Squalene: Plant-based vs. Animal-based

Squalene is popularly used in cosmetic formulations because it is an excellent emollient. This means that moisturizes and soothes the skin. Moreover, squalene is a highly sought-after ingredient, because it is naturally found in our skin. The compound of squalene (and its derivative squalane) emulates the natural oils produced by our bodies. So it’s no secret as to why it is coveted by the cosmetic industry.

There are two kinds of squalene based on the method through which they are sourced. 

– Animal-based squalene, which comes from sharks,

– Plant-based squalene, which is derived from olives, amaranth seeds, wheat germ, and rice bran.

Sharks in Decline

There is a dark side to the sourcing of squalene.  Sharks are mercilessly hunted for their fins and livers.  3-6 million sharks are slaughtered each year for squalene, and 90% of it is for the beauty industry.  Sharks produce a large amount of squalene in their livers.  

Deep sea sharks produce the highest amount of squalene.  Sadly, hunting sharks for squalene is easier and cheaper than deriving it from plants.  Herein lies the tragedy.  Deep sea sharks have a lifecycle in which they grow and mature slowly.  This creates the situation where the populations can’t recover, when they’ve been targeted by commercial overexploitation.  Several of these species are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  It is animal-cruelty at its finest.

Does Price Matter?

Plant-based squalene is far more ethical. It is about 30% more expensive to derive squalene from plants, but it is high time that we focus on more sustainable practices within the cosmetic industry, moving to more ethically responsible practices.

Even though plant based squalene is more expensive to derive that animal based squalene, you will not see the difference in your pocket book.  Products with shark squalene cost the same as ones with plant based squalene.  It’s a practice by major companies that want to further line their own pocket books.  

Being Misled…

Many companies talk a good game about sustainability, and ethical practices, but many are falling short in their commitment to switch, and some companies purposefully mislead people. 

We Can Do Better.

Using ethical practices and finding better solutions to support the health of our planet is important.  We must use our buying power to choose products that truly follow sustainable and ethical practices.


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