Squalene vs Squalane? Why does a single letter make such a difference and what are the Squalane benefits that we so desire?
Squalene (with an “e”), is a naturally occurring substance found in plants, animals and in every human liver. It circulates through our bloodstream and appears in our sebaceous glands in a form that we call sebum. Sebum is our body’s naturally lubricant for the skin and it has a similar chemical makeup with Jojoba Oil. That sebum that we make in our body is made up of wax esters, triglycerides and Squalene and it helps to keep our skin moisturized.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), states that commercially, Squalene is sourced from fish livers, but particularly, sharks’ livers. The reason WHO is interested in this is because Squalene is used in vaccines. Because vaccines are kept in sealed containers, there is no risk of oxidation and the Squalene in vaccines is purified from shark livers. It’s also being added to some more experimental vaccines for malaria, as it seems to enhance the vaccine’s efficacy.
The reason that I don’t like to use Squalene (with the “e”), is that it is incredibly unstable and oxidises really quickly. It’s easy to get confused, because you can get Squalene (with an “e”) from olives as well and it is often used for intensely dry skin – but it still oxidises really quickly which is a problem for skin, let alone, incredibly ageing. It’s no good addressing one skin problem by causing another!
It’s greatly used in skincare cosmetics and it is now that I would like to bring in that single letter change “a” – let’s hear it for Squalane! Why does Squalene vs Squalane actually matter?
Where Does Squalane Come From?
Squalene with an “e” comes from olive oil. Olives are really rich in Squalene, so it’s quite easy to extract. Just like the shark liver version, it is very unstable and oxidizes very quickly. The Squalene from olives is then hydrogenated. This process makes it much more stable, so it will not make your products go rancid.
It is only when the Squalene has been hydrogenated that we get the letter change from Squalene to Squalane. It effectively extends the shelf life and also makes the oil much lighter. The best Squalane products are the ones made with Olive Squalane.
Squalane maintains the barrier function of your skin. However, around about the age of 30 or so, our natural levels of Squalene in our skin starts to diminish, so we do need to replenish it with something.
Squalane is a superb emollient and it keeps your skin very well hydrated. Even sensitive skin tolerates Squalane well. Squalane benefits all skin types and is especially good for acne-prone skin. It keeps your skin very well hydrated and is good to use for dry eczema or psoriasis, as it helps to stop the skin from flaking by keeping the skin hydrated.
Squalane makes any oils that are blended with it feel amazing. Even heavy oils, like Castor Oil, that normally feel quite sticky, become much more elegant and spread beautifully over your skin, once they have been combined with Squalane. There is a great free formulation for a Squalane Cleanser here.
Why Is Squalene Still Used?
Because it is cheap! Isn’t that usually the reason? The cosmetics industry accounts for 90% of shark liver Squalene production globally. That equates to about 2.7 million deep sea sharks every year. This level of slaughter has started to make sharks an endangered species and the EU recognised this back in 2010, trying to ban deep sea shark fishing. There is an interesting article the BBC did about shark liver harvesting here.
In answer to the question “Is Squalane vegan?”, the answer is a resounding YES – if it is Olive Squalane. A big NO if it comes from shark livers.
So, in the end, the little extra cost of using Olive Squalane Oil, saves millions of sharks from being killed. Add to that the fact that it creates a much better and more stable product that enhances your skincare products. Olive Squalane makes a vastly superior product for your skin.
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