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Squalane Vs Squalene

September 11, 2015

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between the two chemicals listed above?

Have you ever googled them and found that one of them comes from Shark and one comes from vegetables?

Or did you think that one is just a mis-spelling of the other?

Well none of the above hits the nail on the head so let’s take a closer look.


Squalene was discovered when it was isolated from Shark cartilage by Japanese Doctor Dr Tsujimoto. The name Squalene comes from Squalidae – a species of shark.

More recently the cosmetic industry has turned to vegetables to find natural feedstock for cosmetic manufacture and found an equivalent squalene in olives.

Chemically Squalene is a phytosterol (cholesterol) that is present in all animals and vegetables in varying quantities.

Shark Squalene is still available to the cosmetic chemist but there really is no need to use it any more and material origin is usually made very clear at time of purchase (by the chemist).


Squalane is what you get when you hydrogenate Squalene. Hydrogenation is a process of breaking any double bonds that exist in a molecule and replacing them with hydrogen. This makes the resulting fat harder and gives it a higher melting point. Features that can be quite useful in balm making.

Hydrogenation is one of those chemical reactions that is usually allowed in natural and even organically certified products as the process is pretty clean and requires only heat and pressure as catalysts.

Hydrogenated vegetable oils do come under the spotlight at times from a dietary perspective because the hydrogenation process can give rise to TRANS FATS.  Trans fats are a non-issue in cosmetic formulations unless you are in the habit of eating lots and lots of face cream or lip balm AND the level of trans fats is usually controlled pretty well during the hydrogenation reaction so as to become only a minor contaminant if present at all.

SO before we go let’s remember that both Squalene and Squalane can be from animal or vegetable sources because the name relates to the chemical structure and not the material origin.



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