Squalene is a polyunsaturated hydrocarbon in the form of a colorless and odorless oil with hydrophilic antioxidant properties. It is primarily used in the cosmetics industry and currently it is being incorporated into vaccines. As of late, it is also being studied for its anti-carcinogenic effects. Squalene’s role in nature has to do with the biosynthesis of steroids in animals and plants.
Where does it come from?
Squalene is very abundant in nature and even in the human body but it can be found in large quantities in the livers of deep sea sharks. The liver of deep sea sharks is made up of 90% squalene and it is used to control their buoyancy underwater. Sharks living in shallow waters are found to not contain squalene in their livers. Squalene oil has gained recognition both in medicine and in cosmetics. Because of this, sharks are being slaughtered for liver oil by livering. Livering is the method of taking out the shark’s liver and throwing the carcass back to sea. Animal rights and environmental groups have spoken out and this has motivated companies to look for plant-based or non-shark sources of squalene like extra virgin olive oil.
Extensive studies have found that squalene oil can be used in the treatment of various diseases and can strengthen the immune system and can even fight cancer. This assumption started out with the fact that the sharks species have never experienced cancer. However, recently it has been discovered that sharks do in fact get cancer. A great white shark has been found having a cancerous tumor. But the fact still remains that squalene can decrease the risk of oncogene mutation in the body. It also helps scavenge toxic metabolites and free radicals and can help alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy.
For the skin
Squalene oil is commonly used in skin beauty products as it can protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation and oxidation. Because of this protection, it is also believed to possess anti-aging effects. Human skin consists of 12% squalene and it decreases as we grow older. Squalene keeps the skin moisturized, supple, and it reduces formation of wrinkles. However, it becomes unstable when exposed to oxygen. To correct this, squalane was created. Pure squalane oil can heal rashes, eczema, psoriasis, stretch marks and is an excellent moisturizer, albeit it can be a little pricey.
Tests for acute and chronic toxicity has concluded that squalene is extremely safe. However, it may be comedogenic, especially the olive squalene, so it would not be advised for consumption by people who suffer from acne-prone skin.