Squalene and Squalane

Safety Information

Expert Panel for Cosmetic Ingredient Safety

The Expert Panel for Cosmetic Ingredient Safety (Expert Panel) first reviewed the safety of squalene and squalane in 1982, concluding both were safe as cosmetic ingredients in what was then present practices of use and concentration. 

The Expert Panel reviewed safety data and uses again in 2001 and 2019 reaffirming the original conclusion that squalane and squalene are safe as cosmetic ingredients in the present practices of use and concentration. 

Squalane is listed on the EU’s Cosmetic Ingredient Inventory (CosIng) and may be used without restrictions in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union.

Squalene is listed in the EU’s Annex II, specifically under entry 419, which designates substances that are prohibited from use in cosmetic products.


Squalene and Squalane

What Is It?

Squalene is an unsaturated branched chain hydrocarbon found in shark liver oil, a variety of plant oils or derived through fermentation. Squalane is a purified, odorless and fully saturated (i.e., hydrogenated; non-oxidizable) version of squalene. Squalene, in its natural state, lacks stability. Therefore, for skin-care purposes, it goes through a saturation process to become squalane. If squalene was not hydrogenated, it would oxidize when exposed to the air and no longer retain its benefits.

Why Is It Used?

Both squalene and squalane are non-greasy moisturizing ingredients and skin protectants. Pleasant to the touch, very soluble and resistant to extreme temperatures, these properties make them favored ingredients in moisturizing creams, foundations and other cosmetics products. Squalane is lighter and has a longer shelf life than squalene as hydrogenation protects it from the effects of light and the air (deterioration). 

Cosmetics and personal care product companies are taking action to protect biodiversity from further loss or moving beyond conserving species that are threatened or endangered. Many of these companies rely on natural ingredients derived from plants for their formulations, such as plant-based squalene. Learn more about the Personal Care Products Council’s (PCPC) member companies’ ongoing efforts to conserve biodiversity here.

Scientific Facts

Squalene is a lipid, or fat, that is naturally produced by oil glands to hydrate and maintain the skin’s protective barrier. It is naturally found in high concentrations in shark liver, which used to be a common source of squalene. Today, the squalene used in cosmetics and personal care products is primarily derived from plant-based sources. Olive oil is one of the main vegetable sources of squalene, but it can also be derived from sugar cane, rice bran, wheat germ and palm trees. In addition to its moisturizing properties, squalene acts as an antioxidant, helping to combat free-radical skin damage.

Squalane is a lipid found naturally in many animals and plants, as well as in human sebum. Squalane is made by completely hydrogenating squalene. The hydrogenation of squalene also occurs naturally in the human body. Next to squalene, squalane is the most common hydrocarbon in these lipids.