This buzzy skincare ingredient is primarily sourced from shark liver — but here’s a cruelty-free option


By Wei Yeen Loh

This buzzy skincare ingredient is primarily sourced from shark liver — but here’s a cruelty-free option

Fact: did you know that the oil typically found in shark livers is the same ingredient found in most cosmetic products on your bathroom vanity? Incidentally, this oil happens to be a buzzy skincare ingredient right now—squalene (which is what squalane comes from) can also be found in our skin’s own natural moisture, a variety of plants and, as mentioned, shark liver.

Another fact: millions of rare, deep-sea sharks are slaughtered each year to provide squalene to the beauty industry. If your niggling conscience is convincing you to vegan-ise your beauty routine as you read this, you’re on the right page.

Recently, we learned more about why a plant-derived squalane skincare routine is worth investing in. We had a chat with McKenzie Bolt, Global Education Content Manager at Biossance, a 100% natural, cruelty-free skincare brand from USA that’s making headlines for its eco-friendly ingredient list. Psst: Aimee Song of @songofstyle is a major fan—here’s why:

Are there major differences between animal- and plant-derived squalane? If yes, what are some of the pros and cons?

Biossance is a vegan brand so we don’t use any animal-derived ingredients, even things like honey or beeswax. There are pros and cons to either, but our stance on not using animal-derived ingredients is because we’re trying not to harm the environment.

Anytime you take or use an animal-derived product, you have to think about the larger impact on the landscape, the environment, people and other plants that revolve around that animal as well. Animal-derived products are not always bad, but we find that there are better options that are healthier for you and the planet.

Our scientists make sure that our ingredients are nature-identical and that our body recognises it. Our 100% Squalane Oil has a patented technology that uses fermented sugarcane to get the squalane oil, instead of deriving it from olive oil and shark liver. In this process, our squalane is more sustainable, more stable and will not oxidise, therefore making it a better match for your skin.

Is squalane suitable for every skin type? Are there potential side effects to this active ingredient?

Biossance practices biotech beauty—and that’s taking biology and the best of technology to give you a formula that’s optimised to work with your skin. Not everything in nature is good for you, yet not everything synthetic is bad for you. So Biossance marries the two so that you use the best of science and nature to create products your skin agrees with.

This line is safe for everyone, even those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What are the other skincare ingredients that are most compatible with squalane? What skincare pairings would you recommend?

As squalane oil is a miracle moisturising molecule, we love to pair it with ingredients like vitamin C and rose. We’ve blended an oil-soluble form of vitamin C with squalane for a weightless formula—it’s a dry oil—and the vitamin C gets delivered to your skin instead of staying on the surface.

Vitamin C can be irritating on the skin, but when you add it with squalane, it takes away the irritation. A lot of people use retinol and it has side effects too, but our Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum doesn’t irritate the skin at all. The “Phyto” means “from plants”, so it’s truly a plant-based retinol and the retinol ingredient we use is called bakuchiol.

We like bakuchiol because it doesn’t cause irritation and sun sensitivity. We clinically test all formulas for effectiveness, and our bakuchiol was found to perform just as well as retinol in some studies. Basically fake retinol, real results.

If we’re going to stay on the hydration vein, the Squalane + Omega Repair Cream is a great choice as well. We were able to use lipids and amino acids and ceramides combined with squalane to repair the barrier of your skin. If you have a contraindicative barrier, your skin can feel uncomfortable with different products, but this will fix it up. Squalane makes all the other ingredients work better—it’s kind of like superhero.

What are the most common myths about squalane that you’d like to address?

A lot of people assume that oil should be used on oily skin. That’s a big myth because your skin is made of oil and water and you need both. When you strip your skin of oil, your skin retaliates by producing more oil.

You want an equal balance of both for your skin. When you strip oil with foaming cleansers, your skin overcompensates with more oil. But squalane doesn’t clog your pores and it gives your skin the balance you want with the right amount you need. Two drops for the face would suffice and it sinks in really quickly.

The right oils work with the skin. If you use coconut or olive oil, those tend to just sit on your skin instead of absorbing in.

Squalane from olive oil is certainly better than shark liver-derived oil. But there are a lot of by-products that are involved through the process of acquiring the oil and the end result is that squalane isn’t pure. Good olive oil crops are dependent on seasons, whereas processing squalane from sugarcane is always, if not more consistent.

Is squalane suitable for other parts of the body apart from the face i.e. hair, hands and nails?

Absolutely! I use Biossance 100% Squalane Oil for the ends on my hair, shave my legs with it, and it’s my full-body moisturiser. We have people who tell us that they use it for eczema and even on their cuticles—whatever you need to moisturise. It is safe for children as well.

What are some beauty tips you’d recommend for well-hydrated, healthy skin?


Our squalane oil is lightweight enough to not feel greasy on the skin. But here’s a tip for full-body hydration: right after a shower, pat dry your skin with a towel to leave it slightly damp. Then apply squalane oil and let it completely absorb into the pores. Right after showering is a good time to apply it as your pores are open from the steam and it just soaks in all the goodness.

For the best #SelfCare session, get a nice silk robe, do your makeup and by the time you put your clothes on, the oil would have sunk in.

Which goes first: face oil or moisturiser?

We recommend applying moisturiser first and then oil. Here’s a better explanation: if you pour water into a glass, then you pour oil in, the oil stays right on top. It’s the same with the skin. If you apply your facial oils first, the water-based moisturisers are not gonna penetrate into the skin. What you want to do is put the water-based products first then seal it with oil.

Alternatively, you could do it the other way round if it makes you feel better. You can also use oil as a moisturiser if you want to as well.

Biossance officially launches on this 6 August

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