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Hemi-Squalane vs Squalane: What’s the Difference?

Squalane is a skincare active that has gained popularity in recent years for its moisturizing and emollient properties. It’s the ideal choice if you have oily and acne-prone skin due to its lightweight texture and feel on the skin.

But did you know that a similar active called hemi-squalane feels even lighter on the skin?

In this post, we’ll take a look at the differences between hemi-squalane vs squalane so that you can choose the best option for your skin type and skin concerns.

SPOILER: they are much more alike than different, and the main difference is that hemi-squalane has a lower molecular weight which gives it a lighter texture, similar to dry oil.

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Based Hemi-Squalane and The Ordinary 100% Plant-Based Squalane

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What is Squalane?

When defining what squalane is, we must start with squalene (with an “e”).

Squalene is a lipid (an unsaturated hydrocarbon) found naturally in our skin’s sebum (oil).

Squalene is also found in shark liver oil or in lower concentrations in vegetable sources such as olives and sugarcane, and plant oils such as amaranth seed, rice bran, wheat germ, and palm fruit oils.

Squalene has an oily texture and is an important natural moisturizing factor (NMF) in your skin, making it effective for dry skin.

Squalene also has protectant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Since squalene is unstable and prone to oxidation, which causes it to lose its effectiveness, a derivative of squalene, called squalane, is a better option for use in topical skin care products.

Squalane (with an “a”) is the hydrogenated version of squalene. Squalane is a saturated hydrocarbon that is more stable than squalene and lighter in consistency.

Squalane is also biocompatible with the skin to reduce the chances of irritation.

What is Hemi-Squalane?

Think of hemi-squalane as squalane’s cousin or relative.

The molecular properties of squalane and hemi-squalane are similar, but squalane’s molecule has 30 carbons, and hemi-squalane’s molecule has 15 carbons.

If you thought squalane was lightweight, then wait until you try hemi-squalane. Hemi-squalane has the consistency of dry oil and is only slightly thicker than water, so it feels weightless on your skin.

With hemi-squalane, you also get similar moisturizing and hydrating properties as squalane, but with a lighter, less dewy finish.

What are the Benefits of Squalane and Hemi-Squalane?

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Based Hemi-Squalane and The Ordinary 100% Plant-Based Squalane flatlay
  • Moisturizing Properties: Squalane and hemi-squalane help prevent transepidermal water loss, improve hydration, and lock moisture in the skin. When used consistently, they help to smooth the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Benefits for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin: They help to restore the skin’s natural oil balance without causing excess shine or sebum production.
  • Lightweight Textures: Squalane is light and non-greasy, making it a great choice for those with oily skin. Hemi-squalane is even lighter than squalane as it has a lower molecular weight.
  • Non-Comedogenic: Both squalane and hemi-squalane won’t clog pores and or make acne breakouts worse, which makes them an excellent choice for those with oily and acne-prone skin.
  • Emollient Properties: They help soften and smooth the skin, making it feel more hydrated and plump.
  • Benefits for your Hair: Squalane and hemi-squalane even have benefits for your hair, as they add shine and strengthen your tresses.
  • Ideal for All Skin Types: While ideal for all skin types, these hemi-squalane and squalane help to prevent dryness, which makes them great for those with dry, sensitive, reactive, or aging skin.

There are additional uses for hemi-squalane and squalane. Use them as a cuticle oil, beard oil, or mix with sugar for a lightweight DIY body scrub.

What’s The Difference Between Hemi-Squalane and Squalane?

As you can see from the list above, hemi-squalane and squalane share many similarities. The main difference between the two is that hemi-squalane has a lower molecular weight than squalane.

This makes hemi-squalane lighter in texture and feel on the skin. Hemi-squalane has better spreadability and has a dry after-feel.

While both squalane and hemi-squalane are ideal for all skin types, hemi-squalane is the better choice for oily and acne-prone skin if you want a lightweight, non-greasy, dry oil-like finish.

Hemi-squalane is also excellent for taming frizz without the heavy feeling of oil that weighs your hair down.

How To Use Hemi-Squalane and Squalane

For the Face: Apply a few drops of squalane or hemi-squalane on your face and neck after water-based products.

Because these products have such a light consistency, you can apply them before or after your moisturizer, depending on what works best for your skin.

For those with oily skin or during the warm months of the year, you might want to use squalane or hemi-squalane in place of your regular moisturizer.

For The Hair: Apply to damp, clean hair daily or as needed.

Be sure to patch test these and all new products before applying them to your face for the first time. Use only on unbroken skin.

Squalane and Hemi-Squalane Products to Try

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Based Squalane

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Based Squalane

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Based Squalane is a plant-derived saturated and stable hydrocarbon that hydrates the skin and supports dermal suppleness.

If you don’t love the greasiness that comes with other facial oils, don’t miss this product!

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Based Squalane with filled dropper

As a haircare product, it improves shine, reduces breakage, and is a heat protectant.

The 100% pure plant-derived squalane in this product is ECOCERT approved and is a USDA Certified Bio-based Product.

You can read my complete The Ordinary squalane review here.

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Based Hemi-Squalane

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Based Hemi-Squalane

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Based Hemi-Squalane is a non-polar hydrocarbon produced from the fermentation of sugar-based feedstock. The only ingredient in this product is C13-16 Isoparaffin.

I didn’t think I could experience a lighter facial oil after trying squalane, and then I tried this hemi-squalane from The Ordinary.

I have combination skin and absolutely love the dry after-feel of this hemi-squalane.

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Based Hemi-Squalane with filled dropper

The 100% plant-based hemi-squalane used in this product is USDA Certified Bio-Based.

Final Thoughts on Hemi-Squalane vs Squalane

Hemi-squalane and squalane are such versatile skincare actives. They can be used for hair and skincare purposes, making them an excellent choice for those looking for multi-tasking products.

They are also great for those who want to eliminate heavier face oils in their skincare routine.

As someone who doesn’t love the oily feel of face oil on my skin, these two products take the place of most other face oils in my skincare routine (although I do love my rosehip oil!).

If you have combination or oily skin, you may never go back to heavier oils and moisturizers!

The Ordinary offers both hemi-squalane and squalane at such low prices that you can try them both for slightly over $12.

Find them at The Ordinary or Sephora!

Thanks for reading!