Squalene- Sharks in your Face

What is Squalene?

Squalene (or squalane is when it is processed for products) is a natural oil that comes from shark liver.

Where is squalene/squalene found?

Derived from shark liver, squalene/squalane is found in cosmetic products including sunscreens, anti-aging creams, lotions, hair conditioners, deodorants, eye shadows, lip balms, lipstick, and face cleansers. It is also used in vaccines and in some have medicinal pills and supplements. Squalene can also be found in some lubricants and cleaning agents.

A study by BLOOM discovered that 1 out of 14 products contained shark squalene in the US. The beauty industry claims it’s a perfect mimic of our natural oils for a more youthful face, and some claim it holds medicinal value. What they don’t tell you is that deep sea spiny dogfish are a major source of this compound and populations on the west coast are overfished, with increased pressure in the Atlantic. Without a market for meat, some fisherman catching the sharks for the squalene, are “livering” the sharks and throwing them overboard: a practice like shark finning that is inhumane and detrimental to shark populations.

The negative effects of squalene for sharks:

Since sharks don’t have swim bladders like bony fish to aid in buoyancy, they have large oily livers that help them control their buoyancy. The shark’s liver can be up to 25% of its body weight, making it the biggest organ in their body.

Since sharks (especially deep-sea sharks) have this oil compound in their liver, they are sought out and killed in large numbers.  BLOOM claims cosmetics use accounts for 90% of shark liver oil production worldwide, contributing to approx. 2.7 million deep sea shark deaths per year.” (Chaves)

Consumers can act to save sharks:

Check the label: squalene can be synthesized from plant products and are shark safe.

Squalene is a fatty-acid that can be synthesized in the laboratory and is naturally found in plants such as: olives, corn, amaranth, and soy.

Many manufactures, including LUSH Cosmetics are animal product free, guaranteeing they are shark safe. Always be sure to check your labels for cruelty free/vegan.


Tell the cosmetics manufacturer M.A.C to stop using sharks and substitute natural occurring squalene. https://www.thepetitionsite.com/563/605/155/m.a.c-reveal-the-sourcing-of-your-squalane-now/

Researched and written by Sara Forsgren


M. Azalia Lozano-Grande, Shela Gorinstein, Eduardo Espitia-Rangel, Gloria Dávila-Ortiz, and Alma Leticia Martínez-Ayala, “Plant Sources, Extraction Methods, and Uses of Squalene,” International Journal of Agronomy, vol. 2018, Article ID 1829160, 13 pages, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/1829160.

American Cancer Society. “Shark Liver Oil.” Novemer 1, 2008. https://www.cancer.org/healthy/eat-healthy-get-active/acs-guidelines-nutrition-physical-activity-cancer-prevention/common-questions.html

Chaves, Tricia. “What is Squalane?” ThoughtCo, Aug. 22, 2019, thoughtco.com/what-is-squalane-2478094.

Science Daily: “New method could stop shark oil being used in cosmetics and vaccines” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100518230649.htm

Axiology: “The Truth Behind One of the Cosmetic Industry’s Deadliest Ingredients: Squalene” https://axiologybeauty.com/blogs/our-blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-one-of-the-cosmetic-industrys-deadliest-ingredients-squalene

Bloom: “The hideous price of beauty” http://www.bloomassociation.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/squalane-bloom-english-1.pdf

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Shark utilization, marketing, and trade.” (1999). http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4795e.pdf