If you haven’t heard of hemi-squalane already, you’re about to start spotting it in some of your favourite skincare and haircare formulas. Just like hyaluronic acid popped off and is now a regular in our skin stash, hemi-squalane is an ingredient you’re gonna want to know about.
If it sounds familiar, that’s likely because squalane, the ingredient’s big sister has been gaining momentum in skincare conversations thanks to its ability to deeply hydrate skin and protect skin barriers. Hemi-squalane is the next step on.
It already has a big seal of approval from The Ordinary – a brand that’s been instrumental in introducing many of us to the buzziest insider skincare ingredients. The brand was one of the first to bring hemi-squalane to the mainstream a couple of years ago with the 100% Plant Derived Hemi-Squalane serum. Now we’re spotting it in more of our fave fixes. Biossance, Dr Barbara Sturm, Living Proof have all called upon the new-gen ingredient to take their formulas a step further and Jonathan Van Ness has tapped-up hemi-squalane too, for his haircare brand, JVN.
Here’s everything you need to know about what hemi-squalane is and how it works…
What is hemi-squalane?
Falling under the category of hydrators and oils, the ingredient provides hydration and slip in much the same way that silicones can. Silicones have picked up a bit of an iffy reputation thanks to the build-up they can create on hair and in pores, and due to the fact it’s synthetic. Hemi-squalane offers a lightweight, natural alternative. “Hemi-squalane is a non-greasy, non-comedogenic [non pore-blocking] hydrator that acts to minimise loss of hydration while increasing suppleness,” the Lab Team at DECIEM (the parent company of The Ordinary) tell me. “Due to its low molecular weight, hemi-squalane is more spreadable and allows for quick and easy absorption by the skin,” they add. “It’s a superior silicone alternative,” confirms McKenzie Bolt, director of global education at Biossance. “It helps hair and skin maintain moisture and promotes repair,” she adds.
Where does it come from?
“Hemi-squalane is derived from sustainable sugarcane,” says McKenzie, which means “it has a low environmental impact and is safe for oceans, lakes, and rivers,” she says.
How is it different from squalene and squalane?
It’s a whole process. “Squalene [with an ‘e’] is an oil found naturally occurring in humans, plants, and animals like sharks. It is the human body’s natural moisturising molecule and makes up about 12-13% of our skin's sebum,” explains McKenzie, however, it’s “unstable outside of the body and will oxidise easily,” she says.
“Squalane [with an ‘a’] is a stable, lightweight emollient oil that mimics our body’s moisture molecule. It’s the best way to replenish the depletion of squalene caused by the ageing process,” explains McKenzie.
Which brings us to hemi-squalane. “Hemi-squalane is half the molecular weight of squalane hence the ‘hemi’' in the name,” says McKenzie, which means it’s thinner (it feels like water) and more lightweight, however it can offer up the same healthy hydration benefits.
What are its benefits?
“In haircare hemi-squalane is the ultimate moisturising and repairing ingredient. It has been clinically tested to improve hair health instantly and over time. It reduces hair frizz, protects hair from colour degradation, reduces damage and breakage, provides thermal protection and strengthens the hair shaft from the inside out,” says McKenzie. Meanwhile, “hemi-squalane in skincare is moisturising for all skin types. It is found to be non-comedogenic and will not sensitise or irritate the skin,” she explains, adding, “when water is added, hemi-squalane breaks down transforming into a cleansing milk. It lifts makeup and excess oils off the skin to rinse it clean.”
How is best to use it?
We asked the lab team at DECIEM and the good news is it can be used across your skin, hair and body. “Hemi-squalane is best used as a finishing hydrator. We recommend applying a few drops to the entire face daily for healthy and hydrated skin. It can also be spread through clean, damp hair to reduce the appearance of frizz for a soft and smooth finish to the hair shaft,” they say. Likewise, it can applied to hair in the form of shampoo and conditioner. And if you want to create your bespoke blend, it can be mixed with other skin or hair oils.
This article was originally published on Glamour UK.