Photo of IndiecLee squalane oil products

We tried it: Is squalane oil effective?

Plant-based squalane oil is touted as a highly hydrating, extra-gentle facial oil with anti-aging properties that make it a win for aging skin. Could it really be? Grove writer, Leslie Jeffries, put it to the test, and she’s here to give you the skinny on squalane oil.

Have you heard the squall over squalane oil? This facial oil, touted to be a miracle worker for skin over age 30, is full of vitamins and antioxidants, but — as with all of my beauty and household products — knowing it’s produced in a clean and ethical way is more important to me than ever these days.

Recently, I tried Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil from Grove. As a firm believer in the benefits of coconut, jojoba, and argan oils for my face, I did my share of both researching and slathering of squalane oil. Read on for my findings, friends.

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What is squalane oil?

Before I give you a rundown on how squalane oil treated me, I’ll tell you what it is, because I hadn’t heard of it, either!

It's native to your body

Squalene—note "squalene" versus "squalane"—is a key component of surface lipids and sebum, the fatty molecules that make up skin's natural oils and help keep our skin soft and hydrated. But as we get older, we make less squalene, which contributes to dry skin.

It does your skin a solid

When squalene is hydrogenated, or made into solid fat, it becomes squalane. Our bodies do some of this hydrogenating naturally, but the process is done synthetically for beauty products. The resulting squalane oil is the closest substance to our own skin's oil.

It’s plant-derived (nowadays)

Guess who else self-creates squalene? Our beloved sharks. Traditionally, squalane was derived from shark liver oil for use in beauty products, but, nowadays, it comes from sugarcane, olive oil, and other plant oils, which have additional skin-loving properties.

The claim: Squalane oil has numerous skincare benefits

Squalane oil is hailed for its many benefits:

Skin hydration illustration

It absorbs easily

Because squalane oil is about the closest you can get to human skin's sebum, it's easily absorbed and less foreign to our skin.

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It softens skin

Clear, natural, and lightweight, squalane oil softens skin without feeling greasy — ideal for oily or aging skin.

Illustration of 3 water droplets

It hydrates skin

Squalane oil leaves a lightweight barrier on your skin to hold moisture inside, keeping skin hydrated longer.

Vitamin E watercolor illustration

It nourishes skin

Plant-derived squalane oil is packed with vitamins A, E, and K — and it’s rife with folate and minerals, too.

Squalane oil for different types of skin

Indie Lee squalane oil photo

There's little doubt that squalane oil is beneficial to skin. But is it good for everyone’s skin? Why, yes! Yes, it is!

Anyone can use any type of squalane oil safely — if you use it sparingly, it won’t clog your pores or cause dreaded breakouts. Still, some variations of squalane oil may work better for certain skin types than others.

Because squalane oil made with olive oil or palm oil is thicker than squalane oil made from sugarcane, dry and aging skin typically tolerates these better than oily skin does. Combination and oily skin tend to do very well with lighter, sugarcane-based squalane oil.

What's the percentage of actual squalane oil in products?

Indie Lee squalane oil dropper

In general, squalane oil ranges from 75 to 100 percent pure. Since all squalane oil is lighter and more easily absorbed by the skin than other face oils — and it’s non-peeling and non-exfoliating — you can use it on the daily.

But if you really slather it on, you could break out, so use the oil sparingly at first, and experiment until you find the right amount for your skin. Most squalane oil products include a dropper for easy, mess-free use, and you can mix the oil with other moisturizing creams to create your ultimate skincare routine.

The experience: Is squalane oil all that?

For the past six weeks, I've been using Indie Lee Squalane Oil on my mostly-accepted-middle-aged skin each day. Since I prefer to use products from eco-aware companies, I was excited to learn that Indie Lee is not only super ethical, but the brand is also woman-owned — these are significant pros in my book, and I haven’t even opened the goods yet!

All the feels

I immediately noticed the differences between squalane oil and the other oils I've used on my face, including jojoba, almond, olive, and — my all-around favorite — coconut oil.

Here are my first impressions of squalane oil.

  1. Whoa, this oil is super light! Squalane oil is uh-mazingly light in both its appearance and weight, so I knew I wasn't going to feel like I’d just smeared butter on my skin a la my seventh-grade suntanning regimen. Back before the sun was taken seriously.

  2. Wait, are my olfactory nerves even working? Indie Lee says its squalane oil is fragrance-free, and they’re For Real. Not a whiff of anything, and that made me appreciate its purity — since the word "fragrance" is totally unregulated in the beauty industry, scented products always make me a little nervous.

  3. Well, now, aren’t YOU a smooth operator! I used the handy dropper to dispense just two splops of the luscious oil onto my fingertips, which was plenty to lightly cover my face and quickly soak into my skin. Ahhhhhhhh.

The verdict: Squirrelly for squalane

Blue thumbs up illustration

After experimenting a little with my other skincare products and routines, I found a sweet Indie groove, and I'm now a card-carrying member of the Squalane Squad.

So here's my updated nighttime skincare routine:

  1. I remove all makeup and dirt with Superbloom Facial Cleansing Oil.
  2. I remove any remaining residue and dead skin with my konjac sponge.
  3. I apply two or three drops of Indie Lee Squalane Oil to my fingertips, and ever-so-gently whisper it on, concentrating mostly around my eyes.
  4. I smooth on a light layer of hyaluronic acid moisturizer, which I find to be a really nice complement to the squalane oil.

Overall, I love the feather-light, non-greasy, and softening effects of squalane oil. I think it helps blur the appearance of fine lines, because it keeps my skin so hydrated. And though I haven't tried all of the squalane oil products out there, I'm super happy with Indie Lee's concoction and have made it a full-blown member of my skincare team.

About the author: Leslie Jeffries is a writer in Omaha sloughing off the rough patches. She’s been writing for Grove since 2020.

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