Squalane vs squalene – what’s the difference?

Squalane vs squalene

Both squalane and squalene serve a similar purpose – these fats help to keep the skin moisturised. So what’s the difference? Squalene is naturally produced by the body, however if we want to apply squalene topically for its skin benefits, then there is a small issue: it’s not the most stable compound in the world. This is where squalane comes in – this compound is a much more stable analogue of squalene and is thus more commonly found in skincare products. P.S. they’re both as equally as effective – it’s just that the skincare industry prefers to use the more stable squalane in products.

The reason squalene is so unstable is that it is prone to oxidation due to the double bonds that are present in the molecule; when exposed to air squalene will degrade quicker because of this. Squalane does not have this problem as a saturated hydrocarbon.[1] However, the double bonds present in squalene aren’t all bad! It is these double bonds that make squalene an antioxidant – they are capable of scavenging free radicals, protecting the skin. Unfortunately, squalane doesn’t possess antioxidant properties (the downside to no double bonds).


What does squalane (and squalene) do?

As emollients, both squalane and squalene help to soothe, soften, and increase moisture levels in the skin. These molecules also reduce transepidermal water loss (the evaporation of water from the skin’s surface). As we’ve touched on above, squalene is also an antioxidant because of its double bonds, an advantage over squalane. In addition, squalene has been noted to show anti-tumour activity. A study whereby skin tumours were initiated in 50 female mice were treated with 5% squalene. This resulted in a 26.67% reduction in the incidence of tumours in the squalene-treated group.[2]

Top picks

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Acure The Essentials 100% Plant Squalane Oil

If you’re after a vegan, cruelty-free product then this budget-friendly oil with a 100% squalane may be for you!

BIOSSANCE 100% Squalane Oil

Another 100% squalane oil, but made from renewable sugarcane.

bareMinerals COMPLEXION RESCUE Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream Broad Spectrum SPF

This tinted moisturiser not only offers SPF 30, but it is actually moisturising thanks to the presence of squalene in the formulation.

Youth To The People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Overnight Face Mask 

A blend of maqui, vitamin C, squalane, prickly pear and hyaluronic acid – this face mask packs a punch! With antioxidants vitamin C and Maqui, prickly pear to ease signs of redness and squalane and hyaluronic acid for intense facial hydrating.


[1] Ishikawa, A., Ito, J., Shimizu, N., Kato, S., Kobayashi, E., Ohnari, H., Sakata, O., Naru, E., & Nakagawa, K. (2021). Linoleic acid and squalene are oxidized by discrete oxidation mechanisms in human sebum. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences1500(1), 112–121. 

[2] Huang, Z. R., Lin, Y. K., & Fang, J. Y. (2009). Biological and pharmacological activities of squalene and related compounds: potential uses in cosmetic dermatology. Molecules14(1), 540-554.