It's no secret that I'm cautious about oils.
While most of them make great moisturizers, they're simply NOT stable enough for me to consider putting them on my face (or in my body).
This is why I've been recommending coconut oil, a saturated fat, for a while now.
However, I'm happy to be introducing you to another option that I think is just as good—maybe even better. Squalane oil!
In this article, you will learn:
- Why most face oils are actually harming your skin
- The case for moisturizing with saturated oils
- The benefits of squalane oil
- How to incorporate squalane oil into your routine
- The best 100 percent squalane oil products to try
Why Most Face Oils are Aging
I know it's hard to believe, but the truth is, most face oils on the market are doing your skin more harm than good.
There are two types of oils:
Saturated oils have single bonds within their fatty acid chains. This makes them very stable and resistant to attack by free radicals. They have a high melting point and will not easily go rancid.
Unsaturated oils have at least one double bond within their fatty acid chains. The more double bonds, the less stable the oil.
- Monounsaturated oils contain one double bond.
- Polyunsaturated oils contain multiple double bonds. This makes them extremely susceptible to free radical attack. They easily go rancid (spontaneously oxidizing) when they are exposed to heat and oxygen.
Sadly, most face oils on store shelves are the latter type, polyunsaturated. Think: rose hip oil, almond oil, argan oil, sunflower oil, and so on. If you remove them thoroughly, they're okay to cleanse with. And they may do a fine job of moisturizing... but you should know that they are ALSO oxidizing like crazy on your skin—yes, even when you've just opened a fresh bottle.
I recommend avoiding these polyunsaturated oils at all costs, to avoid aging your skin prematurely. They are involved in the production of age pigmentation, and are especially dangerous if you expose your face to sunlight. When they interact with UV radiation, it causes damage at the cellular level.
It's really unfortunate that the beauty industry—whether due to ignorance or financial interests or both—persists on marketing these oils as "safe" and "beneficial." Thankfully, we now have the ability to choose safer, saturated oils instead. Like squalane!
What is Squalane Oil?
Squalane oil is created when squalene oil (note the "e") undergoes hydrogenation processing.
That turns the squalene from an unsaturated oil into a saturated one.
In fact, squalane is a 100 percent saturated oil, which makes it even MORE stable than coconut oil (which is around 80 to 90 percent saturated fat).
Where does the squalene come from before processing? Although it's produced naturally by our bodies, it can also be found in plants, which is where beauty companies extract it from. Because of its double bond structure, squalene goes rancid quickly, making it a poor choice for a skincare oil. That's why you so rarely see it in beauty products (AVOID it if you do!), and why it needs to be hydrogenated to create squalane.
Squalane vs. Squalene
Okay, I know these two oils can get confusing, so I'll just summarize the difference once more:
Squalene oil: An unsaturated oil. It's produced by our own skin cells, and also found in olives, sugarcane, wheat germ, rice bran, palm trees and shark liver. (Note: It's no longer common to extract it from shark liver.) As an unsaturated oil, squalene is unstable and goes rancid fast.
Squalane oil: A saturated oil. It is formed when squalene undergoes hydrogenation processing, which turns it into a stable, fully saturated oil with a long shelf life.
Squalane Oil Benefits
Squalane oil is suitable for ALL skin types, from dry to sensitive to oily and acne-prone.
Here's what squalane can do for your skin:
- Moisturize: Squalane is an excellent moisturizer and leaves skin hydrated, plump and soft. The texture is super-light and non-greasy, and it sinks into the skin fast.
- Eye and Lip Treatment: I've found squalane ideal for both treating and preventing eye-area dryness. I have a tendency to get irritation under my eyes, even from natural ingredients—they'll often cause crepey, dry patches that take days to repair. Squalane fixes that right up. It also heals chapped lips better than most lip balms!
- Prevent Irritation: Unlike other moisturizers, squalane is clinically proven to be non-irritating, making it great for people with sensitive skin conditions. It's also completely odourless and colourless.
- Non-Comedogenic: Although theoretically, any oil can be clogging, I think squalane is one of the LEAST likely to cause issues. For me, it doesn't clog pores or cause acne in the slightest. If you've found other oils too heavy or comedogenic, I think it's definitely worth a shot!
- Oil Control: Squalane can help regulate excess oil production. That makes it a better choice than jojoba, which also has this property, but is a less stable monounsaturated fat.
- Soothe: Squalane can speed healing of cracked or chapped skin, and soothes eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis.
- Fight Bacteria: Squalane is naturally antibacterial (just like coconut oil).
- Protection from Oxidative Damage: Most importantly, squalane helps protect your skin from the free radicals that can cause age spots and premature aging. It may even help fade dark pigment over time.
How To Use Squalane Oil
Another unique feature of squalane is that it doesn't really form a surface barrier on the skin, like other oils. In the past, I have always recommended applying oils last in your routine because they prevent other ingredients from getting through.
I don't think you need to worry about that as much with squalane, as it is so thin and fast-absorbing, it is much less likely to interfere with the absorption of other products.
Personally, I like to layer it on top of a face mist or humectant serum, but underneath a heavier cream, if I'm using one. Like I said, I also use squalane as an eye and lip moisturizer. You could even mix it into your makeup for more hydration!
How Much To Use
Depending on how much moisture your skin needs, use anywhere from one to three drops.
When To Use It
I recommend applying squalane morning and night. Here's how I'd incorporate it into your routine:
- Tone or exfoliate.
- Apply any active treatment products, if using.
- Apply hydrating mists or serums. (If you're using any type of watery serum, such as HydrExtreme, I still I think it makes sense to put that on first, since it's so liquidy and quick to absorb.)
- Apply squalane oil to face and eye area.
- Apply moisturizer, if using. (Cream- or lotion-textured moisturizers are likely to contain heavier barrier oils, so the squalane will penetrate better underneath them.)
- Apply makeup. Mix a drop into your foundation for extra moisture.
That said, you can always experiment with a different order and see what your skin responds to best!
Squalane Oils To Try
Here are the best 100 percent squalane options on the market:
Indie Lee's Squalane Facial Oil is derived from olives and comes in a glass bottle with a dropper.
Where to buy:
- The Detox Market
- Saks Fifth Avenue
- Cult Beauty
Peter Thomas Roth
Peter Thomas Roth's Oilless Oil 100% Purified Squalane is derived from sugarcane and comes in a glass bottle with a dropper.
Where to buy:
Biossance's 100% Squalane Oil is derived from sugarcane and comes in a plastic bottle with a pump.
Where to buy:
The Ordinary's 100% Plant-Derived Squalane is derived from plants—but which one(s), they don't say—and comes in a glass bottle with a dropper.
Where to buy:
So far, I've just tried Indie Lee's and Peter Thomas Roth's squalane oils, and I haven't noticed any difference between them in terms of quality, texture or results. I'm VERY happy with both purchases and I use them daily!
To sum up, squalane oil is one of the most incredible skincare and anti-aging ingredients I've EVER found.
If you're going to use a face oil, it's so important to choose a stable one that is resistant to oxidation—I really can't stress that enough.
I know coconut oil is not for everyone, and while jojoba oil seems to be more widely tolerated, it's not quite as safe, since it's not saturated fat.
Squalane, on the other hand, is as stable as you can get, AND it's the least irritating, most non-comedogenic oil around. Use it daily and your skin will be way more protected from oxidative stress. You can't beat that!
Have you tried squalane oil?
What's your favourite face oil?