What is squalane and why is it everywhere?

For beauty buffs you may already be familiar with squalane, the buzzy ingredient isn’t necessarily new but it’ll soon be making its way into your skincare routine thanks to its hydrating powers. Derived from squalene – an oil naturally found in the body, squalane basically mimics your skin’s natural moisturising abilities, with research showing it has highly potential antioxidant, detoxifying and hydrating benefits. No wonder people are calling it the new hyaluronic acid.

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So what is it and how does it work?

There’s two types of formulas on the market, plant-derived and animal-derived. “This deeply moisturising ingredient was traditionally harvested from shark liver, though through biotechnology we have found a way to create a highly stable and sustainable [version] with sugarcane,” explains Ramya Viswanathan Biossance’s Senior Product Development Manager.

Not only does it work to help hydrate skin, it can also sync with and strengthen our moisture barrier. “This barrier is what keeps our skin healthy so it can protect against the outside world,” explains Viswanathan. “When our skin’s barrier becomes compromised, whether through severe climates or harsh products, it shows in irritation, redness and other sensitive skin issues.” So by keeping this barrier in check, skin is healthy and smooth.

What’s all the fuss about?

Aside from hydration, squalane is proving popular because everyone can use it. “It’s a versatile oil that benefits all skin types, even the most sensitive skin to oily skin types – which are often dehydrated from harsh stripping products, can benefit from squalane since it is weightless and non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores,” says Viswanathan. From fighting free radicals – the nasties that accelerate ageing, to soothing irritation, this skin-booster is also making headlines because unlike other oils, it absorbs quickly leaving no sticky residue behind. “Because it’s a natural component of our skin’s moisture barrier, it’s recognised by our body and absorbs quickly,” she explains. But the best part is: it’s not just for your face. The heavy-duty hydrator can be used as a cure-all for both your body and hair.

How do I use it?

You’ll find it in its purest form labelled something like 100% squalane oil, which is best for both body and hair, or as an addition to other skincare ingredients like vitamin C and hyaluronic acid so you can tailor your skincare routine accordingly.

For tired, dry skin…

Try: Ella Bache Spirulines Firming Day Cream ($125, at Ella Bache)
Why: This rich moisturiser blends plant-derived squalane with hyaluronic acid, spirulina and wheat germ oil.

For all over:

Try: Biossance 100% Squalane Oil ($50, at Sephora)
Why: It’s a multitasking oil that can cover you from your head to your toes, literally.

For on-the go hydration:

Try: Zen Botanics Simply Squalane ($29.95, at Clean Beauty Market.com)
Why: Derived from olives, this handy oil is great for dry patches or doubles as a highlighter.