Squalane has become one of the most popular face oils—and it's not hard to understand why. With its thin, ultra-light texture, it sinks in fast to plump and hydrate without looking or feeling greasy. (A little goes a long way!)
And while it's incredibly healing on dry, rough and chapped skin, it's also unlikely to clog pores and is non-comedogenic for most people. The fact that it's odourless and non-irritating makes it perfect for sensitive skin, too.
No wonder everyone is buzzing about squalane oil... even people who normally hate oils!
That's why I've put together this guide to the best squalane oils on the market. Read on to find out what they're made of, whether there's any difference between brands, and the best options at all price points.
What is Squalane Oil Made Of?
Squalane (with an "A") is the stabilized form of squalene (with an "E")—a hydrocarbon naturally found in human sebum that keeps our skin hydrated and protected.
Why does squalene need to be stabilized? Because on its own, it is highly unsaturated, so it will go rancid quickly, negating any benefits. But when it is processed (hydrogenated) into squalane, it becomes 100 percent saturated, with a shelf life of at least two years.
Traditionally, squalane was derived from shark livers. But due to the obvious ethical and sustainability concerns, virtually all cosmetic companies have switched to plant sources, most commonly olives or sugarcane:
- Olives: During olive oil processing, squalene is extracted from the olive pulp, skin and pits, and then combined with hydrogen to become squalane.
- Sugarcane: Rather than being extracted directly from the sugarcane itself, squalane is produced by bioengineered yeast that feed on the sugarcane. (Not quite as sexy or "natural," right?)
Does the Type of Squalane Oil Matter?
|Olive Squalane||Sugarcane Squalane||Shark Liver Squalane|
May contain sterol esters and paraffin after hydrogenation
May contain isosqualane and monocyclosqualane after hydrogenation
No significant impurities after hydrogenation
Technically, the chemical structure of squalane oil is the same regardless of the source. However, as you can see in the chart above, there can be differences in purity.
According to this study, both olive-derived and sugarcane-derived squalane can range between 74 and 95 percent purity. Since each has different impurities that can remain after hydrogenation, this could account for subtle variations in oil weight, absorption rate and even performance.
Anecdotally, some people have reported getting breakouts from olive-derived squalane, which tends to be richer, but not from sugarcane-derived squalane, which tends to be lighter.
However, that's certainly not a widespread phenomenon. (I'm acne-prone, for example, and I've never broken out from either type!)
It's also important not to overload your skin with ANY oil, even squalane. Sometimes, it's the large quantity of oil that triggers a breakout, whereas a small amount is tolerated well. With squalane, two or three drops should be plenty to cover your entire face. If you need more hydration, use it over a good face serum or moisturizer!
The Best Squalane Oils of 2021
Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil
- Details: Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil is my favourite squalane oil of all, in terms of its performance, feel and packaging. It has a beautiful fine texture that melts into the skin, yet is still deeply moisturizing. Plus it comes in the prettiest frosted glass bottle with a dropper, which makes it easy to control the number of drops.
- Derived From: Olives. (In Indie's own words: "I found the highest grade you could get.")
The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane
- Details: The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane is the least expensive oil on this list, so it's ideal if you're on a budget or just want to try out squalane without spending a whole lot. With this one, I've noticed a heavier texture that is slower to absorb. But we're still talking squalane here—so in the grand scheme of things, this is a still a very lightweight oil. Like most of the brand's products, it comes in a glass bottle with a dropper. (Heads up, the label tends to peel off after a while... but for this price, who cares?)
- Derived From: Plant sources, but exactly which ones are a mystery. Company reps have mentioned olives and beets (according to this Redditor) and bamboo (according to this one). My guess is that they use a blend of whatever they can get at the cheapest rate!
The Inkey List Squalane
- Details: The Inkey List Squalane is almost as affordable as The Ordinary, and has a somewhat lighter texture that I find penetrates my skin more quickly. One reviewer who broke out from The Ordinary's (perhaps because it is not as lightweight) reported being able to use this without an issue. The packaging, however, is not quite as nice; this comes in a small plastic bottle instead of glass. The flip top also makes it harder to control how much comes out.
- Derived From: Plant sources, although which ones, the brand don't say. I suspect that they may use a blend, just like The Ordinary does.
Peter Thomas Roth Oilless Oil 100% Purified Squalane
- Details: Peter Thomas Roth Oilless Oil 100% Percent Purified Squalane was the OG squalane oil, which first launched way back in 2013. At the time, there was nothing else like it—a silky, ultra-light oil with no greasy after-feel. I would say the texture is comparable to Indie Lee's, maybe slightly thinner, and it, too, comes in a glass bottle with a dropper. Just like The Ordinary's, I found that the label ended up peeling off after a while... no big deal, though!
- Derived From: Sugarcane.
BeautyStat Universal Moisture Essence
- Details: BeautyStat Universal Moisture Essence is an elegant option by cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, whose skincare line is best-known for its cult-favourite vitamin C. As such, he created this oil to use on top or mix with cream, in order to seal in moisture and active ingredients. He also notes that squalane has anti-aging properties, helping to reverse UV damage and soften fine lines. This one comes with a dropper, and all you need are two or three drops.
- Derived From: "Sustainable plant sugars," a.k.a. sugarcane.
Biossance 100% Squalane Oil
- Details: Biossance 100% Squalane Oil is probably the most lightweight squalane oil I've tried, and therefore the fastest to sink in. It's also great if you go through a lot of oil, since it comes in a large plastic bottle with a pump. So if you're using it not only on your face but also your body or hair, the pump will be more convenient than a dropper. (But if you only use a couple drops at a time, it will likely dispense more than you need!)
- Derived From: Sugarcane.
Acure The Essentials 100% Plant Squalane
- Details: Acure The Essentials 100 Plant Squalane is a mid-priced squalane oil from one of the best vegan skincare brands. This one is on the richer side, with a thicker texture that leaves a protective veil on top of your skin. So it's a good choice if you need to nourish dry areas, but Olivarrier is out of your budget. It's packaged in a white glass bottle—one pump should be all your face needs.
- Derived From: Olives.
Indeed Labs Squalane Facial Oil
- Details: Indeed Labs Squalane Facial Oil is another moderately priced squalane, but compared to Acure's, it has a thinner, dry oil texture and absorbs more readily—making it ideal for oily and acne-prone types. It's housed in a sturdy glass bottle with a dropper, so you can easily measure it drop by drop.
- Derived From: Sugarcane.
Timeless Squalane Oil
- Details: Timeless Squalane Oil is the most popular squalane on Amazon, where it is available in a range of sizes, and there are currently more than 2,000 four-star reviews and counting! It's not the lightest squalane nor is it the heaviest, just right in the middle. One writer went as far as claiming it "gave me the best skin of my life." The packaging was recently revamped, so it now comes in an opaque glass bottle with a bamboo top.
- Derived From: Olives.
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