This article was last updated in December 2018.
Squalane oil is officially one of the hottest ingredients in skincare.
I'm not saying I caused this, but maybe I helped? You see, over a year ago, when hardly anyone was talking about it, I declared that squalane is the best oil you can possibly put on your skin.
Now, it seems like practically the entire beauty industry is getting on board! In the last few months, I've not only seen dozens of articles about squalane on other websites, but I've also been spotting it more frequently in ingredients lists (whether for oil blends or creams).
That said, I'm still the biggest fan of using pure, 100 percent squalane oil on my skin.
If you haven't experienced the magic of squalane yet, or you're not sure which brand is best, this article will cover:
- Where squalane comes from
- How it can help ALL skin types
- The best squalane oils on the market
- How to choose the right one for your needs
What is Squalane Oil and Why Should You Try It?
Squalane (with an "A") is the stabilized form of squalene (with an "E")—an oil naturally found in human sebum that keeps our skin hydrated and protected.
Squalene is also found in plants and shark liver—although we're not interested in the latter due to its harm to both the sharks and the environment! In skincare, I've only seen the pure oils derived from plant sources, usually olives or sugarcane.
No matter where it comes from, squalene on its own is too unstable to be used in skincare, as it will go rancid very quickly. That's why it is processed (hydrogenated) to become squalane, a 100 percent saturated oil. I go into more detail about saturated versus unsaturated oils, and why saturated is best, over here.
These are the some of the benefits:
- Thin, lightweight texture
- Fast-absorbing and non-greasy
- Colourless and odourless
- Leaves skin supple and hydrated
- Heals rough, chapped and dry skin
- Non-irritating and safe for sensitive skin
- Non-comedogenic for most people
- Helps regulate sebum production in oily skin
- Protects from oxidative damage
- May help fade pigmentation
- Highly stable, with a long shelf life
And that's why everyone is buzzing about this oil—even people who don't normally like face oils!
The Best Squalane Oils
Now that I've (hopefully) convinced you to try squalane, is there any difference between brands?
I'm often asked this question, and my answer is... yes and no.
Technically, the chemical structure of squalane is the same regardless of the source. So you may not notice much of a difference (if any) between products, especially if you're putting something else on top, like makeup or sunscreen. It's also harder to tell if you're only using a drop or two of oil for your whole face (which is what I recommend for normal to oily people), since it will sink in so fast.
Personally, I can only distinguish one or two of the oils from the others, which I'll share in a second. But I know other people have reported subtle differences in oil weight and absorption rate. This could be because there are various sources, with variations in purity. This paper reports that both olive-derived and sugarcane-derived squalane may range between 74 and 95 percent purity. That's a big gap!
The other considerations are price point and packaging. So here's a closer look at each product.
Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil
[Read more about how Indie Lee started her natural skincare line]
It's no surprise, then, that this oil has a beautiful texture. (It was the first squalane I ever tried—it's what got me hooked!) I would describe it as thin oil, absorbing without any greasy residue. Yet it's still deeply moisturizing.
The packaging—which is by far the prettiest and most "Instagrammable"—is a frosted glass bottle with a dropper. Compared to the other products in glass, this one has held up the best since there's no label to come peeling off.
The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane
The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane is derived from plant sources, but they don't disclose which ones. Since it's one of the least expensive options, my guess is that they use whatever they can get most cheaply—probably olive, sugarcane or a blend of both.
With this one, I've noticed a slightly heavier texture compared to others. It also seems a bit slower to absorb. But we're still talking squalane here—so in the grand scheme of things, this is a very lightweight oil. However, you may prefer it if you have drier skin.
The packaging is a glass bottle with a dropper, but the above photo is not representative of how it will look in a few months. This is actually a new bottle I purchased—my original looks like it's been through a war! Just a heads up, the clear plastic label will come peeling off, leaving the one underneath to get all oil-stained. But for the price, who cares?
Peter Thomas Roth Oilless Oil 100% Purified Squalane
Peter Thomas Roth Oilless Oil 100% Purified Squalane is derived from sugarcane. The brand shares a lot of detail about how they extract, ferment, separate and purify the liquid from the raw sugarcane. They even mention having a proprietary processing method. What they don't tell you is that it's actually produced by bioengineered yeast that feed on the sugarcane (source). Not quite as sexy or "natural," right?
Still, it's a great product—which you'd expect, since it also has a higher price point. The texture is comparable to Indie Lee's, maybe slightly thinner, and it penetrates beautifully to leave you hydrated, not greasy.
Again, the packaging is a glass bottle with a dropper, but this dropper is sturdier than the others. As for the label, it eventually peels off, just like The Ordinary's. I taped it down for these photos!
Biossance 100% Squalane Oil
Biossance 100% Squalane Oil is derived from sugarcane. They, too, use a patented process to extract it... and guess what I discovered? It's produced via the same bioengineered yeast that Peter Thomas Roth uses, and from the same supplier (Amyris, which is in fact Biossance's parent company).
So basically, it looks like Biossance and Peter Thomas Roth use the exact same squalane oil, just in different packaging! Ounce per ounce, Biossance's is less expensive (but not quite as cheap as The Ordinary's). It's definitely on the thinner side, so I would consider this if you are looking for a super-lightweight option.
Another point of difference is the plastic bottle with a pump. Depending on how much oil you like to use, this is either a convenient feature or an annoyance (as it may dispense more oil than you need). Either way, it is handy for travel as it comes with a little plastic piece to lock it down.
More Squalane Oils to Try
I haven't personally tried these yet, but the other squalane oils I've found include:
Timeless Squalane Oil
Timeless Squalane Oil is derived from olives, and if you get the bigger bottle, it's an even cheaper buy (per ounce) than The Ordinary's. According to this writer, it gave her "the best skin of my life." Now that's an endorsement!
Mullein & Sparrow Pure Series Squalane Oil
Mullein & Sparrow Pure Series Squalane Oil is also from olives, and the packaging is so lovely. Keep in mind that the bottle is half the size of the others, so the price per ounce is around the same as Indie Lee's (unless you buy it direct from the brand, in which case it's the most expensive).
Olivarrier Fluid Oil Squalane
The K-beauty option, Olivarrier Fluid Oil Squalane, is one of the priciest. But it's said to be sourced from the best-quality olives—only 0.2 percent make the cut! I hear this one is a heavier weight, even more so than The Ordinary's, so it's a good bet if you want a richer oil.
The Inkey List Squalane
To sum up, I made a quick list of the best oil choices depending on what your budget and priorities are. I hope this helps!
- Lowest price per ounce: The Ordinary, Timeless, Biossance
- Highest price per ounce: Olivarrier, Peter Thomas Roth
- Olive-derived: Indie Lee, Olivarrier, Mullein & Sparrow, Timeless, possibly The Ordinary
- Sugarcane/yeast-derived: Peter Thomas Roth, Biossance, possibly The Ordinary
- Most moisturizing: Probably Olivarrier and The Ordinary
- Most lightweight: Probably Peter Thomas Roth and Biossance
- Pump format: Biossance
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