Squalane in Cosmetics – Throwback Thursday Ingredients

There is a popular Internet meme called Throwback Thursday where people are encouraged to post something interesting about their past (usually a picture).  We’re going to try it here on Chemists Corner.  Today Kelly looks at a cosmetic ingredient that was much more widely used in the past.


Squalane was a commonly used and very effective emollient with excellent skin feel. It is a hydrocarbon with a 24-carbon backbone and 6 methyl group side chains spread across the molecule as seen in the diagram.

squalane cosmetics

It has fallen out of favor in recent years due to unfavorable sourcing (animal derived, from shark liver oil) plus the instability of supply and cost from olive-derived squalane. But squalane may be poised for a come back due to innovative fermentation methods that produce sqaulane from sugacane.


Squalane is similar to squalene which is a lipid and naturally occurring component of human sebum. It has a 24-carbon backbone and 6 methyl group side chains but is unsaturated containing 6 double bonds along the backbone.


It is also found in some plants and the liver of deep sea sharks. The presence of double bonds leads to oxidative stability problems with sqaulene. That lead to the hydrogenation of squalene to create sqaulane.

Squalane resurgence

Sqaulane has good sensorial properties and is effective in reducing transepidermal water loss.

As mentioned previously, sourcing from sharks and cost concerns of olive-derived squalane dramatically decreased usage. Recently, the use of fermentation to create a bio-synthetic precursor to sqaulene has made the production of a more consistent and cost effective sqaulane possible. Will sqaulane make a comeback in the cosmetic industry? A quick search of Sephora.com shows there already appear to be a few new products containing squalane on the market. Will your formulation be next?

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