Ingredient Deep Dive: Squalane

Welcome to the ingredient deep dive where we shine a light on some of our more popular skincare ingredients. We’ll be looking at a versatile and nourishing ingredient that seems to be everywhere these days: Squalane.

If you’ve ever found yourself asking what is Squalane? Why is it everywhere? And how does it help? We have the answers for you.

What is Squalane?

Let’s start off with the basics, what is Squalane? Squalane is also an exceptional hydrator that mimics your skin’s natural oils. It keeps your skin hydrated while supporting your skin’s natural moisture barrier.

Although it looks and feels like an oil, you may have noticed that our 100% Plant-Derived Squalane is oil-free. It is incredibly lightweight and gets easily absorbed by the skin without any lingering feeling, and it’s also non-comedogenic. This makes it suitable for all skin types, including those with oily and/or congested skin.

What’s the Difference Between Squalane and Squalene?

So is it squalane or squalene? And does it really matter? The short answer is yes: there is a difference.

Squalene–with an “e”, is a lipid naturally produced by your skin to help keep it protected and moisturized. However as you age, the production of squalene decreases. Squalene is not unique to humans, it can actually be found in animals and plants alike. One abundant source of squalene is shark liver, but it is mainly derived from plant sources such as olives or through fermentation processes.

While squalene is a great moisturizer and protectant, it doesn't hold up well when added to skincare products. In order for it to have a shelf life, squalene has to be hydrogenated which turns it into squalane–with an “a”.

At The Ordinary, we care about all animals (and fish) including sharks, so we are happy to know that the beauty industry today has moved away from shark-derived squalane. The squalane used in our products is 100% derived from plants, and we remain committed to being vegan and cruelty-free.

Benefits of Squalane

Everyone’s skin has a built-in system to keep it moisturized and healthy, this is your moisture barrier. Sebaceous glands produce sebum — a mixture of fats and oils — that help protect the outer layer of the skin.

Sometimes this built-in system just doesn’t cut it, which is when you might start reaching for those hydrating serums and oils.

Since squalane mimics your skin’s natural oils, it is an excellent hydrator that can help support your skin barrier keeping your skin happy and soft.

Squalane is not just for the skin, it’s also been found to have some benefits for hair as well. Squalane can help increase heat protection, add shine, and reduce breakage. So next time you add a little bit too much squalane to your palms, run it through your hair.

How to Add Squalane to Your Skincare Regimen

Squalane is such a versatile skincare ingredient that it actually features in quite a few products at The Ordinary. As such, there are a number of ways you can incorporate squalane into your skincare regimen.


Squalane Cleanser
Prep with the Squalane Cleanser, our balm-to-oil cleanser that removes makeup and dirt while supporting the skin’s barrier through hydration. Our Squalane Cleanser is great as a stand-alone cleanser or great as the first step in a dual-cleanse routine. Our Squalane Cleanser is non-comedogenic and soap-free and is suitable for all skin types.

Dispense about a dime-sized amount to the palm of your hands and rub together to warm the product, allowing it to melt into an oil-like consistency. This can take a few seconds, but you’ll notice the change immediately and there will be no friction or tugging. Massage onto dry skin and then rinse with warm water. As you rinse, the cleanser should change into a milky consistency and wash away easily leaving your skin feeling cleansed but still hydrated.


The majority of our Squalane products fall under the Treat step of the Prep, Treat, Seal Regimen so you have a lot to choose from to help target your skin concerns. Explore some of our Squalane products below:

100% Plant-Derived Squalane
Of course, we have our 100% Plant-Derived Squalane. All squalane and nothing else. As we’ve talked about so far, squalane is great because it mimics your natural oils and helps to support your skin barrier. It can also add shine, reduce breakage, and increase heat protection for your hair.

As a multi-benefit product that is suitable for all skin types, 100% Plant-Derived Squalane is easy to add to your regimen. Apply 2-3 drops (for face and neck) and gently pat into the skin after applying other serums.

Squalane can be added to wet or dry hair. You may need to play around with the number of drops depending on hair length and texture, but always remember to start with less than what you think you need because you can always add more if needed.

Salicylic Acid 2% Anhydrous Solution
If you’re looking to target signs of congestion, then you may want to try our Salicylic Acid 2% Anhydrous Solution, a squalane-based version of our iconic Salicylic Acid serum. This version is a gentle formula designed to exfoliate the skin, decongest pores, and smooth texture. It also helps to reduce the appearance of redness and uneven skin tone.

What makes this formula different from some of our other Salicylic Acid offerings is that it was designed to have a slow release of Salicylic Acid over time to help reduce the potential for irritation. This makes it ideal for new users of acid exfoliators, and the squalane base of course makes it great for drier skin types.

Salicylic Acid 2% Anhydrous Solution can be used as a targeted spot treatment or all-over face use. Apply 2-3 drops (enough for the face and neck) after cleansing and other water-based serums such as Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5.

As a direct acid, Salicylic Acid 2% Anhydrous Solution should be used ideally in the PM and don’t forget to apply SPF in the mornings.

Retinol 0.2% in Squalane
To target signs of aging our Retinol 0.2% in Squalane. Retinol is an all-star when it comes to skincare ingredients. It helps improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles that can arise from a loss of collagen and elastin, all while evening the appearance of skin texture and tone.

Retinol is not without its drawbacks, however, and is commonly associated with dryness. This is one of the reasons why we have our Retinoids in a squalane-based formula. The squalane helps to enhance surface-level hydration and to help combat that dryness.

Retinol 0.2% in Squalane is an anhydrous formula and so would be applied after cleansing and other water-based serums like Multi-Peptide + HA Serum. Apply 2-3 drops, enough for the face and neck.

As retinoids can increase sun sensitivity, it’s important to apply SPF in the mornings when adding any retinols or retinoids into your regimen.

Vitamin C 23% Suspension + HA Spheres 2%
Last but certainly not least, is our Vitamin C 23% Suspension + HA Spheres 2%. This formula uses direct vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid) to help target signs of aging, as well as brighten and balance uneven skin tone.

Direct vitamin C will oxidize in water, which is why our formula is both water and oil-free, and based in (you guessed it) squalane. Combined with the hyaluronic acid spheres, this makes our formula hydrating as well as brightening.

Since this is a suspension, this should be applied towards the end of your skincare regimen after your serums and oils, but before any moisturizers. Vitamin C 23% Suspension + HA Spheres 2% can have a grainy texture, but this is due to the vitamin C powder which is suspended in the oil-like base.

While our Vitamin C 23% Suspension + HA Spheres 2% can be applied in the mornings and/or evenings, we recommend it for evening use due to its texture.

It’s easy to see now how squalane is such an impactful ingredient.. Whether you’re looking to enhance your skincare routine with our 100% Plant-Derived Squalane for a boost of hydration or target specific skin concerns with our Squalane-based products like Salicylic Acid 2% Anhydrous Solution or Retinol 0.2% in Squalane, The Ordinary has got you covered – Explore our Squalane products here.