What Is Squalane?

Squalane is a moisturizing ingredient used in some skin care products, like anti-aging cream, lip gloss, and sunscreen. It comes from squalene, an oily substance found in people, animals, and plants that’s also in some COVID-19 vaccines.

What It Does

Both squalane and squalene seem to help:

  • Moisten your skin
  • Make it more supple or elastic
  • Make fine lines and dry patches less visible

Even though squalene is oily, skin products that include it may be safe to use if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. Talk to your dermatologist first before trying.

Scientists sometimes use squalene as part of a substance that’s added to certain vaccines. They hope it’ll boost your body’s defenses. They call these types of added substances “adjuvants.”

What It’s Used In

Product makers use squalene from certain animals or plants in things like:

How It’s Made

Scientists turn squalene into the more solid squalane by adding hydrogen to it. That’s a process called hydrogenation.

Where It Comes From

The squalane used in cosmetics, medicines, and supplements often comes from sharks. That’s because sharks -- especially ones that live in deep water -- have a lot of squalene in their liver oil.

In people, squalene is a key building block of certain hormones and other substances. Your bloodstream carries it throughout your body. Much of it goes to your skin. Newborns seem to have the most squalene. Your liver starts to make less of it after you turn 30 years old.

Squalene shows up naturally in foods like eggs and vegetable oils.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on March 12, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology: “Engineering Strategies in Microorganisms for the Enhanced Production of Squalene: Advances, Challenges and Opportunities.”

Biomed Research International: “Methods for Obtaining and Determination of Squalene from Natural Sources.”

FDA: “Influenza A (H5N1) Virus Monovalent Vaccine, Adjuvanted, manufactured by ID Biomedical Corporation -- Questions and Answers.”

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: “Non-Food Uses.”

Oceana: “Shark Squalene.”

AOCS Lipid Library: “Hydrogenation in Practice.”

Chemical and Engineering News: “On the hunt for alternatives to shark squalene for vaccines.”

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