Squalane is a saturated oil that derives from the natural lipid squalene. In contrast, squalene (with an “e”) is present in the outer layers of skin cells. It helps moisturize and protect the skin.

Like squalene, squalane has moisturizing properties that may help treat psoriasis and other dry skin conditions. A person can apply undiluted squalane to the skin or use moisturizers that contain squalane and other ingredients.

This article explains what squalene is and how it differs from squalane. We also outline the effectiveness of squalane as a treatment for psoriasis, including its risks and possible complications. Finally, we highlight what to look for when selecting squalane products.

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Squalene is a natural lipid that skin cells in the outer layers of the skin produce. It is one of the most common lipids of human skin cells and is present in human sebum.

In contrast, squalene is a natural emollient, which is a substance that creates a protective film over the skin to lock in moisture. This helps create a healthy skin barrier.

Squalene helps protect the skin from the following:

The body’s production of squalene begins to slow down after the age of 30 years. This decline can contribute to the dry skin that many people experience as they get older.

As well as occurring naturally in the human body, squalene is also present in certain fish and plant oils. Previously, people harvested it from shark livers, which had a high concentration of the substance. However, individuals now derive squalene from more ethical and sustainable sources, such as:

Squalene is too unstable to use in skincare products. As an unsaturated oil, it spoils quickly and has a short shelf-life. Manufacturers use a process of hydrogenating squalene to create squalane — a stable, saturated oil with a long shelf-life that does not require preservatives.

A person can apply pure, undiluted squalane directly to the skin or hair. It is also a common ingredient in many skin care products.

Squalane has the following properties:

  • odorless
  • colorless
  • tasteless
  • nongreasy
  • anti-irritant
  • non-toxic
  • antibacterial
  • very stable

According to a 2014 review, squalane is an exceptional emollient with a distinct ability to penetrate the human skin. The substance improves skin hydration and the absorption of other active ingredients without making the skin greasy.

Anecdotally, squalane also plumps and smooths the appearance of the skin.

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes patches of sore, itchy skin with silvery scales.

Alongside topical cortisone, doctors may also prescribe an emollient for psoriasis. An emollient helps seal the skin barrier and rehydrate dry, itchy patches.

Although squalane is an emollient, there is very little research directly investigating its effectiveness as a treatment for psoriasis.

Moisturizing effects of squalene

Squalene is very moisturizing, which may help soothe psoriasis.

A 2016 clinical trial investigated the skin benefits of a topical cream containing a combination of olive oil squalene and rose stem cells. The trial involved 76 female participants who had undergone deliberate skin irritation for the purpose of the study. The participants applied the cream to their skin for 6 days. Researchers then reassessed the skin for:

  • levels of hydration
  • water loss
  • redness
  • elasticity

The researchers found a link between squalene cream use and a significant reduction in water loss and increased skin hydration. The results of this trial do not mention psoriasis, but it suggests that olive oil squalene restores the integrity of the skin barrier and may be an effective treatment for irritated skin.

Applying any moisturizer or topical medication to the skin can cause adverse effects. With this in mind, a person should always carry out a patch test before using any substance on the skin for the first time. A patch test involves applying the substance onto a small area of skin and waiting 24 hours to check for signs of irritation or allergy.

Although rare, it is possible that using squalane could lead to:

  • itchiness
  • irritation
  • redness
  • swelling

If a person experiences any of the above side effects, they should stop using the substance. They can also speak with their doctor for further advice on psoriasis treatments.

There are a few things to consider before buying a squalane product for the skin. People may wish to choose squalane products that are:

  • Plant-based: Shark-derived squalane is now very rare, but it is still worth checking product labels to ensure the product is 100% plant-derived. Plant-derived squalane is both cruelty-free and sustainable.
  • Fairtrade: The squalane should come from plants grown on Fairtrade farms.
  • Organic: The squalane should derive from pesticide-free plants.
  • Free from skin-irritating ingredients: Squalane products should be free from potential skin irritants, such as:
    • fragrances
    • dyes
    • parabens
    • preservatives
  • Recommended for use on the area of skin that the person wants to treat: Certain squalane products for the body may not be suitable for use on the face.

Squalane is a saturated oil derived from the natural lipid squalene. Both squalane and squalene are emollients that create a protective film over the skin to help lock in moisture.

While topical cortisones are a typical first-line treatment for psoriasis, emollients may be part of a combination treatment for the condition. However, there is very little research investigating the effect of squalane as a treatment for psoriasis.

A person who wants to try squalane for psoriasis may wish to choose products that are plant-based, organic, and free from skin-irritating ingredients. It is important to carry out a patch test when using a product for the first time. If irritation occurs, stop using the product and contact a doctor for advice on alternative psoriasis treatments.