Is Squalane Vegan? And What Is It Good For?

What is squalane? And is squalane vegan? You might be surprised at the answer!

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Navigating skincare ingredients can be difficult. We need to know what’s clean and what’s not. We need to know which chemical-sounding names are safe, and which are actually really harsh. And we also need to know which ingredients are cruelty free and vegan, and which are derived from animals.

Castor oil is one cosmetics ingredient that often causes us to scratch our heads. Is it the castor oil that comes from the glands of beavers (um, no thanks!)? Or is it the plant derived one that helps your hair, brows and lashes grow? The truth is, you need to see ‘plant derived’ or ‘vegan friendly’ on the label to know which one it is for sure.

Squalane is another of those ingredients that causes tons of confusion. Some insist it’s natural, but comes from endangered animals. Others say it’s plant derived.

So, who’s right? Is squalane vegan or not? And what is squalane, anyway? We asked the skincare experts at Sophim for some answers.

What Is Squalane?

Is Squalane Vegan? And What Is It Good For?

What is squalane, and why does our skin need it?

Squalane is a nourishing ingredient used in various skin care products. It was first introduced as an emollient in the Fifties. It’s basically a non-comedogenic lipid compound. This means it’s the opposite of those pore-clogging ingredients that can later cause acne breakouts. Still, it’s incredibly nourishing and it’s suitable for a variety of skin types.

Squalane is a great moisturiser, and also soothes inflamed or sensitive skin. In some cases, it has even helped alleviate conditions of eczema and psoriasis.

Squalane can be used for all phases in life, starting from your twenties. As mentioned, we humans produce squalene naturally, but as time goes by the levels start to decrease. Once you hit your thirties, the natural squalene in your skin starts to diminish. That is why it’s crucial to compensate this imbalance by using products that contain squalane.

The magic of this ingredient is it’s versatility for all kinds of skin issues and ages, and it works wonders with dry and mature skin. This means squalane is basically an all-rounder and it is also fragrance-free!

Are squalene and squalane the same?

To clear some confusion straight away let us get one thing straight there’s a difference between squalane with an ‘a’ and squalene, with an ‘e.’ Squalene, as the name gives away, mostly comes comes from sharks, since they possess a lot of squalene in their liver oil. Scientists then turn squalene into the more solid squalane by adding hydrogen to it. 

If you thought the primordial version (squalene with an ‘e’) is safer because it’s an organic compound, think again. The unsaturated squalene is produced not only in the livers of sharks but also by other animals, and it can be found in human sebum.

Even plants produce squalene. But the compounds are highly unstable and need to be scientifically processed into the safe-for-the-skin version: squalane, with an ‘a.’ In fact, the latter thanks to its complete saturation is not subject to auto-oxidation. This is what makes it desirable in cosmetics manufacturing, where it is used as a moisturiser.

Is squalane vegan?

Now that consumers have become more ethically-oriented, shark-derived squalane is becoming rarer in the cosmetics market. Instead, squalane extracted from rice bran, wheat germ, sugarcane, palm trees and amaranth oil dominate. The most popular plant-derived squalane comes from olives. This is called phytosqualan. 

This type of squalane offers properties highly sought after in cosmetics, since it restores the lipid barrier. It reprises the elasticity and suppleness in our skin, which we tend to lose through water loss. Phytosqualan is incredibly moisturising and has excellent spreadability properties as it penetrates the skin very easily.

What exactly can squalane do for your skin?

Squalene works as an antioxidant to protect your skin from sun damage. It also strengthens skin texture, plumping up fine lines and wrinkles. Basically, it mitigates collagen thinning. But that’s not all!

It can also:

  • hydrate nails and cuticles
  • combat molecular lesions
  • diminish under-eye circles
  • mitigate DNA damage and fade dark spots
  • moisturise the skin and soften its texture
  • prevent irritations
  • build a protective skin barrier
  • make hair softer and stronger
  • soothe sunburn

Which products contain squalane?

There are plenty of vegan – and non-vegan – skincare companies that use squalane. You need to check labels to know if a brand is vegan or not.

One company we trust is Sophim.

Sophim is a family company founded in 1996, specialised in the manufacturing of natural ingredients for the cosmetic industry in both France and Spain. Their Insapolive is a vegetable based squalene, derived from olives. As you apply it on the skin it restores the lipid barrier. It’s a great way to boost the level of hydration and restoration of your skin!


So, is squalane vegan? The answer is: that depends. Be very careful when you choose your skincare brands. Be sure it says ‘vegan’ on the label, or that it specifies ‘vegetable squalane.’ This is one skincare ingredient you don’t want to miss out on!

Chere Di Boscio
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