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Squalane vs. Other Oils: The Differences, Explained

While squalane is an oil, it’s different from the beauty oils you may be familiar with. Here at Kiehl’s, we explain how squalane differs from other oils.

Fact: All oils aren't created equal. At Kiehl's, we have formulas starring squalane oil, avocado oil, and sunflower oil (to name a few). These ingredients are carefully selected for their respective products because of their individual benefits, texture, and which skin types they suit. Squalane, in particular, is unique from other oils in a few ways—and that’s exactly why it’s one of our most-used ingredients.

Because Kiehl’s Customer Representatives are often asked about the benefits of using squalane in lieu of other oils, we’ve decided to put together this brief guide on the unique properties and benefits of squalane in skincare products. Here, we’ll give you the rundown on what squalane is, how it differs from a similar compound known as squalene, and why squalane oil is a must-have in your skincare routine. Keep reading to learn how squalane is unique and what its natural properties can do for your skin.

What Is Squalane?

Squalane oil is a saturated form of the naturally-occurring lipid squalene (we’ll explain the differences between the two momentarily). Squalane boasts emollient properties—meaning it can help soften and smooth dry skin—and is commonly found in face creams, beauty oils, and other moisturizing skincare products. While it can be extracted from several different plant and animal sources, Kiehl’s only uses vegan squalane derived from plants.

A Kiehl’s favorite, squalane is a key ingredient in our Ultra Facial line, including the cult-classic Ultra Facial Cream. The lightweight moisturizer for all skin types provides instant and long-lasting hydration that lasts up to 24 hours. It also helps protect the skin’s natural moisture barrier, leaving your skin stronger, smoother, and healthier-looking over time.

Squalane vs. Squalene, Explained

As noted above, squalene (with an ‘e’) is a naturally-occurring lipid found in the fatty tissues of animals and various plants, including olives, sugarcane, and rice bran. It’s also a primary lipid component of sebum, skin’s natural oil, and is involved with keeping the skin hydrated and smooth.

Though it occurs naturally in the skin, squalene is unstable and oxidizes upon exposure to the air. Oxidation causes the naturally-colorless oil to darken, thicken, and emit a (faint, but nonetheless noticeable) odor—obviously, not ideal if you’re putting it on your face. Adding a hydrogen atom to squalene transforms the molecule into squalane, a much more stable oil. Because it’s less prone to oxidation, squalane is typically preferred for use in cosmetic formulations.

How Is Squalane Different From Other Beauty Oils?

If you’re wondering about other popular beauty oils and how they compare to squalane, you wouldn’t be alone: “squalane vs. argan oil” and “squalane vs. rosehip oil” are both popular search terms on Google, according to our research. Read on to learn how squalane differs from other commonly-used beauty oils.

1. Squalane Is Lightweight and Non-Greasy

Many, if not most, plant-derived oils have emollient properties similar to those of squalane. But some oils can be slow to absorb, which may give the skin a slick appearance. Squalane, however, doesn’t have this drawback. It’s lightweight and non-greasy—which means you can use it without worrying about excessive shine.

Because of its pleasant texture, squalane is a popular choice for use in face oils, including Midnight Recovery Concentrate Face Oil. This luxurious face oil for dry skin boosts essential moisture to help restore the appearance of tired-looking skin. It helps visibly improve radiance and even skin’s texture within a single night, while continued use helps reveal a smoother, more youthful appearance over time. We recommend applying the oil in the evenings as the last step of your nighttime skincare routine: Just dispense two to three drops into (clean) palms, then pat your hands onto your face, focusing on areas prone to dryness or dullness.

You can use squalane on your body, too. Give the skin below your neck the TLC it needs with Creme de Corps Nourishing Dry Body Oil. Made with squalane and lightweight grapeseed oil, this sprayable body oil nourishes and hydrates the skin without leaving behind a greasy residue. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used alone or in conjunction with your favorite body cream for added skin-softening benefits.

2. It’s Nearly Identical To Your Skin’s Natural Oils

Earlier, we mentioned that squalene (with an ‘e’) is a major component of sebum—it accounts for around 13% of your skin’s natural oil.I Squalane, too, can be found in the skin, though production diminishes drastically as you age, leaving the skin vulnerable to dryness. Because of its close similarity to your skin’s natural lipids, squalane is highly compatible with the skin (even if you’re prone to sensitivity). Unlike squalene, which can produce pore-clogging molecules when exposed to oxygen, squalane is non-comedogenic, so it’s suitable even for blemish-prone skin.

3. Squalane Can Be Derived From Many Different Sources

At Kiehl’s, we do everything in our power to make sure our formulas are safe for you and the environment. Our Future Made Better mission entails using recyclable packaging and reducing waste, but also utilizing renewable resources where we can. Squalane is one such resource, as it can be derived from numerous different plants (including, as mentioned earlier, olive oil and wheat germ oil). By diversifying how we source our squalane oil, we can work to ensure we don’t place an undue burden on any single resource.

In the past, many Kiehl’s favorites were made with olive-derived squalane; recently, however, we’ve also been sourcing this coveted ingredient from responsibly-grown sugarcane. You’ll find the latter in Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Mask with 10.5% Squalane. The unique balm-to-oil formula works while you sleep to help replenish and strengthen your skin’s natural moisture barrier. It also helps protect against moisture loss, leaving your skin noticeably more hydrated over time. We recommend using this nourishing overnight face mask three times per week at night to help keep your skin hydrated and healthy-looking.

5 More Kiehl’s Favorites With Squalane

Now that you’re up-to-date on what squalane is and what makes it unique, keep reading to discover five more Kiehl’s favorites that contain this powerhouse ingredient.

1. Ultra Facial Cleanser

We’ll start with a classic: the iconic Ultra Facial Cleanser. Formulated with olive-derived squalane, glycerin, and avocado oil, this gentle face wash helps remove dirt and debris without stripping the skin. It’s pH-balanced to help maintain the skin’s natural balance and dermatologist-tested for safety on all skin types.

Kiehl's Ultra Facial product line

2. Ultra Facial Toner

Another staple in our Ultra Facial line, Ultra Facial Toner is an alcohol-free toner made with squalane and apricot kernel oil. It’s carefully formulated to remove surface impurities without over-drying the skin. We recommend using it after washing your face to help hydrate, soothe, and prepare your skin for the rest of your routine.

3. Creme de Corps Body Lotion with Cocoa Butter

Squalane comes together with cocoa butter and shea butter in the formula of Kiehl’s cult-classic Creme de Corps Body Lotion with Cocoa Butter. Suitable for all skin types but ideal for dry skin, this luxurious moisturizer absorbs quickly and provides long-lasting yet non-greasy hydration. Apply it liberally to damp skin after showering for softer, smoother-feeling skin over time.

4. Midnight Recovery Eye

Since squalane is similar to your skin’s natural oil, it’s suitable for use even around the delicate eye area. You’ll find squalane oil in Midnight Recovery Eye, an anti-aging eye cream that helps smooth and restore the eye area while you sleep. The lavender-infused formula also helps diminish puffiness and dark circles, leaving you with a fresher, more youthful-looking eye area over time.

5. Lip Balm #1

Keep chapped lips at bay with Lip Balm #1, a Kiehl’s favorite since its launch more than 60 years ago. This all-purpose lip balm with squalane and vitamin E helps nourish and soothe dry lips, leaving them feeling smoother. Use it morning, night, and throughout the day as needed to hydrate and protect your pout.


*Huang, Zih-Rou et al. “Biological and pharmacological activities of squalene and related compounds: potential uses in cosmetic dermatology.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 14,1 540-54. 23 Jan. 2009.

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