filling the skin cells' gaps and even smoothing their rough edges. It makes the skin more flexible and resistant to cracks, It can also form an occlusive barrier on the skin and retard the transepidermal loss of water.
You see, Squalane is an effective moisturizer that can help your skin cells retain water.
2) Acts as quite an efficient antioxidant.
Squalane protects you against free radicals, which are oxygen-related species that go around hunting for electrons. The UV radiation of the sun produces such notorious compounds in your skin. They can inflict serious damage on the cell DNA and other genetic material, and in some cases, lead to skin cancer.
Squalane, being an antioxidant, neutralizes the free radicals. It even slows down the signs of aging in your face.
3) Diminishes the fine lines and wrinkles.
Dryness is harmless, but it can still lead to patches in the areas under your eyes and lips. It may take days to repair them. Not only does Squalane treat the dryness, but it also prevents these patches from occurring further. In this process, fine lines and wrinkles can be minimized as well. It even looks after the chapped lips and performs better than most of the lip balms.
4) Improves the appearance of dark spots.
Anecdotal instances add to the belief that Squalane may help fade dark spots away.
5) Stamps out the irritation of your face and other parts of the body.
A disrupted skin barrier can irritate your skin—Squalane attempts to fix the barrier.
It is odorless and colorless in nature. This enables it to stand as one of the most non-irritating ingredients in the skincare world. People having sensitive skin can also use it and not worry much. On application, it gives a "pleasant and calming sensation."
6) Increases the youthful glow to your skin.
The production of Squalane in your oil glands peaks when you generally hit your teens or are undergoing the phase. It starts declining as you enter your late-twenties or the early-thirties.
You know that Squalane is one oil that revitalizes your skin. So, adding it to your routine can potentially help you bring back the skin's former soft, young texture.
7) Non-comedogenic in nature.
The other oils (such as jojoba oil, coconut oil, etc.) come as heavy and greasy substances that can clog your pores.
But Squalane doesn't. Yes, you have heard it right. It will not create a blockage in the pores or worsen your acne. It falls light on the skin and ensures that your skin can breathe through it.
8) Works on the symptoms of temporary redness.
Squalane lessens the severity of the condition, having a gentle and mild effect on the skin. It relieves you of the discomfort you face to a certain extent.
9) Healing is also a part of its job.
Squalane works to treat the cracked parts of the skin and chapped lips.
From historical times, Squalane was used in the medical field to treat wounds and skin complications.
10) Fights the bacteria.
Squalane is antibacterial (as observed in the case of the coconut oil).
11) Takes care of your nails as well as the hair.
According to Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, and co-founder of Dr. Loretta skincare,
Squalane increases the luminosity and vibrancy of your skin. It also prevents breakage and split ends in hair. It can also be used to treat the dry and damaged nails.
12) Soothes a few skin conditions.
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, Squalane brings relief to the two following skin issues,
- Atopic dermatitis (or eczema) is an itchy inflammation of the skin. It forms a rash on the arms, the area behind the knees, and other parts.
- Psoriasis, which causes the skin cells to build up, and form scales and dry patches. It, too, results in a troublesome itch.
All about the topical use of Squalane.
How do you apply Squalane?
- Cleansing forms the first step of any skincare regimen. It is important to remove the make-up, dust, or germs that get collected on your skin.
- Then comes toning or exfoliation. Or, if you are undergoing any treatment of active products, you can apply it instead.
- Apply a hydrating mist or serum after that. These products have a liquid composition and are quick to absorb.
- Finally, the time has come for you to apply squalane oil. Depending on your skin's needs, use 2-4 drops of Squalane, either on the face, or particularly the areas around your eyes, or to smoothen the lips.
- Follow it up with a moisturizer, having adequate sun protection factor (SPF). After applying the moisturizer, back it up with sunscreen with an SPF between 30-60 (during the daytime).
A moisturizer is usually available in the lotion or cream format, both having thicker textures and containing heavier oils. It is better to use Squalane before rubbing in a moisturizer so that it can penetrate more effectually.
You can even add a drop or two of Squalane into your foundation. This will support you with extra moisture.
One can easily get a 100% plant-derived squalane oil over the counter. However, experts recommend people to use pre-designed skincare formulations. As in such cases, the squalane oil and other ingredients are taken in tested concentrations.
- Use Squalane twice regularly, in the morning and at night.
Apart from the topical use, you can also apply it to the hair and nails. "To turn your hair soft and buy it luster, take several drops of squalane oil to your scalp. Massage it thoroughly and make it reach the hair roots. At last, use a comb so that the ends of your hair also get a taste of the oil," advises Dr. Ciraldo. "And for your fingernails, dab a few drops of squalane oil into your cuticles. This will replenish moisture to hair strands as well as the dry nails."
Squalane doesn't pose a threat to any specific skin type.
A few experts believe that Squalane regulates the production of excess oil in your skin, and the reason behind it is that it mimics the function of sebum.
