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, and just a heads up—the label tends to peel off. But for the price, who cares?
Biossance 100% Squalane Oil
Still, it's the same great oil—and ounce per ounce, less expensive than Indie Lee (but not quite as cheap as The Ordinary). It's definitely on the thinner side, so I would consider this one 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.
Timeless Squalane Oil
According to this writer, this oil gave her "the best skin of my life." Now that's an endorsement! The texture is on the lightweight side, compared to The Ordinary. And if you get the bigger size bottle, it's an even cheaper buy (per ounce)!
Like other Timeless skincare products, this one comes in a sturdy frosted glass bottle with a dropper.
Olivarrier Fluid Oil Squalane
Olivarrier Fluid Oil Squalane is your Korean beauty option. It is one of the priciest squalane oils, but it is also 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, so it's a good bet if you have dry skin or want a richer oil.
This comes in a plastic bottle, not glass, but it does have a dropper for easy application.
The Inkey List Squalane
The Inkey List Squalane is from a new affordable skincare brand that is being called an alternative to The Ordinary. This squalane is priced slightly higher than The Ordinary's, and is derived from plants—although which, they don't say.
Texture-wise, it is lightweight and fast-absorbing, while still providing good hydration. One reviewer who broke out from The Ordinary's (perhaps because it is a heavier squalane) reported being able to use this with no problems.
The packaging here is a plastic bottle with a flip top, not a dropper. So, like Biossance, it is hard to control how much comes out, and it tends to give you more than you probably need.
What Is the Best Squalane Oil?
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, then Biossance and Timeless
- Highest price per ounce: Olivarrier
- Olive-derived: Indie Lee, Timeless and Olivarrier
- Sugarcane-derived: Biossance
- Most moisturizing: The Ordinary and Olivarrier
- Most lightweight: Biossance and The Inkey List
- Best packaging: Indie Lee
- Cruelty-free: All!
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Have you tried squalane oil yet?
Which brand is your favourite?