With the summer just around the corner, it is time to up the game on skin hydration. There are many superb hydrators out there – see my post on hydration vs. moisturizing. But there are two that shine brighter than any others. Which one should you choose? Let’s see what to expect from squalane vs hyaluronic acid for hydration needs.
What is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid is an amazing humectant, which means that it binds to water molecules and delivers them to the skin. In fact, it is known to hold 1000 times its weight of water.
Its main benefit is to boost our skin’s hydration levels by increasing its water content.
When using Hyaluronic Acid, you can expect:
- Increased skin hydration
- Lessening of wrinkles and fine lines
- Improved skin tone and “glow”
- Softer and plumper skin
I wrote an extensive post about Hyaluronic acid, you can read it here to get more details about this ingredient.
What is Squalene/Squalane?
I have to admit, I only started hearing about squalane rather recently, maybe a year or so ago. But now, I see this ingredient in many formulations. It has become a true buzzword and a sought-after “oilless” oil. And, for good reason.
Naturally occurring squalene is part of our skin’s protective barrier. Our body produces squalene on its own. In fact, squalene is an integral part of the sebum which is necessary for the skin to remain plump and glowing.
However, with age, we start producing less and less squalene, as the dermal sebum levels decline.
This is the time to start adding squalane to your skincare routine.
Squalane in Skincare
Squalene – when added to skincare – comes in two forms: squalene and squalane.
What is the difference between the two?
Aside from the one-letter difference, what distinguishes these two is their source and stability.
Squalane and squalene are essentially the same compound. However, the difference subtly lies within the “a” and the “e”. Squalene is basically the natural form of squalane, where the compounds are highly unstable.Squalane Vs Squalene- What’s The Difference?
Due to this instability, natural squalene is processed to make it more stable and better suited to use topically in skin care products.
Also, while squalene is the most body-identical form of this oil, overusing it could potentially lead to the clogging of pores. This is why the process called hydrogenation – which changes squalene to squalene – adds to the efficacy and safety of the ingredient.
I will refer to squalane in the rest of this post since this is the form used most often in skincare.
Where Does It Come From?
Most squalene comes from one of the natural sources:
- Shark liver
- Rice bran
- Sugar cane
In the past, shark liver was the main source of squalane but due to the obvious ethical and sustainability concerns, skincare companies have now switched to plant sources, mostly olives, and sugar cane.
There is also synthetically produced squalane but I have not bought or used it yet, so I cannot comment on its efficacy.
What Are the Benefits of Squalane?
Unlike Hyaluronic Acid, squalane is an emollient. Whereas hyaluronic acid behaves like a sponge by drawing moisture to your skin, squalane helps the skin retain all that moisture.
In other words, squalene locks in the moisture, acting thus as a barrier to keep the moisture in place and help thus moisturize the skin on the cellular level.
When using squalane, you can expect:
- Reduction in wrinkles
- An evening of the skin tone
- Improved appearance of scars
- Soothing and calming inflamed skin
Squalane vs Hyaluronic Acid
Now, that we know what these two ingredients can do for the skin, you might be asking, is one better than the other?
Let me counter this battle of squalane vs. hyaluronic acid with another question though. Does one have to be better than the other? Why not use them both, as they are definitely complementing one another.
Hyaluronic acid will add water content to your skin, hydrating it on the cellular level.
Squalane then forms a barrier on the top of the skin making sure that this moisture won’t escape (evaporate).
Using both is getting the best of the two worlds: hydration and moisturizing. And because squalane is a very light and highly absorbent oil, it is truly perfect, especially for the warm and hot months of the year.
For optimal results when using these two ingredients together, layer them in this order. Start with applying hyaluronic acid to damp skin (either coming out of the shower or spritzing your face with a toner). It will pull in the water and hydrate the cells.
After the hyaluronic acid has thoroughly absorbed into the skin, layer squalane on top to lock all the hydration in place.
Remember, less is more, when it comes to any type of oil, even such a lightweight oil as squalane. Use 2-4 drops of squalane and press gently into the face.
A Match Made in Heaven
If you’re looking for a moisturizing holy grail, layering hyaluronic acid and squalene is it!
This humectant/emollient combo works well for all skin types, but it will benefit especially drier and mature skin types.
What to expect when layering HA and squalene?
- Boosted skin hydration and moisture
- Improved oil balance (since squalane mimics the natural sebum)
- Bouncy, plumped skin
- Softer, smoother skin
Additionally, squalane has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and microbiome-nourishing properties. As such it is particularly well suited for those with highly reactive skin, prone to inflammation, and conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
Where to Get Hyaluronic Acid and Squalane Products?
I am partial to my own, handmade, 100% natural Hyaluronic Acid and use it exclusively.
There are many others on the market, just make sure when buying that you get a serum that has no synthetic fillers, artificial fragrances, and other toxic additives.
An ideal hyaluronic acid serum should have only the key ingredients and possibly an Eco-certified preservative that will not inflame your skin.
Another important factor when buying hyaluronic acid serum is to ensure that it is not made with either Ultra-Low or Very Low Molecular Weight. These forms of HA have the ability to penetrate deeper into the skin (due to their smaller molecules) but the price you might be paying is increased inflammation.
Best Squalane Oil
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When looking for squalane oil, it makes sense to check the source of it.
Some people have experienced breakout from olive-derived squalane, which tends to be a bit richer, but not from sugarcane-derived squalane, which is generally lighter and faster to absorb.
I have used them both and have not seen any breakouts, but if you want to be on the safe side or have a more oily skin type, going with sugar cane-derived squalane (like the Biossance below) might be the best bet.
Here are my choices for Squalane. Both are 100% squalene, there are no other ingredients, zero additives, and both are designated “Clean at Sephora”
Very light and fast-absorbing. This oil comes in a big pump bottle and is priced very reasonably. The squalane is derived from sugar cane.
This one comes in a smaller bottle (1 oz), and it is very affordable. The company does not specify where exactly the squalane is coming from, aside from “plant sources” but it is most probably also sugar cane-derived.
Squalane vs Hyaluronic Acid? Definitely Both!
Again, I would not be agonizing over which one of these amazing moisturizers is better for the skin. They both have slightly different functions and a few different benefits for the skin. But, most importantly, they work perfectly well in tandem.
Using them both will leave you with dewy, plump skin, no matter your skin type. So go ahead my friend and get them both. And enjoy!
In case you want to try my HA Botanical Serum, here is a chance to save 15%