If You’re Not Familiar With Squalene, Get There Now!
The livers of deep sea-dwelling sharks carry what many cosmetic companies see as their pot of gold. They contain an oily substance known as squalene.
Deep-sea sharks function not with a swim bladder, but with a very oily liver. This is very large in proportion to their body sizes. And it is due to this large and oily liver that sharks can retain their buoyancy at such oceanic depths.
And that in turn, according to the non-profit organization the Bloom Association, is partly why over 3 million sharks are killed every year just for their use in beauty products alone!
Squalene can also be found in certain plants – olives, aramanth seeds, sugar cane, rice bran wheat germ but in much smaller quantities.
We also produce squalene in our glands. Human sebum (where it is found) is comprised of roughly 30% squalene. But once we reach our 30’s, it’s production begins to slow down (hence it’s desirability as a moisturizer with anti-aging capabilities).
Squalene protects and calms our skin. It can improve elasticity, balance oil production and aid in locking in moisture in our skin.
Sadly, the beauty industry is dependent on shark-derived squalene. It is cheaper and more economically feasible to source it from sharks than plant-based alternatives.
Beauty products of all sorts can contain squalene – lotions and sunscreens, skincare products, foundations, lipsticks, eyeshadows.
Okay, so that is Squalene, what is Squalane?
Squalane is a saturated derivative of Squalene. And squalene is converted into squalane by means of a chemical process called hydrogenation.
In its natural state, squalene is very unstable. So by converting it into squalane, it becomes longer-lasting, more efficient, more stable and also odorless. I try to remember it by recognizing the ‘A’ for ‘After’ (as in squalane exists only after squalene).
Plant-sourced squalene is generally far less potent and is more complex in terms of it’s production. And of course, this results in it being far more expensive to produce all the while yielding less efficient results for a higher cost.
The awareness of squalene and it’s presence in beauty products seems to be growing. And with it, a slow-building momentum is gradually swinging the pendulum away from using shark derived squalene.
Don’t Trust What You Read
Or at least that is what we may be led to think. It is disheartening to learn that many companies are able to use squalene but not specify (or worse still, not even be aware of) the original source of squalene in their products. Often sourcing the very cheapest options for the ingredient. And when they do mention squalene in their labelling, they can also practice in the art of deception with regards to terminology.
Such practices as claiming ingredients to be plant-based (when they are not), or not animal-derived (when they may be) are common-place. These terms seem to be bandied about with ease as there is very little regulatory reprimanding for such misleading claims.
With deception and lack of clarity in our cosmetic labelling systems, it is only natural to feel overwhelmed and helpless about this. Even the familiar phrase of ‘cruelty-free’ can be misleading in this respect. When a product is labelled as cruelty-free, we know that this means that the products and ingredients within are not tested on animals. However, ingredients that are derived from an animal source can still be in the contents of a cruelty-free product. That is, shark derived squalene could indeed be found in a cruelty-free labelled product.
Fear Not, the Bunny Is Here!
However, we have made one giant leap forward in progress. The oh so cute bunny logo that has finally been recognised globally. You know the one! It is a universal symbol that a product is certified and has been checked. This we can rely on. This is just a small piece of a very large, very grey puzzle.
With a jaw-dropping figure of $1 billion per year made in the shark-fin trade, it is time to sit up and take notice.
Sharks are incredible creatures that play a vital role in our oceans. The numbers that we see killed every year for human consumption in one form or another are staggering. But it isn’t too late. It can’t be.
What Can I Do to Help?
Education is the beginning. Read. Find out more and have more conversations. Be savvy. When it comes to your cosmetics, there is nothing to gain from feeling intimidated about knowing what they are made from.
Ask questions. Reach out to cosmetic companies. What do the manufacturers have to say about what is involved with their testing? We live in an era where information is at our fingertips. As consumers, we can only become savvier to the practices these companies follow.
One such company to take a stand in the squalene issue is Biossance. A company that is built on a foundation of ethically made beauty products, and educating their customers. They even specialize in a range dedicated to ethically sourced Squalane products, and not shark derived ones. They pride themselves in sourcing 100% of their squalane from organic sugar cane.
With growing awareness and action, and making well-informed choices with our wallets, we can make a difference in our oceans and to some of their greatest apex predators before they are all gone.
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Featured image by Jakob Owens via Unsplash