Many nourishing skin care ingredients exist, but the benefits of squalene for skin are something any health and beauty enthusiast should be aware of. Not to be confused with squalane (we'll get into those differences later), this substance can be extremely beneficial to your skin's natural barrier.

To understand what this ingredient is and what it can do, we turned to New York City-based board-certified Dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick. Here's what she has to say about squalene benefits.

What Is Squalene?

According to Dr. Garshick, squalene refers to a natural lipid that helps the skin stay moisturized and protects it from damage. Oil glands naturally produce squalene, but it can also be found in foods like olives, rice bran, and shark liver.

If the shark liver bit is uncomfortable for you, don't worry. She says that because of ethical concerns, most squalene you'll find is 100 percent plant-derived.

Squalene vs. Squalane

The main difference between squalene and squalane is that squalene is natural, while squalane is the processed, stabilized version of the same substance. Dr. Garshick explains that squalane goes through a process called hydrogenation to make it easier to incorporate into skin care products. "If squalene was not hydrogenated [to make it into squalane], it could oxidize when exposed to air and no longer have its benefits," she says.

Squalane gives you all the moisturizing and skin barrier protection benefits that squalene does, but it's also thought to have a lighter consistency. Dr. Garshick says this aspect makes it better suited for those with oily or acne-prone skin.

What Are the Benefits of Squalene for Skin?

As mentioned above, the main benefit of squalane is to help moisturize the skin without adding extra oil or grease. But another benefit is that it's an antioxidant, meaning it helps protect the skin from environmental aggressors and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Dr. Garshick says it can also be used to help keep hair and nails healthy and that squalene oil has been used as a supplement for heart health. While more studies are needed, she mentions that some show that squalene has benefits for the immune system and in fighting certain types of cancers.

Who Should Use It?

Because of its moisturizing properties, Dr. Garshick says squalene is especially good for those with dry skin. But if you're looking to help reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots, she says topically applied squalane is the perfect ingredient for that, too. "Because of its antioxidant properties, [squalane] can be helpful for someone focused on an anti-aging skin routine," she says. "As we get older, we lose some of our natural supply of squalene, which contributes to the dryness the skin can experience with age."

Something like EltaMD® Skin Recovery Light Moisturizer or EltaMD UV Sheer Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+ is perfect for those looking for hydration that doesn't feel heavy or cause irritation.

Are There Any Risks?

Risks are minimal. Dr. Garshick says that when squalane is formulated into another product as a moisturizing ingredient, it is well-tolerated for most skin types. She does, however, caution those with oily and acne-prone skin when adding squalane to a skin care routine. While squalane is thought to be non-comedogenic and lightweight, she says you might want to consult with a dermatologist about incorporating it into your regimen so it doesn't lead to more breakouts. And as always, if you have sensitive skin, you may want to apply a test patch to see if your skin can tolerate it.

With all that in mind, the benefits of squalane seem too great to pass up. You should definitely think about incorporating it into your routine.


  • Audrey Noble

    Audrey Noble is a New York City-based reporter specializing in features, celebrity profiles, and beauty topics. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Harper's BAZAAR, Allure, Vanity Fair, Refinery29, and more. She is a University of Southern California alumna with bachelor's degrees in print journalism and creative writing.

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