Beauty 101

What's the Difference: Squalane & Squalene

Reyanna Ng Beauty Expert
What's the Difference: Squalane & Squalene

The tiny difference between Squalane & Squalene that is easy to miss

Skincare ingredients are hard to keep up with and understand. Most of the time, even getting the name or spelling right is considered a feat. Similar to the “Retinol vs Retinoid” blog where you can find here, this time I’ll be writing about the differences of another pair of similar-name-sounding-ingredients, which are Squalane and Squalene. The difference between the 2 names is so small it’s very easy to miss and confuse one with the other. Keep on reading to find out the differences between Squalane and Squalene, as well as their benefits, side effects (if any) and some of Threebs’ favourite products.


Squalene, with an E, isn’t a synthetic ingredient formed in a lab, in fact, Squalene is a naturally produced ingredient found in our body. Squalene is produced by the oil glands in our skin, also called the sebaceous glands or sebum, making up almost 10-12% of the skin’s oil. Sebum is actually made up of triglycerides, esters and Squalene. Although we all hate having oily and/or combination skin and are constantly finding ways to reduce any oily zones on our skin, this doesn’t mean that sebum is necessarily bad. Rather, the sebum is actually required to keep our skin moisturized.

With knowing that, Squalene is a lipid (fat) that hydrates and maintains the health of our skin barrier to help tackle free radicals, acting as an antioxidant. Like collagen, as we age, the production of Squalene reduces. And although it might seem nice to have a bottle of Squalene and apply whenever we want to, Squalene in its natural form is highly unstable and has a short shelf life. Hence, why it needs to go under a saturation process called hydrogenation when used in topical applications. This saturated form turns Squalene into Squalane.


So, a very simple explanation of Squalane, with an A, is that it is the saturated form of Squalene. It is more stable, meaning that it would not oxidize when exposed to air and would retain its skin benefits.

What are the benefits of Squalane? Who should use Squalane?

Squalane is an effective emollient that helps seals moisture in the skin, preventing TEWL (transepidermal water loss), and treat concerns of a disrupted or damaged skin barrier. Also being an antioxidant, Squalane provides protection to the skin against free radicals, environmental threats like UV rays and slow down premature aging, plus it can also reduce wrinkles and pigmentation.

Squalane is suitable for all skin types, but more so for those with dry, mature or sensitive skin, like eczema, proriasis, patchy skin and even acne. But this doesn’t mean that oilier skin types should stay away. Squalane has a light, airy oil consistency after application and won’t leave your skin feeling heavy, so don’t worry! 

Who shouldn’t use Squalane?

Squalane is suitable for all skin types and has very low risks of causing an irritant or allergic reaction. It also doesn’t impart any odour which is great for those who are sensitive to fragrances or potent smells. However, it is still important to be cautious and conduct a patch test prior.

Where does Squalene/Squalane come from?

Now does this mean that the Squalene and Squalane we see sold in stores are all derived from humans? Of course not, in fact, quite some time ago Squalene was derived from shark liver, yes real sharks. But for the obvious ethical issues, many brands have stopped using shark liver as their source of Squalene and shifted to other plant sources like olives, rice brans, wheat germ and even sugar cane. Though not all brands follow this practice as shark liver squalene is considerably cheaper to obtain. 

Where to find Squalane & Squalene skincare products?




We hope this blog has helped you understand the difference between Squalene and Squalane, and if you have anything to add or ask, feel free to leave a comment below! We’ll gladly answer all questions to the best of our ability and help you in any way we can!

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