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The best squalane products to add to your skincare routine, from face oils to moisturisers

The hardworking ingredient can leave skin soft, supple and glowing

Louise Whitbread
Thursday 09 September 2021 14:09
<p>We’ve spent weeks testing out a line-up of products featuring the star ingredient from cleansers to multi-purpose balms</p>

We’ve spent weeks testing out a line-up of products featuring the star ingredient from cleansers to multi-purpose balms

There are many skincare ingredients that have stood the test of time as trends come and go.

These include vitamin C, retinol and hyaluronic acid to name a few, with another classic being squalane. The non-greasy oil was traditionally sourced from sharks’ livers, but in recent years has become almost entirely plant-based, derived from sugarcane or olives.

Squalene is a moisturising agent produced naturally in our bodies but as we age, we make less of it. When hydrogen is added to squalene, it becomes squalane (note the subtle difference in spelling here), an ingredient that can be applied topically to help reduce water loss, hydrate skin and strengthen the skin barrier, while keeping skin supple.

It’s often praised for its lightweight texture that doesn’t feel greasy or sticky and can be particularly helpful for dry, dehydrated and mature skin, but all skin types can enjoy its benefits without any issues. We’ve spent weeks testing out a line-up of products featuring the star ingredient from facial oils to cleansers, moisturisers and multi-purpose balms.

How we tested

During our review process, we carefully examined each product to see how easily they could be incorporated into our existing skincare routine, looking at texture, formula, speed of absorption and any changes we noticed with continuous use.

We were especially keen to see just how non-greasy it is, as oils are often avoided by those with combination or oily skin types. Putting them to the test day and night, beneath make-up and when barefaced, here’s our review of the top squalene products to buy.

Read more:

The best squalene products for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – The Ordinary squalane cleanser: £13.90,
  • Best facial oil – Indie Lee squalane facial oil: £13,
  • Best budget squalane facial oil – The Inkey list squalane oil: £8.99,
  • Best squalane moisturiser – Biossance squalane + probiotic gel moisturizer: £44,
  • Best squalane lip balm – Then I Met You honey dew lip mask: £22,
  • Best squalane for hair – Garden of Wisdom 100% pure squalane oil: £10,
  • Best for dry skin – Embryolisse laboratories cicalisse balm: £22.99,
  • Best squalane cleanser – Augustinius Bader the cleansing balm: £55,
  • Best body lotion – Kiehl’s crème de corps: £22.80,
  • Best lip oil – Votary tinted lip gloss: £40,

The Ordinary squalane cleanser

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

This is the only cleanser that The Ordinary sells, and it’s the most fuss-free, no frills formula we’ve tried. The lightweight balm removes make-up efficiently, leaving skin feeling clean and refreshed.

The texture is akin to a thick cream and is soothing without being overly greasy, leaving your skin feeling super soft. It’s ideal if you want something richer to melt down your make-up, but aren’t keen on the feel of an oil-based balm.

It’s available in a 50ml and 150ml version, but we’d strongly recommend opting for the latter to make it last, the smaller tube is a great option for travelling. It’s suitable for all skin types too, and our reviewer loved using it on her sensitive, redness-prone complexion.

Indie Lee squalane facial oil

Best: Facial oil

Rating: 9/10

Infused with squalane derived from olives, this facial oil was one of the few we tried that was suitable to use both day and night. We found one drop was enough for our combination skin in the morning, but we loved a generous pour of four drops come nighttime. It has a lovely lightweight texture that’s fast-absorbing and leaves skin feeling soft and supple. It made a big difference to areas of dryness on our cheeks as well as combating the flaking effect from regularly using retinol. We used the 10ml bottle over the course of six weeks, but it’s also available in a 30ml size (£32, if you wanted a larger quantity.

The Inkey List squalane oil

Best: Budget squalane facial oil

Rating: 9/10

Known and loved for its budget-friendly beauty hits, The Inkey List is all about educating skincare fans on what ingredients you skin needs and why, with the inner of all its packaging containing detailed information on how to use each product in your routine. Its un-fussy, fragrancce-free squalane oil is easy to massage into skin and leaves a smooth, soft texture. It’s lightweight without any greasiness and is a great introductory face oil if you’re hesitant to add one into your routine.

Biossance squalane + probiotic gel moisturizer

Best: Squalane moisturiser

Rating: 9/10

Biossance’s whole line centres around squalane, and its gel moisturiser is a refreshing, cooling boost for dehydrated skin that all skin types can enjoy. The formula is lightweight and fast-absorbing, free from fragrance so less likely to cause irritation and perfect for providing an instant moisture hit. It’s lovely under make-up too, giving a dewy but not shiny complexion, and is by far the easiest product to slot into your routine if you want to soak up the benefits of squalene without using a facial oil.

