Q: What is the difference between Squalane and Squalene?


I’ve mentioned Squalane a few times in this year’s blogs, but I thought this week we could go a little deeper, looking at how it became the moisturizing powerhouse it is today.

But to talk about squalane, we have to start with squalene (and for that, we’ve got to get a little technical)…


Squalene is produced by every living organism on earth. In humans, squalene in synthesised in our livers, circulates our bloodstream, and is released through sebaceous glands to be a main component in skin surface lipids; molecules who’s primary functions are to protect and moisturise the skin. It is also a hydrocarbon, an organic chemical compound made exclusively of hydrogen and carbon atoms.

Whilst we know now that squalene is often now derived from natural sources like olives and amaranth oil, or even genetically engineered from yeast cells, it was first sourced from sharks. Where does the name come from? The genus of dogsharks, Squalus. Their livers are full of oil to help them maintain a certain depth without having to exert too much energy, and can provide nutrition when food is hard to come by! In some sharks, squalene can account for up 15% of its entire body weight. It’s important to do some research into the source of squalene in your skincare products if you’re trying to build a vegan-friendly regime, like the team at Q+A. 

Over time, squalene has been sourced as a dietary supplement, and in vaccines as an adjuvant; an ingredient which boosts the strength of the immune response in the person receiving the vaccine. So then we get to skincare. It’s no surprise putting more of this essential substance on our skin was bound to have benefits; particularly for its ability to reduce water loss, and add suppleness and elasticity to the skin.

But there is a downside. Because squalene has an unsaturated structure, meaning it is more reactive, when the oil is exposed to oxygen and UV light, squalene oxidises into squalene peroxide. This byproduct can provoke inflammation and cause blackheads and whiteheads, as well as having a short shelf life, easily going rancid. Exactly what you don’t want from your skincare!

So, we needed a solution. By hydrogenating squalene (treating it with hydrogen) it turns from having an unsaturated molecular structure to a saturated one, and is now squalane. Tah dah! Because it is no longer unstable, squalane is protected against oxidisation. Amongst the benefits of not going rancid or worsening your acne, squalane is lighter, can reduce inflammation instead of causing it, and is classed as an adaptogen. This means it adapts to the needs of your skin, whether you have a dry, oily, or normal skin type. It is also non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog pores or feel heavy on your face, but absorb easily and get to work! At Q+A we pick only the best ingredients, which is why our Squalane Facial Oil is 100% natural, derived from olives and therefore vegan friendly. #savethesharks

I hope I didn’t lose you through that biology lesson, and we’re all a little more knowledgable on one of nature’s most impressive hydrators.


Wishing you a lovely weekend,

Amy @ Team Q+A



Amy Robson


Aspiring author, craft addict, and Q+A's eCommerce Coordinator