Squalane is a derivative of squalene, a lipid naturally present in the body. Used in the composition of many cosmetic formulations, it is notably used as an emollient and penetrating agent in body, face and hair care, make-up products and certain sun protection products. Several manufacturing processes are used to produce squalane, with a molecule which can be of natural or synthetic origin. As a professional in the cosmetic industry, should you choose synthetic or natural squalane? Sophim answers your questions.
The different manufacturing processes of squalane
The squalane used by professionals in the cosmetic industry can come from several origins.
Squalane can be produced by hydrogenation of natural squalene. The addition of a dihydrogen molecule stabilises squalene and makes it an ingredient that meets the requirements of the cosmetics market.
To produce naturally derived squalane, manufacturers turn to living organisms that are naturally rich in squalene.
Historically, the oil contained in the livers of certain species of sharks, particularly rich in squalene, has been a significant source of supply for the production of natural squalane of marine origin.
Certain plants also have a high squalene content. This is most notably the case of the olive tree, which provides the bulk of the natural squalane of plant origin. Soybeans and sunflowers are also potential sources of squalene.
The petrochemical industry can produce squalane using terpene-compound synthesis technology. It relies on the transformation of hydrocarbons from the subsoil to produce synthetic molecules.
The enzymatic transformation of sugar molecules after fermentation is another synthetic production process. Although sugar cane is the raw material most often used in this process, it does not naturally contain squalene: a biotechnological process of chemical transformation is essential for obtaining synthetic squalane.
An ecological impact to take into consideration
A squalane molecule (C30H62) can be of natural or synthetic origin. It is not necessarily the natural or synthetic origin that determines quality, but the extraction processes employed and the rigour applied at each stage of the manufacturing and refining process. Beyond the manufacturing cost, which varies from one origin to another, the ecological impact and commercial arguments are often key factors that lead professionals to favour a molecule of natural origin over one of synthetic origin.
The limits of synthetic production
The choice of a solution of petrochemical origin poses a double environmental problem. The hydrocarbons extracted from the subsoil were stored mainly in the Carboniferous, a geological period when luxuriant vegetation covered the entire planet. These reserves, built up over a very long time, several million years, are not inexhaustible: opting for a petrochemical squalane means choosing non-renewable energy, which will become increasingly difficult to find. Moreover, the extraction of hydrocarbons has a very heavy ecological impact with high greenhouse gas emissions. Unconventional oils, such as oil sands or shale oil and gas, have devastating consequences in some regions with lasting pollution of groundwater and soils.
Enzymatic transformation involves the production of farnesene, a molecule that has various applications and is used in the composition of certain agrofuels. Such a manufacturing process is based on technologies using genetic manipulation of microorganisms, for which we lack sufficient expertise.
The benefits of natural squalane
In the case of a natural molecule, the impact on the environment depends essentially on the animal or plant origin.
Squalane of marine origin may pose an environmental problem related to the overexploitation of fish stocks and the threat to some endangered species. These effects are compounded by an overall negative image among the public, which is increasingly aware of this cause. It is still prized by the pharmaceutical industry for its high level of purity, where it is used in the composition of certain vaccines, but it is increasingly being neglected in the formulation of beauty products and care products. Today, squalene extracted from shark liver oil comes from non-selective fisheries, and only from non-CITES-listed species. In addition, SOPHIM works with its partners to select sustainable fishing channels.
Squalane of plant origin is the most environmentally-friendly solution available to professionals in the cosmetic industry. The olive is the preferred source, with a particularly low environmental impact in the context of sustainable or organic agriculture, which preserves biodiversity and limits the use of irrigation. New extraction processes are also adding value to squalene from soybeans and sunflowers. The recovery of by-products from the refining of oil intended for food is fully in line with a sustainable development approach.
Sophim selected France and Spain in order to be as close as possible to the raw materials produced in Europe for the production of olives, which are used in the composition of Phytosqualan.
Why choose plant-based squalane?
Plant-based squalane, if it comes from plants produced in compliance with current standards, offers the most favourable environmental impact.
Vegetable squalane enjoys a very positive image among end consumers, who are increasingly aware of the natural origin of the products used. Using a component of natural origin can become a sales argument and be fully in line with a marketing strategy aimed at enhancing the value of the olive, for example, which is incredibly symbolic in the popular imagination, reminding us of mythology, literature, gastronomy or cosmetics, as well as being a strong link to the Mediterranean as a symbol of holidays, sunshine and well-being.
The choice of a plant origin also meets the expectations of a clientele that is becoming increasingly aware of animal welfare issues. They are looking for beauty products made of ingredients whose production has not directly or indirectly impacted animals. PHYTOSQUALAN and PHYTOSQUALAN VG, offered by SOPHIM, address these concerns.
Ecocert COSMOS certification
Choosing sustainable cosmetics involves products of natural and plant origin. But the trust placed in the various operators in the sector is based on independent certifications, which provide clarity and objectivity to consumers.
Sophim has been awarded COSMOS Approved, COSMOS Certified and Responsive Care ® certifications.
The COSMOS standard guarantees you in particular that:
- Our manufacturing processes are respectful of human health and the environment;
- We respect biodiversity;
- We use natural resources responsibly;
- We are committed to the development of the concept of green chemistry;
- We ban petrochemical ingredients such as parabens or phenoxyethanol;
- We do not use GMOs;
Sophim is also a signatory of the Responsive Care® charter, which notably defends the principle of continuous improvement of performance in the environmental field, health protection and safety requirements.
By choosing Phytosqualan, from Sophim, you will be sure of benefiting from much more than squalane of natural and plant-derived origin: you are also choosing a cosmetic ingredient produced with full respect for the environment and biodiversity, everyone’s safety and consumer health.
Do you have any questions? You can contact our teams online.