Then I Met You honey dew lip mask

Best: Squalane lip balm

Rating: 9/10

Given its lightweight, non-greasy properties, it’s no surprise that squalane makes for an excellent lip balm. Don’t be put off by the word “mask” here, Korean-American beauty brand Then I Met You has poured a blend of honey and squalane together to create a skin-smoothing, high-shine balm that keeps lips plump. It has an applicator tip that evenly distributes the product and the 15ml size feels generous considering it’s a bit of an investment. We used it day and night, slathering on a thick layer while sitting at our desk and before we hit the hay.

Garden of Wisdom 100% pure squalane oil

Best: Squalane for hair

Rating: 9/10

An excellent introductory oil for your routine, Garden of Wisdom’s 100 per cent pure squalane oil comes in a travel-friendly 30ml pump bottle, which helps control how much you apply in a way droppers often can’t. Colourless, odourless and lightweight, it’s easy to apply, quick to rub in and leaves skin feeling smooth. Pure squalane oil can also be applied to the ends of your hair to smooth frizz and boost shine and we found a pump of this run through wet or dry hair didn’t leave it looking or feeling greasy. A lovely multi-purpose oil, it’s a great budget-friendly option too.

Embryolisse laboratories cicalisse balm

Best: For dry skin

Rating: 8/10

French pharmacy brand Embryolisse has created a wonderful, intensely moisturising, multi-purpose balm that we loved using for dry, flaky skin and as a softener for the lips. It’s surprisingly non-greasy and a little goes a long way, just a dab is all you need. We found it offered immediate relief after using drying spot treatments, thanks to the squalane which delivers a moisture hit, combined with acexamic acid to form a protective cocoon on skin in need of a little TLC.

Augustinius Bader the cleansing balm

Best: Squalane cleanser

Rating: 9/10

You may recognise Augustinius Bader as the brand behind the well-recognisable moisturiser, the cream. It’s housed in a luxury blue and gold bottle that’s dominated our Instagram feeds since its launch in 2018. The brand has since expanded its line with a full skincare range, including this indulgent cleansing balm. It’s as luxurious as you would imagine, with a formula rich in an avocado-olive fruit oil complex, vitamin E and squalane. The formula also features a high-tech complex that forces the skin to regenerate itself, leaving behind renewed, smooth-looking skin. When massaged into a dry face full of make-up and SPF, it melts into a decadent oil that can be swiftly wiped away with a warm flannel, taking every scrap of waterproof mascara with it. If you have the budget, it’s well worth indulging in.

Kiehl’s crème de corps

Best: Body lotion

Rating: 8/10

This is a great, fuss-free body moisturiser that’s lightweight, fast-absorbing and perfect for use post-shower. Enriched with cocoa butter, plant-based squalane and beta-carotene, it’s rich but not heavy and you don’t need much. We’ve spent the past few weeks using the 250ml bottle, but it’s also available in 75ml, 125ml and 500ml sizes. It’s great for keeping dry skin at bay, especially after shaving, and it has an inoffensive, refreshing scent.

Votary tinted lip gloss

Best: Lip oil

Rating: 7/10

This ultra-luxurious lip gloss from plant-based brand Votary is more of an oil but works wonders to restore lips lacking moisture. It’s infused with 12 plant oils, including passionflower, jojoba, baobab and raspberry seed oil, which gives a high-shine finish in a subtle, sheer pink shade. It comes with a doe foot applicator but you can also dab a bit onto skin and rub it in with your finger as it’s quite a fluid formula, with no stickiness in sight. There’s a slight spearmint flavour too. Our only gripe is the applicator picks up a lot of excess product so if you’re not careful, it’ll drip everywhere.

Squalane FAQs

What is squalane?

Squalane is a moisturising agent that is used in skincare. It’s a non-greasy, fuss-free oil that can hydrate, soften, and help prevent water loss, sourced from olives or sugarcane. It can be used on the face, body and hair.

What is the difference between squalane and squalene?

Squalene is produced naturally in humans, but it depletes as we get older, so we can look to skin care products featuring squalane for a topical top-up. Squalane is created by adding hydrogen to squalene and is what can be found in many skincare products.

Is squalane better than hyaluronic acid?

Rather than better, squalane simply has a different function to hyaluronic acid, but the two can work together well. Hyaluronic acid attracts and retains moisture to skin, and has a gel-like texture, whereas squalane has an oil texture that acts like a barrier to seal in moisture.

The verdict: Squalane products

You can’t go wrong with The Ordinary’s squalane cleanser, a gentle, skin-soothing product that removes make-up and leaves skin feeling soft and refreshed. It’s an easy way to introduce squalane into your routine too, and as with everything from The Ordinary, is extremely budget-friendly for 150ml of product.

We also loved the Indie Lee squalane facial oil for its lovely lightweight texture that was just as non-greasy as it promised, adding instant suppleness.

Voucher codes

For the latest offers on skincare and other beauty buys, try the links below:

Looking for something without a little more oomph? we’ve found the best retinols for age-defying skin

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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