Skin thirsty? Squalane is the ‘Big Gulp’ of moisturizers for dry complexions


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Hyaluronic acid is like the popular girl in school—the captain of the skin-care cheer squad, if you will. But as if plucked from a throwback cheer movie of your choosing: Another hydrating ingredient is giving it a run for its place in your skin squad, looking for v-i-c-t-o-r-y for your complexion. That ingredient is squalane.

Like hyaluronic acid, squalene (its base compound) is naturally made within your our bodies. “Squalene is a lipid in our sebum produced naturally by our own bodies,” says Liana Cutrone, a skin therapist with Heyday. Also like hyaluronic acid, it tends to diminish within your body as you age—which is why it’s a good addition to your skin-care products.

In skin-care formulations, squalene originally came from shark liver oil, which is obviously frowned upon for its sourcing. You can get it from plants, though—Cutrone points out that common sources include amaranth seed, rice bran, and wheat germs. Naissan Wesley, MD, FACMS, a board-certified dermatologist and Arbonne scientific advisory board member, adds that you can also find it from extra virgin olive oil. But squalene “must often be hydrogenated first to give it stability,” she says—because it’s not particularly stable on it’s own. Squalane, however, is completely hydrogenated squalene, which is why it’s more common on skin-care shelves. “Squalane is more commonly used as it’s typically more stable in products,” says Cutrone.

The reason you can find it on every shelf? It’s super hydrating and calming on skin. “Squalane and squalene act as lubricants on the skin to help give it a soft, smooth appearance,” says Dr. Wesley, who says they’re both helpful for all skin types. To add the moisturizing essential to your own regimen, keep scrolling for squalane-spiked skin-care products to stock up on.

Photo: Biossance

Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer, $52

This is such a dependable, good-for-all-skin-types face gel that splashes your complexion with refreshing, soothing moisture, and absorbs instantly with no stickiness. The squalane is combined with barrier-boosting probiotics and stress-reducing red seaweed for an all-around nourished face.

Photo: The Inkey List

The Inkey List Squalane Oil, $12

Wallet-friendly brand The Inkey List makes a really lightweight plant-derived squalane that works for all skin types to plump a thirsty complexion.

Photo: Peter Thomas Roth

Peter Thomas Roth 100% Purified Squalane Oil, $23

Purely sugarcane-derived squalane makes up this oil, which is really good for oily skin types—it absorbs instantly, isn’t greasy, and has zero smell. It’s just pure hydration for your skin.

Photo: The Ordinary

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane, $8

Squalane is literally the only ingredient in this serum, which is lightweight but provides serious moisture for all skin types at a great price point.

Photo: Nuori

Nuori Supreme Moisture Mask, $89

If your skin’s extra dehydrated. swipe on this moisture-boosting mask, which is a blend of olive oil-derived squalane, hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3, and various rose waters that work as a tall drink of water for your face.

Pro trip: Here’s how to apply a hyaluronic acid serum for even more skin moisture. And these are the best dry skin moisturizers to stock up on as the temps drop.

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