Toxic Timeout: Squalane

WHAT IT IS: Squalene is an organic compound that all plants and animals contain. Originally, and quite controversially, it was (and still can be) sourced from shark liver oil. Researchers were intrigued by the fact that sharks didn’t develop cancer – they later discovered the high levels of squalene in their livers and began to source it for this reason. Today squalane is used for its emollient properties in many beauty products for its soothing and anti-aging benefits, as well as enhancing the absorption and penetration of other ingredients deeper into the skin.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Squalene is an integral part of our skin tissue. As we age, our levels of squalene in our bodies and skin greatly diminish, which can lead to aging, sagging skin and age spots. Naturally high in antioxidants, squalene reverses signs of aging, helps the skin hold onto moisture without a greasy or heavy feel and promotes cell growth – making it a sought after addition to many skin care formulations.

Equally important, squalene is naturally found in human sebum. This waxy substance is secreted by the sebaceous glands and helps protect the skin from external invaders like bacteria. As a substance nearly identical to the natural oils we already produce, we can use it without disrupting the natural skin ecology or causing outbreaks. To make it more stable, squal-ene is converted into a hydrogenated squal-ane, a term you may hear used interchangeably, but this hydrogenation processing is the key difference between terms. While we certainly don’t want to ingest hydrogenated oils, it’s this processing that makes the oils more shelf stable.

How to Source Correctly: Squalane’s big boom in the cosmetic industry has caused many shark species to be overfished (in some cases, near extinction), making it that much more important to read labels and ensure the squalene and squalane in our beauty products are sourced from plants, not animals! Thankfully, many companies have turned to alternative sources, creating squalene and squalane from 100% plant-derived oils, including olive oil, wheat germ and sugarcane. Biossance is one such brand we’ve discovered that’s developed a 100% plant-derived squalane. In collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, scientists of their parent company Amyris, developed one of the world’s leading anti-malarial treatments. Having treated over 3,000,000 people to date, this company is dedicated to using science to make the rarified accessible and the natural sustainable. Get your glow on and source our squalane pick, here.

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