However, several studies also point out that Squalane can contribute to the formation of acne. If you have oily/acne-prone skin, you are already producing more than enough oil for your skin. By putting on Squalane, why add more?
Let us suggest that the latter studies have a logical base and experiments to back them up to break the confusion. Or, you can always consult your dermatologist and discuss further on Squalane.
Squalane can help dry skin to hold onto its moisture and get going into a renewed supple form.
It doesn't matter if your skin requires more or less oil, Squalane will positively respond to all. It knows how to maintain a perfect balance between the different regions of your skin, which are - some super oily, and the others, withering dry.
As stated earlier, Squalane does not harm people with sensitive skins. On the other hand, it can alleviate the various immune triggers that expose the surroundings.
If you are someone in your teens or still younger than the age of twenty, your skin certainly is in no urging need of squalane oil. Remember, your skin produces sufficient amounts of the concerned ingredient as a part of the sebum, which keeps the skin properly hydrated.
What does the research have to say about Squalane?
Based on human participants, a clinical study was published in Therapeutic Apheresis and Dialysis (in 2004), which dealt with applying a gel containing 80% water, aloe vera extract, vitamin E, and Squalane.
A total of 20 patients took part in the study; all suffered from mild uremic pruritus, a condition arising due to renal failure, which usually manifested into a full-body intractable itch. One half received the gel (applying it twice a day, for two weeks), while the other did not. They both spent another two weeks, and this time without any treatment.
In the end, it was found that the half using the gel initially "showed significant improvements in itching and redness" as compared to the one not using it. "The study can't be trusted entirely as the gel had other ingredients in its composition as well. It is difficult to verify what effects did Squalane had on its own," remarks Dr. Suarez.
A 2012 study came out in Food and Nutrition Research's Advances, which commended squalene for being a great emollient. It also discussed its detoxifying properties.
International Journal of Agronomy brought a (2018) study to everyone's notice. It elucidated the "anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties" of Squalane. Plant sources and extraction methods were closely examined, and the results - all came out in favor of squalene. The study emphasized that the moisturizing ingredient can also function as an antioxidant and inhibit the causes of skin cancer.
In a 1996 laboratory trial, 50 CD-1 female mice were treated with 5% squalene. At the end of the prevention study, a good 26.6% reduction was obtained in tumor occurrence in the squalene treated group.
Largely, a protective effect took place when squalene was given before and during the carcinogen treatment. Or, the application could be made just once, taking either of the two.
According to a 1995 report, the constant rate at which squalene quenches the wickedly reactive singlet oxygen atoms is much larger than the other lipids, even if the human skin surface is concerned. It further suggests that the chain reactions caused by the UV rays (which are detrimental for your skin lipids) cannot propagate with adequate levels of squalene present on the skin's surface.
There also some reports that explain where squalene could go wrong. Squalene monohydroperoxide (SQOOH) is a primary oxidized lipid produced when squalene is laid bare to the sun rays (and as we perform our daily activities). A certain 2003 report claims that SQOOH induced skin damage in hairless mice. It elaborates on the cytotoxicity of SQOOH and describes the squalene (naturally occurring on the skin) as the "principal target for the free radicals."
Another 2007 report issues that SQOOH may cause roughness and wrinkles to the human skin. It may involve severe skin cancer, skin aging, other inflammatory conditions of the skin, cutaneous autoimmune disease, etc.
Side effects that may affect you, if any.
Squalane can sometimes cause irritation, which mostly roots from an allergic reaction. Then quite possibly follow - itching, redness, and swelling.
Therefore, if you are using Squalane for the first time, make sure you apply it over a limited skin area. This is you conducting the patch test to know that you aren't allergic to the ingredient. You can carry the test on the inner arm or any part that you're comfortable with.
We at Minimalist are greatly conscious about the sustainability of the environment we dwell in. Our line of skincare products swears by the policy to not harm animals in any way. Even the squalene we use is derived from the olive oils and is an out-and-out cruelty-free product.
The Bottom Line
Let's look back at what dryness is all about. The lipids (including ceramides, cholesterol, etc., that occur in between the skin cells) are responsible for forming bilayers. The loss of lipids, and sometimes, the bilayers altogether, damage the water barrier. All of this pulls the skin's moisture content below a harsh 10%, disrupting the continuity of the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of your skin). And there you have it - dry skin!
This was a reminder about what internal and external stressors can do to your skin. So, protect yourself from UV rays, smoke, and dust. Maintain a diet equipped with all the necessary nutrients and plenty of water.
Some of the substances related to squalene, such as vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, β-Carotene, etc., can also help you handle oxidative stress.
Layout a routine, and combine different ingredients that can benefit you the most.
Apart from Squalane, you can also try glycolic acid, coconut oil, shea butter, jojoba oil, and sesame oil for similar results. But all of them come with their respective side effects. Always consult a dermatologist if you wish to try these out.
Lastly, squalene (or its hydrogenated form, squalane) is a successful ingredient in the skincare industry. Yet, more trials and experiments are needed to confirm the strength of its properties, and at the same time, to look for new ones.