Clear, colourless and odourless, Squalane is an essential ingredient in skincare. It can be found in almost every product - from moisturizers and serums to cleansers, foundation, lipstick and other make-up. But a dark secret lurks behind this fine ingredient. Sharks are hunted for it!
It all starts with Squalene, a precursor to Squalane, which forms about 13% of our skin’s sebum (skin oils). Pollution and age deplete skin’s Squalene leading to loss of elasticity and wrinkles. In polluted areas, Squalene in skin is depleted faster leaving a dry, dull and papery texture that magnifies the appearance of wrinkles. Squalene is considered most effective skin component in reducing Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL). So almost all skincare manufacturers want some in their product.
Squalene is unstable and prone to oxidation. So Squalene is converted to Squalane which is an odourless and stable ingredient that can be incorporated in skincare. The primary source of Squalene has been shark liver! Deep sea sharks in particular, have the highest percentage of Squalene in their livers.
Squalene is then converted to Squalane by ingredient manufacturers. Skincare/ cosmetics companies do not all grow and cultivate ingredients in their own backyards facilities. Specialty ingredients are purchased from ingredient manufacturers. Such an ingredient manufacturer would purchase Squalene and convert it to Squalane to be sold to cosmetics companies.
Plant derived Squalane exists and is amazing
Plant derived Squalane is just as absorbable and good for skin as its shark derived alternative. It brings all the same benefits without the ethically unacceptable horror of shark hunting. Yet, as Rob Stewart’s Sharkwater foundation reveals, the startling reality is that most mass brands out there are still using Squalane derived from shark!
Still, the atrocity continues!
Mass cosmetic manufacturers continue to buy shark liver Squalane. Why do they do that? The low cost! So really, can you believe that the cost of killing and mutilating a great white to extract a an ingredient for the beauty industry is actually cheaper than a plant derived alternative?! More importantly, why does the cost even matter in this case?!
While the commercial price of plant derived Squalane is much higher than the cost of Shark derived Squalane, no price should be too high to pay to save the life of a majestic, underwater creature. The cost of beauty should never come at the cost of other sentient inhabitants of our planet.
Who can change that?
Customers! Consumers of cosmetics and beauty products are the only ones that can change this. As long as consumers remain in the dark about the source of their ingredients, as long as consumers don't know or don't care what's in their product, Shark and other marine life will continue to be exploited in the name of beauty!
|From SHARK liver||From plant sources like Olives, Amaranth, Wheat germ, Rice bran and others|
|Squalene is the precursor from shark liver, that is then converted to the skincare ingredient Squalane||Directly derive Squalane from plant source|
|Most mass brands still use it||Natural and vegan formulators strictly use plant Squalane|
|Listed simply as SQUALANE in the ingredients list||Usually specified as Plant SQUALANE, OLIVE Squalane, Vegetal SQUALANE etc. If the source is not listed in the ingredients list, it is probably mentioned in brand values like vegan, cruelty-free etc|
|Cost of final product using Shark Squalane will be cheaper, less expensive because sadly shark derived squalane is cheaper to get||Cost of final product using plant Squalane will be highter as plant Squalane is more expensive but much more ethically valuable|
As a consumer what can you do about this?You can
- Choose to buy products that use plant derived Squalane. If it isn't explicitly stated, then write to the brand and inquire
- Read up on sources of ingredients. As you see from Squalane, it isn't as easy to know what brands are using, making you implicit in something you may not ethically support, like killing shark for beauty ingredients
- Demand that brands provide transparency on source of ingredients. If you're paying for their products, you absolutely deserve to know where their ingredients are coming from
As a brand what can you do about this?You can
- Choose to only purchase plant based Squalane in your products
- When buying an ingredient, read up on the source of that ingredient and whether it is extracted from animal sources, or causing deforestation (like Palm oil) or exploiting endangered species of plant (like Oakmoss and Sandalwood)
- Make the right choice from the start