The Big Difference Between Squalane and Squalene: More Than Just One Letter

by Beth Wischnia June 02, 2021

At Biossance, there is no ingredient more fundamental to our formulas than squalane. Our groundbreaking 100% Squalane Oil was the first product we ever launched, and it remains a hero ingredient in all the clean skincare we formulate. You could say we’re a little bit obsessed.

As passionate as we are about this ingredient, we know there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding the multitasking superstar: Is there a difference between squalane and squalene? (Spoiler: Yes! A few major ones.) Why is our vegan squalane derived from sugarcane instead of olives like most other formulas? What makes us love this ingredient so much that we’ve included it in all of our products?

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Continue reading for insight into all these Qs and more.



While squalane and squalene may only be separated by one letter, the two ingredients have notable and important differences. Continue reading to learn more about the difference between squalane and squalene. Squalene is a moisturizing ingredient inhumanely harvested from shark livers. While it’s often touted for its supremely hydrating benefits, it can also be comedogenic (i.e. clog can pores) and is unsuitable for oily skin types. As it inherently involves hunting sharks, it’s also damaging to the ocean’s fragile ecosystem.

Squalane, on the other hand, is a vegan alternative to squalene. This clean ingredient includes all the same intensely hydrating benefits of squalene without any of the negative side effects or questionable ethics. It feels weightless on the skin, is non-comedogenic, and can be used on all skin types–even on babies and pregnant women.

Here at Biossance, our scientists pioneered a revolutionary way to derive squalane from renewable sugarcane. Thanks to this innovation, we help to save two million sharks every year.

 Squalene x Squalane



While we’re not the first to develop a plant-based alternative to squalene, we are the first to derive the ingredient from sugarcane. There are a few specific and thoughtful reasons why we’ve decided to go all-in on this renewable resource.

It provides consistent results

We are all about using clean, powerful ingredients that you can count on to provide visible results.

The quality of olive-derived squalane (a popular vegan alternative) varies widely depending on weather, origin, and other considerations, making each batch a little different. Squalane derived from sharks can contain significant amounts of impurities, depending on the shark. When comparing our sugarcane-derived squalane to shark-derived squalene and olive-derived squalane, our scientists found Biossance’s formula to be notably more consistent in quality–a key reason we trust it to power all of our products.

It’s Sustainable

We use sugarcane grown in Brazil, which requires no water or irrigation beyond natural rainfall. The sugarcane field is located far from the Amazon rainforest, so there’s no deforestation or adverse environmental changes. Our sugarcane does not interfere with land dedicated to food production.

Sugarcane fields to produce sustainable squalane

It’s Safe and Effective

Sugarcane squalane doesn’t degrade or oxidize, so it has a long shelf life. It also has a lightweight texture that easily penetrates and absorbs into the skin without clogging pores, helping to hydrate and restore the skin’s moisture barrier.

Nothing Goes to Waste

Our plant makes full use of the sugarcane and any byproducts: Sugarcane syrup is used as feedstock, while leftover fibrous pulp is turned into our outer cartons or used to generate electricity for the factory. 

It’s Manufactured Responsibly

Sugarcane is processed at our own low-waste facility in Brazil, using a proprietary fermentation method. We make every effort to minimize the impact of the manufacturing processes on the environment by minimizing waste and maximizing recycling.



Our squalane has structurally identical molecules compared to the version produced naturally by the human body. Such is the case with squalane. It’s a molecular match for the lipids found in human skin.

The human body actually even produces its own version of squalene naturally to keep the moisture barrier balanced. However, the amount of squalene we produce decreases dramatically as we get older. 

When you use an ingredient molecularly identical to restore some of that lost moisture, your body is able to easily recognize it and understands how to best use it. Squalane and the body can speak the same language. This allows for faster absorption, higher efficacy overall, and no irritating side effects.

 Squalane: Nature's perfect hydrator molecule


Squalane doesn’t discriminate. This gentle yet effective head-to-toe hero can be used all over the body and by every member of the family–from babies to pregnant women. Here are 10 ways you can incorporate this ingredient into all types of skincare and self-care routines.

  1. Layer it on top of your favorite facial moisturizer to lock in moisture.
  2. Apply it to facial hair as a beard oil.
  3. Add several drops to the bath to soak up the softening, smoothing benefits.
  4. Work a few drops into damp hair to boost luster and hydration.
  5. Try using it to soothe and rehydrate sunburnt skin. (This can work especially well on the scalp!)
  6. Apply it to a growing pregnant belly to help minimize the appearance of stretch marks.
  7. Use it in place of shaving cream.
  8. Combine it with raw sugar to create a clean body scrub.
  9. Blend it with foundation to give the skin a dewy glow.
  10. Add a few drops to your nails as cuticle oil.

Eco-friendly perk: Using a versatile product like our 100% Squalane Oil helps to helps cut down on additional packaging waste. Because this all-in-one product can be used for so many different purposes, you don't have to use as many different products to get the same results.



Beth Wischnia

Beth Wischnia
Beth Wischnia


My industry experience includes years as a beauty editor and leading content for a wide range of skincare and makeup brands. Those experiences led me to Biossance—I was introduced to the brand on an editor press trip in 2017 and instantly fell in love. I toured the labs, created my own 100% Squalane with essential oils, and noticed a dramatic difference in my skin by introducing clean products (especially the Vitamin C Rose Oil) to my regimen. I’m excited to be on this journey with Biossance and be at the forefront of clean beauty innovation.

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